Our tale begins in the wee hours of the morning...
I leave for the airport at around 5 on Friday. I leave, driving my own car. This is a completely foreign experience to me. Earlier in the week, I had this conversation with our admin:
"I could schedule the cab for you if you want; usually, I just do it for people who arrive at a different airport."
"How do other people get to the airport?"
It was then that I realized it was, in fact, possible to drive oneself to the airport and then park there. I had never ever considered the notion because I thought it was really expensive, as parking always is. I always got rides instead. But the company was paying! I could park!
The parking thing isn't very complicated, as I go through a gate, park, and get on a shuttle to the airport. I'm running a little late; they're already boarding. I get to take the fast track through security. I'm very hungry, though, and I figure I have enough time to buy some breakfast. After a quick perusal of the options, I settle on the Round Table Express, which has croissants for under three bucks. Almond croissants, even! They don't have milk there, so I get the next best thing, which is a small bottle of Odwalla orange juice. The lady rings me up. Seven dollars.
I'm confused. "How much is this?" I ask, pointing to the orange juice.
"Four dollars," she says.
I give her a WTF look.
"I know," she sighs. My orange juice cost more than my croissant. The hell?
My almond croissant is pretty good. I attempt to read A Pale View of Hills, but I'm not really getting into it, and I eventually conk out. I wake up in time to watch "Business School."
On the way to the baggage claim, I see three of my co-workers, who I realize must have been on the same flight. One of them offers me a ride since she's renting a car, and I accept because I'm afraid of cabs and don't feel like dishing out $45, even if I will get it back. It takes us some time to get into the city; the traffic is weirdly hellacious at 1 on Friday afternoon.
I check into the Four Seasons. Yeah, the Four Seasons. Which is actually the loser overflow hotel for people who registered late, but I think I came out a winner. As these pictures of my room will attest:
And check out my view:
Welcome to Chicago, motherfucker.
I foolishly spend precious time going online to thank seawench for informing me that it was fucking hot in Chicago, because I was all set to pack a thick jacket. I don't have much time for lunch before my first meeting, so I walk down the block to Johnny Rockets while wishing dahliam a happy birthday. I sit up at the bar and ask the waitress what shake she recommends. "I like Oreo," she says. I order an Oreo shake, and she coyly responds, "Oh, so you're taking my advice?" I have no idea whether that was flirting or not. A little thrown by her almost confrontation response, I tell her that she works there and should know what's good, but she's already off Oreo-ing it up. When she comes back, I ask her what she recommends in burgers, but she says she doesn't eat the burgers; she sticks to chicken. So she has nothing to say to me, who wants a turkey burger, and our waitress/customer porno does not come to fruition. I order the one with lots of mushrooms, and I also get onion rings.
The Oreo shake is really quite good, if a bit small...the fact that I can barely finish what was given me notwithstanding. The onion rings are also tasty, even if there aren't as many as you'd expect for the price...the fact that I don't even finish them notwithstanding. The burger is positively slathered with mushrooms, and it looks like death. I think I might get a heart attack just looking at it. But I'm hungry, and it tastes good. I leave one bite uneaten, on principle.
I walk half a mile down Rush to the James, where most everyone else is staying and where we're based, where the daily meetings will be. The James is all modern and hip; I'm not a fan of the aesthetic. It's very cold and geometric. The Four Seasons is more my idea of what a fancy hotel is like.
After the meeting, we head over to Lawry's for the pre-ASCO meeting and dinner. There are a lot of people I don't recognize: sales reps. Some of our posters are displayed, and I get to see the final products, which have incorporated my numerous edits regarding commas and hyphens and confusing sentence structure. Look at me, being a medical writer.
To start the meeting, our CEO confirms that ethicalmedical.net is totally awesome, that we are the star of the show, the belle of the ball, here at ASCO. He's not exaggerating. You see, ASCO is like the Comic-Con of cancer research. And we are like the sneak peek of Spider-Man 3: the thing everyone is itching to see. And speaking of sneak peeks, that's what we get next: a sneak peek of our big data, along with advice on what we are and are not allowed to talk about until it is presented publicly on Monday. There are all sorts of legal and financial issues you have to be worried about in the pharmaceutical industry. We also see presentations on some of our competitors, including one drug with a safety profile so awful I cannot believe it was approved (no, seriously, when treatment-related death has to be listed as a side effect... (actually, what's better: carcinogenesis is also a side effect)). But apparently it's good for patients with a poor prognosis, so they can have their fun. One of our drug's biggest strengths is its great safety profile.
