I showed up to BlogHer on Thursday evening and Laurie had already checked into our room. Her two suitcases had exploded all over the floor on her side of the room and it looked like she had changed clothes or perhaps had just fended off an assailant by throwing her wardrobe at him. I pulled out the hotel's folding thingie, unzipped my own luggage and proceeded to put my clothes into the drawers under the TV. I carefully arranged underwear in the front for easy access, pants and shirts stacked by outfit on the left and sleeping/loungewear on the right. I put my shoes under the folding thingie and moved my toiletries to the bathroom. I took stock of where the iron was for my outfit in the morning and plugged my surge protector into the outlet between the beds to create more power. Satisfied that I would be ready for the next morning, I headed downstairs to find my roommate and friend. I met Laurie because we happened to sit at the same table at the BlogHer 2006 cocktail party. We didn't even spend much time together other than that one evening by the pool. But we added each other to our RSS feeds and sent a few emails and by the next year we were roommates. This is my third year as her roommate and we are perfect for each other.
Laurie and I don't have tons in common. We both live relatively close to DC, are both female, are roughly the same age (within 6 years or so) and we both blog. After that, things diverge quite a bit.
I went downstairs and found Laurie at the People's Party, sipping wine and chatting with mutual friends. Her iPhone battery died shortly after I got there so I was pleased I was able to find her in all the hubbub. She told me about some of her photography projects that she's working on and pulled out her new lens from her purse to show me. And my heart stopped just for a second when I noticed that neither end of her SLR lens had a cap on it as she whipped it out of her open top purse amongst lip gloss and receipts. It took me a long time before I was comfortable even changing out a lens on my own SLR camera without the benefit of a clean suit and absolute concentration. I had actually left my new fancy camera home because I didn't want the anxiety of keeping track of it. Consequently, I didn't take nearly as many pictures as Laurie did over the weekend and missed a few opportunities for great shots.
The conference carried on and I moseyed from session to session. I even (gasp!) skipped a session in favor of just getting a snack and leisurely making it to the next one I really wanted to see. As I met folks, I handed out my business card and stored theirs in the quart size Ziploc bag I had brought expressly for keeping them all together.
We all took notes and gathered swag and went to a few parties. I met some new folks and reconnected with those I haven't seen in a year. We wore McDonald's bags on our heads and did a lot of hugging. We laughed with tons of hilarious people and cried a few tears with others. And next thing you know we'd eaten our last cheeseburger and it was all over.
I learned a valuable lesson last year from Laurie to take an extra day after the conference to just decompress before jetting back into my Real Life. Laurie and I woke up the next morning and after her boat tour we discussed what was on the docket for the day. As we regrouped in the hotel room she said, "I think I'd like to get a tattoo." I assumed she meant in the grand scheme of things and not that afternoon, but she continued on with "I need to shower and figure out where the Tattoo Factory is but then we can go there if you're interested." And my heart stopped just a little again.
Me: "What tattoo do you want?" (assuming she had flash art already done and with her)
Laurie: "I have three I've been thinking of getting. I'm not sure which one I'd like now and where. But I'll look around online and find something."
She flipped open her laptop and proceeded to surf for her new ink design. And I proceeded to quietly freak out about someone else's permanent body art from the adjacent bed.
Jesus, I can barely use a Sharpie marker without fretting about the repercussions of whatever I'm going to create being forever and here she was browsing for something she's about to needle into her flesh in just a few hours and looked cool as a cucumber. She found two images that looked close to what she wanted, emailed them to herself, left the page open on her laptop and packed it up for our adventure. She, Kim and I grab lunch to fuel ourselves and Kim saw us off in a cab for the tattoo parlor.
In the cab, I wondered if we would be able to find the parlor, if they would be nice, if the parlor would have a clean bathroom for my pregnant bladder, if I'd be allowed to watch and how we'd get back. Meanwhile, Laurie sat casually in the backseat next to me like Jackie Onassis.
Our cabbie was friendly, we found the parlor easily, they were all super nice, Laurie got her 20% blogger discount. They let her use their computer to find the picture she wanted, he printed it and created flash art from it, we moved the letters a little and then it was time to start. They let me sit with her and video the entire thing. Laurie puttered on her phone while the tattoo artist casually and quickly drilled ink into her shoulder. I alternated between chatting with them both and watching "1000 Ways to Die" on Spike TV behind them. We found out he's a big Clutch fan and I noticed he had a Black Flag tattoo on his calf. Once he finished, he even gave us each a t-shirt from the shop (mine is a size Medium, I assume he thought the M stood for Maternity). In under an hour we were done and stepped out of the parlor into the warm sun and a cabbie coming back on duty directly in front of us.
Her tattoo looks great. She has a fine story to go with it and a constant reminder of her grandmother with her (though we laughed that she would have frowned at the idea of getting a tattoo).
Laurie slipped out of the hotel before 5am this morning and managed to cram all that swag (including a huge set of exercise resistance bands) into her luggage without even waking me up. She had set the bill on the desk for me next to a check for her half with "Thanks!" written in the memo. And I smiled to myself again.
While riding back to the airport, I started pondering again how very different we are. I don't think Laurie and I went to any of the same sessions all weekend short of the Community Keynote. We went to different parties, we got anxious about very different situations and had very different reactions to several incidents over the weekend. But we both had a fantastic time.
Sure all 1400 attendees this year are interested in blogging and social media. Most of those 1400 attendees are women. After that, the roads diverge pretty dramatically. There are mothers of six and those allergic to children. There are those who blog anonymously and those who tag nude photos of themselves on Flickr with their full names. There are geeks and Jesus freaks and corporate representatives and people who stand up for karaoke despite not being able to carry a tune in a bucket.
There are people like Laurie, contributing editor for BlogHer and a bit of a snorer. There are people like me, personal blogger and sorter of jewelry into individual miniature Ziploc bags for travel. Rooming with Laurie these last few years and in particular this year has taught me a lot about myself. Instead of finding fault with all the ways we're different I'm reveling in the magic of just how multifaceted we all are and how a conference like BlogHer gives us the unique opportunity meet so many amazing people.
This is my third year rooming with Laurie and I look forward to year four in New York City next August. Hope to see you all there!