Sunday, February 11, 2007

Youth summit #4

Yes, I know, I promised you all another youth summit summary, so here I am. The thing I want to address now is that my throat is not in the best of conditions first due to congestions and then karaoke singing and some speech I had to make for the rest of the table. (It's called laryngitis. Gah.)

The first thing I did on Friday was sweep right out the door without telling anyone; I'd reserved the day for it and notified work and school, and it was nearing 7.30am, when I would have to appear at the church for transport. This time we were headed to another Elks conference, so that meant I was rearing to get my iPod going via a transceiver, but since we could not find one to purchase on the island, I had to crank it to full volume whilst the girls in the van found their iTrip and blasted rap and punk rock the whole way. (Even worse, the pastor was in a separate car, so he had no iPod of his own to counter with.)

Normally the summit would be held at a hotel in New Brunswick, but since it was closed for renovation we were shunted into one in Princeton, where, unfortunately, pilots were sleeping before their next flight and could not be disturbed. This did not stop the conference from becoming its noisy and cluttered self; on the first day my room was one of a few that received silence orders, which my room-mates continued to flout. When we got there, we put our luggage away as usual, but it was in a partition that was removed later as the day wore on; I put my coat on a rack provided in a room, but once the partition was removed and I had collected my luggage, the rack disappeared; the coat was never announced during lost-and-found claim calls. As a result, I now have no winter coat other than two fleece layers.

First, we had our luncheon and opening. When I sat at my group's table, I found it hard to concentrate on a new map I was drawing (an area I called Rana'l, a collection of cities on a ragged seashore) since the others (we know who they are) were throwing ice cubes, napkin bits, and crumbs across the table. This continued for the next three meals I had with the group before I finally sat with another group, one from East Plainfield. One of their number had come across my map and told the rest of the group; since they turned out to be a happy bunch I basically stuck with them for the remainder of the conference.

After lunch, we had the first of our workshops. Again, we never stuck with our workshops; there were no schedules and everyone just flooded to wherever space was free. I ended up in a tobacco seminar that revolved around a hidden code of ethics in RJ Reynolds' corporate policy that, needless to say, was never heeded (the header even said VOLUNTARY CODE OF ADVERTISING ETHICS). Before the seminar, however, we had an icebreaker round, which many of you will know to be some sort of jive or game that helped you identify other members. This round, though, devolved into factional madness, with one party representing 'Kool-Aid' and turning out to be extremely obnoxious and the meek other representing 'Sunny D'. The first was 'If You Love Me You Smile': we had to get a member of the opposing team to smile by saying 'Honey, I love you, will you smile for me?'; the other will either smile and join the proposing team or hold it back and turn the proposing member down to force him or her to defect to the opposing team. Then, we played a human 'Guess Who' followed by a tournament of rock-paper-scissors, which all devolved into confusion and bickering. Needless to say, it ended rather quickly.

Then there was the first of our speakers, 'Dr Mike'. Although his message ('good choice, bad choice, my choice) applied well to the mass, especially the poor chap who was handed a toy car, radio, phone, and banknote to denote freedoms and then drawn back with a fishing line for each represented shortfall, his matter was quite juvenile; this was reflected in a wrap-up session.

Then there was dinner, and a hypnotist (I could have sworn that I'd seen him at the first or second Youth-to-Youth summit) came on-stage and selected a handful to subject to hypnosis. One of our members arose. Once he'd gathered his few, he put them in chairs and coerced them to sleep, and then he proceeded to force them to imagine a variety of scenarios. Some were tapped out when the hypnosis failed; some that remained slumped on each other. At the end, they all got up, evidently dazed at reality.

That ended, and we were down in the conference rooms at the base of the hotel for any of a few sessions of films and karaoke. I chose to go to the karaoke and, despite my nagging throat, registered to sing. I was called up to the surprise of many, especially those that had seen the map. One member in my travelling group responded with what people at PC call a 'glomp'; one wanted to dance. I shook them away and took the microphone, singing to emulate Garth Brooks as best I could without cracking. Although I got through with it and received a large ovation, it was nonetheless the first step to a nasty throat.

