Friday, March 20, 2009

Our Med-Con Adventure, Part 1

I've noted before that hauling my wife with me to a nerd convention such as Dragon Con would be about as fun for her as if she hauled me to a medical convention; i.e., none at all. Turns out, I could not have been more wrong. A couple weeks back, we went to my first medical convention and we both had an absolute blast.

The wife first offered to take me to the MedCon a few months back. The hospital was paying for her whole ride, but for a little extra money I could sign up for the conference as well and tag along. While I figured it would be a pretty boring affair, I also thought there would be some fun things for me to do in D.C. while she was busy conferencing. I said, "Okay," expecting that the trip would involve a lot of me having to drop the wife off at her conference, get lost trying to find something in D.C. and then have to come back and get her for lunch, etc. I did no research into where exactly we were going. Barely did any research into what sort of things I'd like to do while there. My thought was, "it's D.C., there'll be plenty to choose from once I get there."

Five days before we were scheduled to leave, it occurred to us that we'd made no plans for what to do with the circus animals. Fortunately, our vet did pet boarding, so we signed Sadie up for that and decided to leave the cat at home with plenty of food, water, toys and litter. We felt terribly guilty about this; not for the cat, so much, as cats are pretty independent and Avie's the most well-adjusted animal I've ever owned. Sadie, however, is a pound puppy and we feared she would think we were taking her back to the pound if we boarded her. Granted, this was a place with spacious pens and half a dozen exercise sessions a day, amounting to what we explained to her was "doggie camp." However, we didn't feel much better knowing she'd think we were ditching her. I was also concerned that she would bite one of the vet techs taking care of her. Sadie has been getting a bit more suspicious in nature as she's aged and strangers are often woofed at and/or, on rare occasions, snapped at. For instance, she loves my parents cause she's met them before. But during a recent visit from my family, she was stand-offish toward my sister, snapped her on more than one occasion, and only seemed to finally make friends on the last day they were in town.

So a couple of Wednesdays ago, we went.

This was the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians Conference, a five-day event taking place this year near Washington D.C. at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, located on the garbage-strewn yet still scenic shores of the Potomac River in Maryland. The Gaylord National is not an easy facility to miss. It's gigantic, with a mostly glass face that covers the atrium area within. The conference itself would take place in the conference center, so my fears of having to drive the wife around were quashed.

The interior of the place was very impressive, with three different levels tiered one atop the other in the atrium. The upper two areas contained the massive front desk area and ballroom. The lowest level contained the garden area, with lots of plants broken up by a walkway that lead over small bridges that spanned a babbling man-made stream that pooled down below a wide fountain area. The atrium was so large that it also contained two double-storied buildings, each a retail shop. Surrounding the lower level were other restaurants and shops as well as corridors that led off to other sections of the hotel and conference center. It was like some sort of futuristic bio-dome city under glass. And while it is certainly a fancy place, it somehow fails to come off as hoity-toity.

We checked in, found our room complete with atrium-facing balcony to be pretty damned amazing. There was little time to enjoy it, though, as the wife's first session was about to start and we had to go check in for the conference. Being signed up for the conference too allowed me to partake in some of the meals that were sometimes served during the conference sessions. These were often sponsored by drug and other medical-based companies looking to get their name out there now that the drug-rep swag they'd been known for previously has been legally curtailed. In fact, the first session was a lunch session with some truly impressive food. I'm sure it was standard catered faire for D.C. but it would have shown up most higher-priced restaurants I've ever been to. I was starting to like this already.

With the wife tied up for the afternoon, I decided to try and find a comic shop. I'd researched a few online and supposedly there was one on Massachusetts Ave. I'd printed Mapquest directions to it as well as from it to another shop in Georgetown and then back to the hotel from there. Unfortunately, driving anywhere in the D.C. area is a confusing and often dangerous proposition, especially without a navigator. Not helping matters, I made a wrong turn and wound up driving around in circles in downtown D.C. without a proper map to help guide me back to where I needed to be. I saw some cool stuff, but mostly I was frustrated and irritable. Eventually I gave up. Since I'd not reached my first Mapquest destination, I had no real starting point to get to the second one. So I had to figure my way out of there, which involved more going in circles and more frustration. Eventually I did get out, albeit going the wrong direction and had to turn back around. On my way back to the hotel, I spotted the road I should have taken.

That night, we dined with a med school friend of the wife's, at a sports bar tucked within the lower level of the conference center. (After all, it wouldn't be a proper con-experience unless I wound up in a sports bar eating tasty unhealthy food at some point.) Then we got to mill around and enjoy the night time atrium ambiance, including an impressive and colorful water fountain music-review that looked like something out of Vegas, before retiring to our room. As the room opened onto the atrium, we left our balcony door open so we could hear the trickle of the man-made babbling stream of the lower level. It lulled us right to sleep. (Ahh, such blessed sleep.)


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