People used to pay me for my thoughts and opinions. Yes, this was a while ago. As part of that lifestyle I frequently attended conferences.
These conferences took place in cities like New Orleans. It’s a given that The Big Easy is a favorite destination of attendees. It’s also true if you actually attend the eight hours a day of presentations in a windowless hotel ballroom the location is immaterial. You might as well be in Des Moines.
What happens after-hours is the draw. Those activities have a strong impact on the next day’s attendance. Alcohol poisoning and gout flare-ups take a heavy toll on days two and three of any conference in New Orleans.
I still recall one of my friends telling me that he was going to bed on the first night of a three-day conference in New Orleans. His declaration made sense as I was carrying him fireman-style back to the hotel. I did my best to avoid contact with his tennis shoes, which at one point were white but now bore the battle scars of the multiple fruity rum drinks (known as Hurricanes) that had briefly inhabited his stomach before forcing a reentry to the atmosphere of a rather nice restaurant that likely regretted letting us in.
My friend did indeed go to bed. He stayed there for the next few days and only crawled out to catch our flight home. It is unclear whether or not he attempted to claim the continuing education credits which went to those actually in attendance.
With this level of debauchery as back-up, I typically did not attempt to bring my children to a conference. Exceptions were made throughout the years, but the proximity of children was generally viewed as a party foul. Screaming children should be left at home, or at least arrive the day all of the other attendees were flying out.
I took that approach when my bride learned that one of the upcoming conferences was going to take place at a resort in the hill country outside of Austin. This particular resort had a lazy river. A lazy river is exactly what it sounds like: a la-di-da, slow moving, chlorine-treated artificial river where pale people float on inner-tubes in blue water.
Things #1 and #2 were around eight and six at the time. The lazy river was one of the best things they had ever seen. It didn’t hurt that they could also order significantly overpriced beverages and ice cream from the friendly wait staff.
I thought about this confluence of family, conferences and work the other day when I heard the name Drew Brees. Mr. Brees had just made public comments which rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. He has since apologized for those comments, which inspired me to belatedly apologize to the entire Brees clan for my family’s transgressions against them.
Let me explain. Around the same time the conference in the hill country ended and my family arrived there was a buzz throughout the resort. Someone famous had just checked in and was going to attend a wedding at this same facility in the coming days. I couldn’t get a straight answer about which famous person was involved and was too busy riding herd on our boys to care.
The next day, in the pool which adjoins the lazy river, I got my answer. Thing #1 and a number of other kids were shooting at a basket hanging over the pool with a not very tall, slender but obviously fit gentleman by the name of Drew Brees. Thing #1, who once brought a baseball mitt to attend an NBA game, had no idea that he was in the presence of sports royalty. When I told him later he looked impressed, or sleepy. It could have gone either way.
When my bride was clued-in she was a bit more excited. In particular she wanted to figure out which people were part of the wedding group and I had to scoot her past the Brees contingent as they roasted s’mores at the firepit that evening.
The following morning Thing #2 and I, having had our sugary, expensive sodas by the pool, floated in our respective tubes down the lazy river. It was now the weekend. The resort had filled up and I recognized the large group of people floating behind us as Brees people (though Drew was not among them).
My laziness was soon interrupted by Thing #2, who screamed “Yuck!” I looked over and saw him dangling a big, used, watery Band-Aid between his small index finger and thumb. I was a veteran of many foreign object findings at our community pool back home (dead frogs, etc.). I was not, however, expecting to see a stained Band-Aid in the lazy river of a fancy resort.
“Get rid of it!” I hissed, pointing at the grass that ran alongside the river.
Thing #2 stared at me for a moment. I feared he was going to ask to keep the Band-Aid. Before I could repeat my order he flicked the soggy Band-Aid into the air. Thing #2 did not throw it into the grass. He instead tossed it directly behind us, where an unfortunate breeze cradled it, carried it over what I had previously thought of as pristine water, and dumped it on the arm of the lead member of the Brees contingent.
Several long tics of a second passed before this man, who had previously seemed quite happy, peeled the dirty Band-Aid off his arm and dangled it in the air between us. The now quite unhappy man looked at me, then Thing #2, then back to me. He scowled as he flicked the bandaid into the grass and looked like he might jump out of his tube and land a few blows. Murmuring grew amongst the floating Brees group. Those in the back scowled at the Band-Aid on the shore as they floated by.
I wanted to say something to defuse the situation but all I could think of was, “That’s not my Band-Aid.” While factual, it wouldn’t explain why my six-year-old had thrown it at them. From the looks I was getting it appeared the Brees people felt that I had been the one who smelt it and, therefore, dealt it.
I took the cowardly way out, spun Thing #2’s tube so that he was facing forward, and shushed him when he repeatedly brought up the Band-Aid as we floated incredibly slowly with a gaggle of angry people floating behind us. I dragged Thing #2 out of the river when we at long last completed the circular route and made sure to avoid eye contact with anyone behind us.
My family and I returned home the following day. I never saw Drew Brees again but I did get the stink eye from a number of people who were likely part of his group.
Drew Brees took less than a day to apologize for his comments. It has taken me over six years to use this post as an apology for my son’s assault on the extended Brees family. And so, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry. And that’s not my Band-Aid.