I am writing another blog post on location, this time from Melbourne. I was invited to give a presentation on Autism and employment for Asperger’s Victoria I was also asked to deliver a presentation for an Autism group in Orange in regional New South Wales. The talk for Asperger’s Victoria went well. I got back to my hotel after 11:00 pm and got onto the laptop to check my social media. The Wi-fi didn’t work.This would usually have just been an annoyance but the presentation on less than 24 hours was to be via Skype. I went to bed hoping that it would be fixed by the next day.
The next morning and nothing had shifted on the broken internet front. I asked the concierge what I might do and she suggested it was because on the eighth floor the signal might be week. She told me there was a function centre on the first floor which I could use to do the presentation, providing it wasn’t being used. I was relieved. I went off to my very full day but I did have a niggling thought that if the conference facility was being used I would be in trouble. I caught up with Daniel, a lovely man I know from the Autism world. We had a great coffee and conversation. I left him to catch the Skybus as he was going to Perth. I think whizzed off to my next engagement – a lunch date with my uni friend Deb who I have known since 2002 and is one of my favourite people in the world. I then dashed off to Irabina – the organisation which is hosting my talk with Temple Grandin and Tim Sharp later in the year. I was introduced to possibly every staff member in the office and had a captive audience. I was presented with a cup of coffee and a plate of various chocolate biscuits and encouraged to eat several tim tams (my mum would be horrified – but she wasn’t there!) A few of the staff told me what an honour it was to have me speak, having apparently confused me with a notable person :). I mentioned my Wi-Fi issues and the CEO, Deb, suggested that the State Library of Victoria might be a good place to give my presentation. She found my the phone number and I was on my way.
I got the train back to the city. It took about an hour. I listened to an REM-themed playlist on the way. When I got to my hotel I thought I should check whether the function room was being used. Apparently it was. The new concierge told me I should’t be using Skype because it used too much data. I think he may have confused streaming video with sending video. I didn’t have the time or the inclination to set him straight. So instead of help and customer service I got a lecture and a free dollop of additional anxiety. I suggested to the concierge that there was a thing called Trip Advisor and I would be making full use of it to tell the good people of the internet that the wi-fi – and the customer service – in my hotel were somewhat lacking.
Threats of Trip Advisor aside, I was very stressed. I had an hour before giving a talk to a roomful of people in Orange and there was the very real possibility that I may not be able to make the internet work to do it. I fished around in my bag for the phone number of the Library – so kindly provided by the CEO of Irabina – and called it. The lovely woman I spoke to told me I could go to the courtyard and find a quiet corner and do the presentation. I know it would take fifteen minutes to walk to the library so I rushed off at high speed, cursing any slow pedestrians I encountered.
I got there and asked where the courtyard was. I found a spot and turned on Alastair my MacBook Air, And….the re was no internet. My heart racing I found a staff member and in panicked tones asked how to hook up the Wi-Fi (and yes I know one doesn’t really ‘hook up’ Wi-Fi because it;s wireless…) The staff member showed me what to do and I honestly could have given him a big hug. I thanked him about 100 times and got back to my little quiet nook in the courtyard. I could see school students talking to one another and people who may have been overseas students on their laptops on Skype, speaking in other languages. The internet connections worked perfecta and I had the ideal spot – the kiddie corner. I sat on a beanbag and propped Alastair on a cardboard box so my audience in Orange would be able to see me.
The talk went rely well. Skype only dropped out once and it was before the talk actually started. I had a guy who may have been homeless trying to sleep on one side of me. I did explain that I would be giving an Autism talk and he might want a quieter bedroom but he said he was fine and curled up in apparent comfort and slept through my talk up until the last five minutes when he got up and left. One my other side there was a family with two excitable little girls playing. It was easily the strangest talk I have ever given but it was wonderful. Actually it was a slightly surreal triumph. Using my networks and ingenuity I had solved an apparently insurmountable issue to give a talk. I didn’t let my Orange-based friend, Ben and the audience down and I did something just a little magical – giving a talk about Autism in a public and rather beautiful place. I may be the only person who has ever delivered a presentation from the kiddie corner in the State Library of Victoria. It was certainly a very memorable experience and not so much for the extreme stress I encountered in the lead-up but more for the perfect resolution.
I went back to my hotel and the rude concierge apologised. I imagine the apology may have been prompted by his supervisor but I didn’t really care. An apology is an apology. After I got back to my room I had a beer. An odd, stressful and wonderful day.