Dinner is a choice between steak or salmon, so I have to get pasta, and oh my God, they don't even try. The sauce tastes like it was out of a bottle. I make better pasta every Friday night. And it probably cost like forty bucks, too. But here is my dessert:
It's a bag made out of chocolate! Full of berries and cream! Mmm.
Meanwhile, I've been getting text messages from Melanie (toughcookie42), my BFF, who's driving in from Indianapolis to see me. I left her name with the desk clerk so she could get into my room when she arrived. Just before dessert, I receive this text:
Omfg im in the room. Omg.
It's a tad better than our last hotel.
After some birthday toasts, I head back to the Four Seasons to enter my room and hug Melanie madly. She has exhausted all her squee about the room but saved some squee about me. I need to wake up early, so there is not much time for dilly dally before I go to sleep. But first, I need to iron my clothes so I don't look like a wrinkly fool. I realize I suck at ironing.
I notice that there is a little card where you can check what you want for breakfast, and they'll bring it to you at a specific time. Room service! I want some breakfast before I leave, and they have chicken sausage, so I check a few boxes. Melanie, despite knowing I'm the cheapest man alive, doesn't realize I'm only doing this because the company's paying. I ask if she wants me to throw in anything extra for her, so she looks at the menu and checks a box or two. I hang the card on the door, and we go to sleep. On opposite sides of the bed, because of the Hays Code.
I wake up at 7 and start getting ready. Not long after I get out of the shower, the doorbell rings. It's breakfast! The guy wheels in a little table and starts setting it up. It's crazy! Melanie and I have breakfast together. She's reading the paper. It's like we're a married couple in a movie. My chicken sausage is really good, the best chicken sausage I've ever had (even though the only other chicken sausage I've ever had is probably from Safeway and IHOP). It's so good I have to eat it European style, which I sometimes do for the novelty of putting food in my mouth upside down.
"Have fun at work!" Melanie calls as I leave.
The bus to McCormick Place is already boarding. It takes us to ASCO. Which is large and full of people. I consult a map and find out where relevant posters will be displayed. ASCO basically comprises three things: posters, talks, and booths. The posters are divided into rooms by cancer (genitourinary, breast, lung, etc.). There are dozens in each room, each one presenting data from a clinical trial (this is clinical oncology, after all). Often, one of the authors and/or the primary investigator is there to answer questions. I actually get to meet the first author/PI of one of the posters I edited! It's sort of a fanboy moment, but he doesn't seem to care much. It's kind of odd how little work the actual "author" does on his own poster. I'm able to ask him a question about the inclusion criteria.
Even though you're not supposed to, everyone is taking pictures of the posters, sometimes taking individual pictures of each panel. This way they can bring the data home with them to show their colleagues and discuss. It's easier than, you know, taking actual notes. The digital age!
I head to the oral presentations for the two trials I worked on for a year. Again, people take pictures of the slides, the graphs. Now, once you start to think of ASCO as the Comic-Con of cancer research, it becomes hilarious. Because this is the ASCO equivalent of, like, an anime panel or something. At Comic-Con, when someone steps up to the microphone to ask a question, it sounds like this:
"When Omiko turns into a flower in 'Cookies and Milk Octopus-san, Part Seventeen,' does he retain his feline spirit? And a follow-up, if I may: are we ever going to see any Omiko/Jong action?"
At ASCO, when someone steps up to the microphone to ask a question, it sounds like this:
"Cetuximab has been shown to have a synergistic effect when combined with dacarbazine. What percentage of the survival benefit do you believe can be attributed to the dacarbazine itself? And a follow-up, if I may: what was the hazard ratio for those patients with high LDH?"
So I've described the posters and the talks. Now, if my "Comic-Con of cancer research" metaphor has not convinced you yet, let me show you the booths.
Bam! Pops, doesn't it? I have no idea how some of those booths were constructed. They're huge. Some even have their own lighting plots. And there are all sorts of high-tech gizmos and touchscreens and shit. It's insane. But this is where the drug companies can talk directly to people interested in their drugs and research for whatever reason. And then give them free pens and laser pointers and USB drives.
