It started out as an early day. I was expecting to be on the road to the conference by 8am because that was what our parish administrator had said. My supervising pastor was going up the night before, and so I was riding to the conference with our PA (parish administrator is too long to type. So PA will be used instead from now on). So that meant I had to get up early, because of course you know I didn't pack my bags beforehand. So I was awake early in the morning (much earlier than I usually prefer) and showered and packing, so by this time it was about 7:30. Well, then the PA calls because our pastor had talked to her yesterday and asked her to remember that there was a bag of trash that needed to be taken out. And since three of the four main office workers (main as in full time... we have a part time youth director, and if she were to read this, which she shouldn't because i'd be mortified if anyone from my church actually was..) she needed me to go over and find it and take it out. The only thing is she didn't remember where the pastor had said it was. So I went over to the church and searched around the area where she had thought it was, but never found it. She had also said that she'd be there a couple of minutes after 8 to pick me up. Well, 8:30 rolls around and she comes pulling into the parking lot. So it wasn't bad. But I could have slept like another hour... Oh well. So we left and drove the 1.5-2 hours to the nunnery (I know convent is the correct term, or more preferred over nunnery, but nunnery just sounds fun like a factory that produces nuns) where the conference was being held. So we get there and I'm a little nervous. I know a few other intern-types that will be there, but basically it's going to be full time pastors, and a handful of other church workers (i know there were a couple PA-types, and then I think one Christian Ed. director... but other than that I think it was mainly pastors and the Bishop). So our PA drops me off and the door and sits her bag on the curb and drives to find a spot. I walk in (she said I didn't need to wait or watch her bag) and go to the table and tell them my name, they find me my nametag and then hand it to me and tell me the order forms for bread are over on the other table. No other explanation, they don't hand me a key or tell me where to go, so I just go stand over to the side and look through my materials and pretend I know what I'm doing and wait for my PA to come. She finally comes up, and then I see that if I had looked closer at my nametag I would have seen the room number... Although that wouldn't have solved the problem of getting there. So I follow her to the elevator and then we go to our respective floors. So I get a little situated in my room and then head back down to the lobby, where I am excited to see a few people that I know graduated from my seminary and that I have seen at various seminary functions. So I make a beeline over to them, and say Hi. Comfort in familiar faces. People begin moving to the room where the action will be, and as I enter that room I see my pastor and PA so I walk over to them. They start with worship (and I usually enjoy worship) and then we move to lunch and this nunnery has wonderful mashed potatoes. They are as close to divine mashed potatoes as one could come, I suppose. And this meal all of the new people in the synod, including interns, have to eat with the bishop. So I walk over to the table and sit down and lo and behold here comes a certain someone from my own school, who shall remain nameless. *disclaimer: chances if you are reading this then you already know, or will know very shortly, who this person is. Let me begin by saying that she is a nice person, maybe lacking some social skills, but nice. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being "horrible" and 10 being "nice" she's probably a 7 or an 8. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being "wonderful conversationalist" and 10 being "has a knack of saying things in such a way that make conversations awkward and sometimes painful" well... she's probably an 8 there, too.* And this certain nameless intern sits next to me. Well, the bishop comes and sits across the table from nameless-intern and we begin eating and chit chatting. A pastor new to the synod, and also a graduate of my seminary, sits across from me with his wife. He is currently serving a church in the town between nameless-intern and me. Well, the conversation ebbs and flows as conversations do, when the Bishop gets up, says a few brief words (brief as far as bishops go, anyway) and then it is our turn to introduce ourselves as well as a favorite hobby. It gets to me and I introduce myself and say my favorite hobby is sumo wrestling. That produces some laughs, and the bishop says I should try that with my supervisor, who he is chummy with. Well, the conversation gets back to chit chat and small talk, when someone mentions something about cold weather. Nameless-intern says that she doesn't mind cold weather, in fact they could ask me about that. I cringe. I know what's coming next. It's what gets brought up in every conversation I've ever had with Nameless-intern. I silently pray in my head that someone will NOT take the bait. Please God, don't let them take the bait. Please God, let the conversation die. Please God, don't make me talk about this one more time. Please God, strike me down with lightning-anything-just something to get me out of this situation! Wouldn't you know, it is the BISHOP that takes the bait and asks Nameless-intern what she means. So Nameless-intern says "Well, Mark notices that I never wear socks." I silently scream. So I proceed to tell the story that one day during homiletics class the group of us is commenting that it's kind of chilly in the room. Nameless-intern says she's not cold. I make the horrible mistake-the mistake I have wished a million zillion kajillion times that I could rewind and erase-of mentioning that she must not be cold because she's not wearing socks. That was it. End of story, you'd think. No. Not at all, really. A couple of class periods later, it is colder outside. Nameless-middler-at-that-time points out to me that she is not wearing socks. Repeat this scenario numerous times in different settings with different people but same conversation. Repeat it now at the lunch table with the bishop sitting across from me. Call it a flare for dramatics but at this moment I hate my life but not as much as Nameless-intern and her stupid sockless feet. Once again the conversation kind of diminishes to nothing, until pastor man's wife says "At Arthur's Deli I had a wonderful ham and cheese sandwich." Thank you, wonderful woman, if you were not married I would kiss you. The conversation moves on from that horrible, screeching, awkward halt and moves on in a much more pleasant direction.