The following morning, we were in the ballroom for breakfast and a speaker — Josh Shipp. I'd seen him at my first Youth-to-Youth conference and expected him to carry on with his story of the exploding lasagne and the ensuing reaction from his mother: 'Bless your heart!' In other words, he was later told, he was supposedly stupid. That he was not, as I'd known; he did have attention deficit disorder, but he nevertheless carried out a witty and intelligent session with the mass. (I asked him during a recess whether he had actually appeared at the Youth-to-Youth conference; I was right.) Then came a 'town meeting', in which selected students would come up and share stories that explained why they were there. While plenty others were standing up, no-one at my table seemed willing to say anything. Then I had an idea come into my head as I wondered why the hell I was there. My idea was that everyone was unique and not fit to follow a mould (okay, I took the idea from another speaker in the mass), so I gathered up what to say about that and, trembling, got up to motion that I wanted a say. 'We are here because we are all unique!' I managed to proclaim. 'We are here as we choose to embrace our identity and thus use it to become leaders!' I nearly fainted, and the destruction of my voice was complete. Still, it was the largest ovation of any for the town meeting.

After lunch, there were two workshops, again subject to availability. I managed to get first into a seminar on prescription abuse; it included a video of a woman who drank Robitussin on a daily basis for a high as well as a teenager who hanged himself in a 'roid rage'. Once that cleared, I ended up in what was probably one of the most interesting sessions I have ever attended: perception. The speaker first sorted us out and had us come up with an answer as to his lowest maths score, manufacturer of his car, and nationality of his mother (97 percent, Nissan, Greek). Then, he presented us with a matrix of nine dots. I knew the trick; you had to connect them all using a certain amount of lines. The trick was that it was oft assumed that they had to be straight and you could not let the pen leave the paper before all dots are connected. However, he assured us that we had to see instructions as to these puzzles for what they literally were; the problem could be solved with one line with a paint roller or with zero straight lines by crumpling it or scribbling. That's something I should have showed my psychology course had this taken place before the senses class.

That finished, and we had two hours to ourselves, in which the East Plainfield students rehearsed a poem to read at dinner. Dinner came and they performed beautifully. Once dinner ended, you guessed it, it was another Motivational Productions feature. This one was called 'freedom', intertwining the tale of a kid whose father was at war and who was coping with a crowd that was notorious for partying.

Since there was no talent show, of course, we had the dance afterwards. The staff had been generous and let us stay out an hour longer than intended; I simply stayed out of the main frame and stayed with some Plainfield students who had a paper game going in the foyer. This did not, to my surprise, come without a few girls demanding rather flatly that I come in and dance with them (the ratio of girls to boys at this conference was 3:1, guaranteeing all the boys a potential partner, which many would see as beneficial to me). I did enter the ballroom a few times and prop the map out, but alas, I didn't have another follower. I decided once again, though, that I was not capable of getting in there and dancing.

The final day was uneventful, save for the loss of the coat and the lack of a map for the return trip, forcing me to call to mind a few interstates to get back home.

You know better, Max. What was this all for?

Again, you've beaten me to the kerb. You'll have noticed in the screed above that I was drawing a map again, and you also should have noticed that many of the gawks were from women.

Okay! I admit it! I used it to pick a few up. No, the decision to go wasn't prurient; I did learn from the conference, and I did increase some of my confidence as demonstrated by the karaoke session and the speech (albeit at the expense of my throat), and I was still without a thing to do but wander around, and I needed a few more ideas for another large map I've been planning. But yes, I caught on to the gawks and tried to run away with them. Sure, I didn't has much interest in the whole scenario this time, but if you go back in time, you'll find that most of the time I've drawn a map and demonstrated it at least one girl would respond. It's happened, first with little motive but to just brag, then with, I admit, a few other things in mind that I later wrote off as they proved to be too whimsical. I caught on to the notion that whatever I could offer would be a decent pick-up line.

I'm such an idiot. But hell, I did do something great. Anyway, now isn't the time to jump into an entry about this, Blue and Natsuki with the Dawson factor, and other things along the line that I can possibly think of. As I said, my throat's trashed, and I'm waiting for it all to set into stone before I can reach a viable conclusion.

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