When I was a college student I had a variety of part-time jobs that I took to help pay the bills. I was fortunate that for four years of college I had a full-tuition scholarship and that my mother paid for books and my last year of tuition (since I got both a B.S. and B.A. and didn’t finish in four years). But I lived away from home, and there were other things I needed to buy. So among many other jobs (secretary, programmer), I worked for a while at McDonald’s. It was horrible. I’m not gifted at managing the public, and there are a lot of people who get really angry about not getting their food as quickly as they expect. The number of times I was yelled at was astonishing, and I didn’t last more than two months. On the other hand, the experience made me a better fast-food customer. Yes, sometimes people serving fast food don’t do a good job. But for the most part yelling at them doesn’t make anything better, and I resolved that I would never contribute to the abuse that fast-food workers receive.
I believe I have now discovered the academic equivalent of working at a fast-food restaurant: organizing a conference. No matter how well you attempt to do things, something always goes wrong. People have trouble registering. People don’t see information you’ve carefully posted on the web site, registration confirmation, email announcements, etc. People believe that they’re entitled to special treatment or consideration for whatever reason and are miffed when you (politely) disagree or fail to comply. And most importantly, the vast majority of people have no idea how difficult the job is so they don’t think to express appreciation.
Like the McDonald’s situation though, I’m convinced that the experience is making me a better person. Having seen what a horror conference organization is (although I’m sure there are many horrors yet to come since there are more than three weeks left), I have become a more appreciative conference attendee. I thank conference organizers profusely whenever I can, and when I have something to discuss regarding the conference I attempt to raise the issue in the most polite way possible. As is usual, the most difficult situations are the ones in which you learn the most. So I thank SIGITE for giving me this opportunity to learn.