Friday morning was also a trial, though I crept out of it like a cat. I still had work, so I had to skip the symposiums, which hurt, but I made on-line plans from there with Alan to meet at the Science World party that night. So after, once I’d gone home and showered and changed into new clothes and did all the things regular people do when they’re about to go seriously crash the largest science conference in the western hemisphere, I packed a duffel to bring to the hotel after the party, so I wouldn’t have to return to the apartment again until the conference was over. (Could have done it the day before, but whatever. Dinner! Whales! Plus Science World has a significantly better coat check that the Aquarium.)
Once there, the only question was finding my people in the crush of people pointedly lingering next to the open bars and clumping in the areas where the waiters would cruise by with tasty nibbles. It all came together eventually, but I spent the first twenty minutes completely on my own, wandering through the exhibits, going from table to table, attempting to find the promised non-fish based food, as well as scouting for my clever partner in crime. The trick, apparently, was to stop looking for the shortest gregarious person and instead make for the tallest, Erik, as naturally they would be speaking together.
I didn’t know Erik, but it was instantly clear that I should. He was funny, eloquent, and involved in his topics in a way I utterly envy. Truly, there may never be a group of people I immediately get on with more than journalists. There’s just something about a profession that attracts the intelligent, literate, and perpetually curious that gets under my skin in the best kind of way. He wasn’t selling his story to Cosmos that night, though. It wasn’t quite the right fit, even though I found it personally fascinating. Even so, we all walked up the ramp together to the massive dome of the IMAX Theater, for the Kavli Foundation Awards, just in time for me to somehow lose everyone all over again at the door.
Just my luck, I almost sat alone for the show, stranded in the empty seats I tried to save. Thankfully a very nice woman from Berlin came and sat with me, social orphans together. I have regretfully misplaced her name, but she was wonderful company, telling me about her goth days back in Germany, about her lab, about her adorable daughter. She saved me as easily as grabbing the keys to the car on the way out the door. We stayed together downstairs for nearly the rest of the night, playing on the exhibits, sitting on spinny things and climbing the hollowed tree in the nature room. If we’d been children we would have been running through the yard, thrown together by chance but making the best of it, playing tag by the overpass.