It's time for an anecdote! Since I have some free time, I check out the posters on breast cancer, since I like breasts and think they should not get cancer. It's a very crowded room. As I walk out, I look out the window:
On my way to the restroom, I hear a man ask, very sincerely, "Is that the ocean?"
His female colleague says, "Are you kidding?"
As I pass by them, I say, "That's Lake Michigan." He thanks me.
Later that afternoon, as I am walking the floor, I hear, "Hey, is that the ocean?" I turn to the voice, and it's the guy. He is very amused; he says he'll never forget that. I ask him if he was kidding.
He wasn't, he admits sheepishly. He's from California; all water is the ocean to him. I make him feel dumber by telling him that I am also from California, but I add that I've been to Chicago before and know all about Lake Michigan, so. He gives me a nifty little bag that can be converted into a backpack so that I can tell everyone I got it from some guy who couldn't tell a lake from an ocean.
It's been a long, exhausting day, and I decide to go back early so I can drop of my stuff in the hotel room before the debrief and dinner. Melanie has been out shopping all day, but she's in the room when I arrive. "Honey, I'm home!" I call.
After dropping off my stuff, I head over to the debrief at the James, where we discuss the data that was presented, both for our drug and for our competitors. Finally, with my work day over at 6:30, I go down to the lobby.
Waiting for me are Melanie, Michelangela (miniglik, and Raphaela (maka2000)! I am finally able to give Michelangela a real-life hug after so many online ones. Raphaela also leaps up to hug me.
Raph is the native, and she suggests we walk toward Michigan Avenue, where we can easily catch a cab to Andersonville. We squeeze into one, and she tells the cabbie where to go. Our destination is Charlie's Ale House, which, according to Raphaela, is nicknamed "the Gay Bennigan's." She doesn't tell the cabbie, "Take us to the Gay Bennigans," though that would have been funny.
When we arrive, I try to pay with a credit card, and it takes three hours because the cabbie has to call to validate my card. Subsequent cab fares will be paid in cash.
Waiting for us at the restaurant is Donatella (duchessdogberry/slaughteredlamb)! I'm glad she made it okay and didn't leave because we didn't show up on time.
The host tells us that we will be forced to suffer a horrendous TEN-MINUTE WAIT, which we can handle. Our booth from last year is occupied, unfortunately, but Melanie and I show everyone the awesome pulp novel covers by the bathrooms. People want alcohol, so we grab a little table by the bar. The five of us sit in a circle. Me and four women. I quip, "I feel like I'm in Sex and the City."
Before we can order, our table is ready, outside. The table seats four, and we steal an extra chair. For the old-timers, clockwise: me, Donatella, Melanie on the other side, Michelangela, Raphaela on the end.
Now, since I'm going to be reimbursed, I get to do things like order appetizers and shit, which I rarely do on my own money. Raph suggests the spinach and artichoke dip, and everyone agrees that it would be a good choice. Anything but the buffalo wings, since buffalo sauce inexplicably tastes like metal to Donatella. I was also intrigued by the flatbread options, so we decide on what would be the best one to get. Four-cheese is the way to go. For my entree, I pick a buffalo chicken sandwich in the hopes that it will be better than the one at Denny's.
P.S. It is.
Here is a picture of Donatella's keychain:
You guys better be glad it's been over a week, or I would sit here trying to recreate our entire dinner conversation. But I remember almost nothing about our topics of conversation. Except we surely talked about television. And my hair, which I said was almost to the length of my favorite picture. I tried to say this about fourteen different ways, attempting to describe said picture, but Michelangela and Raphaela were horribly confused. Michelangela asked me to type it out so she could understand me. My BFF knew what I was talking about, however:
The re-creation is startling!
Oh, here's a good bit. I don't remember how it started, but someone mentioned breakdancing, maybe, and I tried to remember the name of that breakdancing movie from a couple years ago. You know the one?
See, you know what it is, don't you!! You can even see the ads in your head, with that guy going, "I've never seen moves like this before!" And you know it's not Stick It or Take the Lead or Stomp the Yard or Bring It On Yet Again, This Time on the Breakdancing Floor, but you know it's this stupid phrase that one would say during a breakdancing competition. And you know they say it in that South Park episode that parodies that whole scene. But you would spend something like ten minutes trying to coax the answer out of your friends until, just before you're about to note that the title is stupidly spelled or grammatically incorrect or something, Donatella busts out with "It's not You Got Served, is it?"