So after lunch we go back to the main meeting room for a session, but I know that's not what you want to hear about, so we'll advance to the first round of drinks. Supervising pastor, PA and I are meeting Previous-intern and wife for drinks at local bar, seeing as how the seminary is just a hop over the river. We hop over the river and get to the bar. I drink two Guinesses... Guinni? What IS the plural for Guiness without saying Guinessessesses? Anyway, it was a glorious moment because I do not feel intimidated, in fact I am able to have a good discussion with Previous-intern and wife about the current situation at church. By the end, in fact, the only thing I AM feeling is slightly fuzzy in my head. And supervising pastor pays for both of my Guinessessesses. Lovely, wonderful man.
So after Round 1 of drinks we head back to the nunnery for more boring sessions. After numerous boring sessions I think the evening is drawing to a close. I am, in fact, tired. PA says she is going to her room to study because she is taking college courses and has a test tomorrow evening. Supervisor pastor asks me if I'm interested in [makes drinking gesture with his hand]. I say "Of course." He says that other people are thinking of going out, but they want to drive into Galena to drink, he wants to go back to the Busted Lift which is where we were earlier. He manages to convince everyone else who is going out to come to the BL with us. Here is a list of the people that go to the bar, and their monikers for this story: me, Supervising-pastor, outspoken-liberal-woman-pastor, funny-south-african-pastor, funny-south-african-pastor's-wife (funny-wife for short), quiet-pastor and quiet-pastor's-wife (quiet-wife for short... funny how both funny-wife and quiet-wife's monikers describe them perfectly, too), and hefty-young-but-not-as-young-as-me-pastor (young-pastor for short... although he IS hefty, I feel weird and bad using that for his name), and slightly-older-and-kinda-odd-pastor (odd-pastor for short). I ride with Young and Odd, because I know how to get there. Supervising and Liberal-woman ride together. The two married couples ride together... Not that any of this is important, besides that I'm riding with Young and Odd. Anyway... Supervising is leading the caravan, but he misses a turn and we leave him in the dust. We get there, and everyone is kind of hesitant because only Supervising and I have been to the Busted Lift before. So we get there, people start ordering drinks, Supervising had said something about paying for mine but he orders his pays and goes and sits down. I take out my wallet. $1.00. Yikes. My options: mooch, start a $10 minimum tab with my check card, wander outside until I find a nearby ATM (the closest one I know of is quite a hike), or not drink. Well, the choice I made, and one many of you might disagree with was the last one. I sit down, at the end of the table facing everyone, in between Young and Liberal-woman. Liberal-woman asks me about the text for this weekend, since I had a wonderful insight in text study last week. She tells everyone about said insight, they all comment that they think I'm a genius and I'm only an intern, I wow them all with my wonderful and sarcastic humor, I become the center of attention and the life of the party. I'm knocking them dead and I'm not even drunk. Whoa. Supervising gets up part way through the evening, and asks if I want a Guiness. In my ear. Trying to hide it from the group. I think that if I agree to this free drink then everyone will know that my not drinking beforehand was not my choice and because I am poor. I think this will somehow reflect poorly on me. I say, in an upbeat voice, "No, I'm fine!" Supervising goes and orders himself another drink. Liberal-woman is ranting at Young, how she can't believe he'd even think about voting republican, he doesn't make enough money to be republican, I dig my finger into the wax of the unlit candle. The evening progresses, I impress the people some more with my charm and wit, I end up being Young and Odd's designated driver for the evening, making it look like it was planned that I not drink all along. Damn, I'm good... if a little weird. We drive back to the nunnery, people making comments as we walk up to the door, that I need to go out for martinis with them tomorrow night. I agree and make a mental note to get cash so that I can actually imbibe the following evening. I retreat to my closet of a room and go to bed. End of Day One.