The other notable topic of conversation is a small figure in the window across the street that at first looks like a little girl but is in fact a doll. It is just a doll, in a window. Staring at us. Staring. It is incredibly creepy. Look:
I keep checking to see if it moved. I am sure the next time I look at it, it will suddenly be on top of the car across the street. And then when I look again, it will be right next to us. That's the kind of creepydoll it is. DON'T BLINK.
Michelangela calls her husband to come pick her up, since they need to drive back home tonight. We will get to meet the illustrious Leonardo and the kiddies! Of course, the one flaw in this plan is that Leo has no cell phone. So we wait for a long, long time, becoming increasingly worried and yet the same amount of helpless. It's more time for us together, however, talking about whatever the hell we talked about. Probably TV shows or something.
Finally, we see him zip by us, and Michelangela runs after him to wave him down and find a place to park (the spot next to us is alternately open and occupied throughout our waiting game, taunting us). We wait longer, as it takes some time to get the kiddies out of the car.
Leonardo is as tall as the stories tell, and Bebop and Rocksteady are just as cute as their mother purports them to be. We don't really have room at the table for them, and we paid the bill about an hour ago (I'm glad I tipped generously, as it paid our rent), so we go next door for ice cream.
In line, I attempt to have a thumb war with Bebop. "One, two, three, four," I say. He doesn't get the concept, though, and opts to burst out with a cute-as-hell bargle-glargle hand attack.
Melanie asks for cookies and cream. The man says they don't have any.
"That's never happened to me before," says Melanie. He points out that they have mocha ice cream with Oreos, which I try and get, but Melanie doesn't like mocha. After some struggling, she asks him for plain vanilla; it comes to her with some mini Oreos on it.
We have our ice cream and play with Bebop and Rocksteady (well, Rocksteady is a little less enthused about being out and ends up sucking on his thumb, whereas Bebop thoroughly enjoys his shake), and then it is time for the family to leave. I have to wait for them to come back from the pre-departure bathroom break to give Michelangela brownies from my pants. That's not a euphemism.
Our remaining gang heads down the street to the Neo-Futurarium; I remember which way to go based on my orientation-based directioneering. The line has already begun to form. I feel a keen sense of déjà vú. As we wait, I protect Melanie from a dead cricket.
I explained Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind in my last post, so I won't go over it again.
"Big money, big money," I say as I roll the die. It comes up a six. Fuck.
This time, Melanie and I are prepared for the Naming.
"What's your name?" says the girl.
"Plus sign!" I say.
I forget what name I get, but it's not Plus Sign. I notice some other people in the audience just have strange symbols. I also swear I see someone from Basement Arts in Ann Arbor, a girl I first saw in How I Learned to Drive but encountered several times over the years. We sit in the front row and read the program. Only one member of the troupe remains from when we saw it last year.
And we're off!
1. Hey Mr. Cicada, before you fuck your mate and drop dead, let's catch up: This was kind of a weird display of breaking eggs and...something else weird, while someone read current events from 17 years ago and how things are different or the same now.
2. Political Play!: An amusing song-and-dance routine.
3. Inappropriate High School Mascot: "The Columbine Targets." Inappropriate and hilarious, which was just the comic relief I needed after the most powerful play in the show.
4. Home Sick: Other actors drop cans into boxes as Jessica, a tiny, petite young woman with the voice of a five-year-old Disney character (seriously, I thought she was doing a voice at first and then I realized it was her actual voice), relates the time she moved. Or something like that.
5. Just because you hang out in a meat market doesn't mean you can't star in your own play: The True Story of The Cow who Jumped Over The Moon: A nursery rhyme plays for a few seconds, and then, WHAM! A stuffed cow head falls from the ceiling. Then, WHAM! a rubber slab of beef falls from the ceiling. It took me a couple seconds to get it, but it was a nice little representation of the lies we tell to children.
6. Drive-By: This was an interesting monologue about driving by people of various ethnicities and stations in life (elderly, black, Japanese, etc.), and the different ways we react to them.
7. Big Bad Wolf: A rather incoherent bit of interpretive dance or something with Red Riding Hood and some people in masks.
8. Genre Play #643: Horror Suspense Thriller: This should have been funnier than it was. Perhaps if it were more coherent.
9. The Complete Works of Georgia O'Keeffe (abridged): As you might guess, this was a tableau of fruit, flowers, and cunnilingus, set to an orgasm.
10. Night of the Wild Tortilla Throwers: They threw tortillas at us, in the dark, as a narrator described them. Okay.
11. A Blur of Red String and Nipples: A story about a very odd mother indeed, but still a mother.
12. Bad Mother. Bad, Bad Mother (Teresa): Two actors quote Mother Teresa, and a guy in the middle spouts Mother Teresa's dark side.
13. Author's Cornered: The author of the most recent play to be performed suddenly gets grilled about his play by the other actors. I liked this one, as it totally captured, well, what happens when people start asking you about why you wrote something and what your inspiration was and whether so-and-so means so-and-so.
14. Quest through the Neo-Futurarium: Save the child from the Gregorc: One audience member was chosen to be handcuffed to Greg(orc). Then someone asked if anyone was up for the challenge of finding the key to free her. I almost went, but someone else went down instead. The actor asked her if she were a pirate, a ninja, or an Indian warrior (I then wished I had gone so I could say, "Clearly, I am an Indian warrior."). She tried to trip him up by saying she was a bit of all three, and he responded, dramatically, "You have to pick one of them!" So she did. "You'll need this," he said, and handed her a flashlight. And the play was over. The wonderful thing about this play was that the girl remained handcuffed to Greg throughout the next few plays (even "Political Play!" where she had to join him in a kickline). At one point, the handcuff came uncuffed, and he put it back on her. It was only after the audience volunteer returned that I understood what had happened: she had been given the flashlight to actually find the key (then I was glad I hadn't volunteered, as I would have missed part of the show). She came back, and the girl was freed from the Gregorc properly.
15. 100 Strokes Before Bedtime: Yeah, you think it's about that, but no. It's about brushing your hair to be all pretty. And...smacking your hand because you're bad, too? I don't know.
16. An Audio Guide to Why I No Longer Jump For Numbers: Heather puts the microphone up to her knee, which has a brace. She bends. We hear it creak. Ewwww.
17. How To Remain Friends With A Box: The most powerful play in the show. As Heather explains the story, we see John acting it out. It's about a friend of his who committed suicide. He sits on a chair and slowly leans back until he can no longer balance and then the chair falls backward. He wanted to call that play "How To Remain Friends With A Dead Man" because that's how it felt. Then, just this week, he received a box of his friend's stuff with no return address. It's a bunch of his writing, and it's not that it's any good; it's that it's his writing. He doesn't even want to read a lot of it. It's hard to explain this piece, but it made me think of Sherrie, like all talk of suicide does. You'd think I'd be over this by now, wouldn't you? I didn't even know her that well. But the point of the piece was that he had a box. Something of him that lived on. And that's what we all hope for. For our words to continue past our own life, for people to remain friends with.
18. That bitch mother nature: A hippity-hop tale about a wounded bunny.
19. Every March I Break Out In Hives (Or, Food Related Play #5): I...don't even remember what this play is.
20. Story Problems That Still Haunt Me: Like the math kind. This one was really amusing, as you'd expect story-problem humor to be.
21. Fame: A response to the Virginia Tech shootings, a parodical look at what turns someone into that. Complete with a faux disclaimer of the side effects of a murderous killing spree.
22. International Response to the Crisis in Darfur, as Performed By Hand Puppets: Just what it sounds like. It went in a different direction than I expected. I thought it would just stop at the typical "Man, that Darfur shit is whack!"/"Yeah!"/"We should do something about it!"/"Yeah!"/"Man!"/"Yeah!" but the actor actually managed to turn his two hands into distinct characters with a rational disagreement about how to respond to genocide in another country. Well, not really how to respond, but how one feels, you know? It was interesting.
23. Gone: Uh, they all slapped their hands on the chalkboard. I don't know. They were wet from the previous play, so they left handprints, which was a bonus.
24. Fear Begat Desire: "Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois" played over an alien abduction tale about the differences in what you desire as a child and what you desire as an adult.
25. My Color Purple: I think this one was maybe the one with a music box playing while Jessica poured blood on herself. I don't know.
26. Food Related Play #3: I...don't remember this one either. You'd think I'd remember one of the food-related plays.
27. Back on the North Side: Kind of lame for the final play. The actor drew a map in chalk on the ground while talking about different areas of Chicago. Monologue, not travelogue.
28. Sunday is the Lord's Day (for Reverend Falwell): But Saturday, Falwell is all Satanic and shit, yelling and screaming. This was the first play, I think.
29. Obinton: Something about Hillary and Obama, I forget. But I liked it.
30. Dieses Ist Das Textspiel: They asked two people who were fast texters to come down to the stage. One was supposed to text the first line of the play to one number, and the other was supposed to text the second line to another number. It would have been amusing had it worked, but neither one managed to send properly, or something. "There is no play! There is no play!"
As you might guess from the descriptions, I preferred the production last year, though this one had its moments. This one had a very high percentage of plays that were just incoherent and not interesting and not enough of the clever, funny ones. Since the playlist changes every weekend, it's kind of a hit-or-miss show to see, I guess. I would definitely see it again, but I do hope the novelty didn't just wear off. In any case, you never get the same experience twice, even if you see the play twice in one weekend. The order of the plays can add all sorts of hilarity, based on how much of a mess the stage is.
Raph and Don enjoyed their first time, though, so that's good. And they can see it again whenever they want!
Outside, we say our goodbyes, and Melanie and I take a cab back to the Four Seasons. For breakfast, I choose to go with pancakes and turkey bacon. Melanie goes for pancakes and ham. I still have no clue how much any of this costs.
Then I find the room service menu. And discover that the midwest breakfast alone cost $26. And my chicken sausage was $6.50. And my glass of milk was $4.50. And the pancakes were $17. And they added a $3 delivery charge. And 18% gratuity. And tax. And OMG. I did not know food could cost so much. Saturday's breakfast cost over $50, and Sunday's breakfast would cost nearly $80. I feel awful but try to rationalize it by noting that I will probably still end up cheaper than the other people who took cabs everywhere and racked up a bar tab. I go to sleep a bad, bad person.
I wake up to shower and get dressed and eat the worst pancakes I have ever had. The turkey bacon is also unimpressive. I'm not sure how much of the disappointment is due to actual lack of quality and how much is due to my incredible shame.
The day at ASCO is more of the same. Toward the end of the day, Melanie calls me because she wants to leave before dinner since she's bored. Also, she accidentally got her $82 parking charged to my room. It's a fun weekend for the Four Seasons. I get her to pick me up from McCormick, and we find our way back to downtown, where she uses the restroom in the James (I stay with the car as her cover; in a very slick move, she just tells the valet that I'm "here for a conference," but she has to run in and get something...despite the possible implication that we will both be leaving after take up curbspace for a few minutes).
She does her thing. We hug goodbye. We're both tired. It's a thing.
After the debrief, I do a lot of walking looking for a place to eat dinner. I initially check out a place called Hugo's Frog Bar, which a co-worker recommended to me, but it's all steak and fish. Across the street is Le Colonial, an intriguing French Vietnamese place, but after the breakfast fiasco, I feel as if I must go a little more low-class for dinner. But not too low-class. There was a Spanish tapas place that caught my eye on the way; when I was walking toward a destination, I mused upon how nice it would be to just eat at some place that looked interesting. I realize that, even if I have to walk extra, going to that place will fulfill my desire.
The restaurant is called 1492, and all the prices end in .92, which I adore. I know I made the right choice. I pick chicken croquettes, which end up being like mozzarrella sticks but with chicken (the chicken is incredibly finely shredded, almost into a mush, and flautitas. It's good stuff, and I make sure my bill comes out to $18.92. It would have been $19.92, but the waiter took forever to bring the check back.
Back in my seven-hundred-dollar room, I relax and watch TV before going to sleep.
Monday morning, we have a morning meeting, since it's the big day. We get a more detailed sneak peek at the presentation for the plenary session, and we watch our CEO on CNBC. We cheer at our rising stock.
After the meeting, I spend a half hour on the elliptical; the bathroom scale confirmed that I've gained ten pounds since the last time I gained ten pounds. I get an early lunch at Potbelly (cheap! woo!), since there is no Potbelly in California. Unfortunately, it's not the best sandwich, not toasted very well.
Off to the plenary session. We Ethicalmedical.net folk get seats up in the front.
The president of ASCO introduces the session and the celebrity speaker! I didn't know we were getting a celebrity speaker. To my surprise, Nancy Brinker is speaking. Now, you may not recognize the name, but I'm sure you recognize Susan G. Komen For the Cure, right? The breast cancer foundation? Susan G. Komen was her sister! She founded that! So that was pretty cool. Her speech wasn't bad, though it could have used polishing. She made some interesting points about the "complacency" the nation has gotten into regarding cancer, that it's no longer a priority, when in fact now, with all the innovation and technology at our disposal, is the time to start funneling more money into cancer research. She gave a call to arms to be "reverential rebels" like Einstein, challenging the status quo. Also, there was an extended metaphor about a "great divide."
Then it is time for our moment in the sun. We are first! The PI presents our awesome new data...in the most uninteresting way possible. It is pretty anticlimactic, unfortunately. English is clearly not his first language, so he basically just reads every word on every slide. It is interminable. Thankfully, we got a more detailed, effective presentation in the morning. Then someone discusses the data. This is a thing at ASCO: you'll get someone to present their data, and then you'll get someone unconnected to the study to present an objective look as well as offer a subjective opinion.
After that's over, I leave. What's awesome is so do several hundred other people. It's kind of a herd. They all came just to see our presentation.
I play around in the booths for a while before heading back for the final debrief.
Now, something else I did Sunday was call a whole bunch of Buffistas to see if they were free for dinner today. I wasn't sure about my availability before (maybe I would make networking opportunities and have a magical Monday dinner?), so I didn't want to make hard plans. Instead, I surprised everyone with the fact that I was in Chicago at all, and Brenda was nice enough to wrangle up as many localistas as she could on short notice. We have dinner at Pizzeria Due, since I have not had Chicago-style pizza on this trip. In attendance are miriam (an old-school Buffista I don't know), tommyrot, brenda m, Kathy A, and aurelia. I have only met tommyrot before. Our pizza experience is interesting because the waitress manages to drop a slice of my pizza on the table, and I eat it anyway even though she claims I won't want it, and then Miriam finds a piece of chicken on her half of the veggie pizza. When we're almost done, the waitress randomly brings us a free pizza because of that one piece of chicken. Which is good, since I'm still hungry. I must say...no matter how many times I try Chicago-style pizza, I...still don't like it all that much. Maybe it's time to stop eating it.
When we leave, we do that thing where we don't actually leave but instead stand outside talking for fifteen minutes rather than leave. But it's all good, since I have nothing better to do. Then people leave, though.
Back at the hotel, I attempt to go online, but the Internet appears to be out. So I chill in my room for about half an hour and then call the front desk to see if it's working again. It is, so I go down and do my stuff before going to sleep.
Tuesday morning, we have a giant recap meeting that I have trouble staying awake through since it's, well, a recap, and I've seen it all before. Then there's lunch, and I have to go back to the hotel to check out. In my room, I find an envelope addressed to me. I am very confused. Inside is a card with a sincere apology for my Internet troubles the previous night. Damn, the Four Seasons really want to make you happy, and if they don't, they feel like assholes or something. Okay, here's how to make me happy: don't charge $6.50 for a glass of pineapple juice.
When I come down to check out, they're still all, "Oh my God, Mr. Patel, we totally hope you didn't fucking kill yourself over not being able to go online at the exact moment you desired." You know, I joke, but I just realized that there are actually people who would raise an unholy ruckus over that. And those are the sort of people that the Four Seasons likely deals with on a daily basis. When you can afford to pay five hundred dollars a night, you can afford to be an asshole, I guess.
It's off to the Sheraton for an industry-sponsored symposium, where I learn about stuff, and then it's off to the O'Hare in a shuttle. I begin catching up on sleep. It takes over half an hour to get through security. On the way to the gate, I meet up with a couple co-workers, and we walk around and find dinner together. Then there's a plane, and I continue catching up on sleep. I take a shuttle to my car and drive home, where I catch up on sleep some more.
ASCO is exhausting. And so is writing about it. Geez. The things I do to have a box.