Apparently, I look like someone who should work in a luxury hotel.
I worked a three-day IT conference in the Hôtel Normandy Barrière in Deauville recently, and the IT managers in attendance were a little confused.
My company has a bit of an unfortunate reputation for being old world and stodgy. Admittedly, the other assistant who always plans the conference is a bit - if you'll pardon me - matronly. You take one look at her and think, "I bet she makes a mean cassoulet."
But I digress.
She had asked me to come help out, which I was happy to do, as it meant getting out of the office and meeting new people in a nice setting. Oh, and it royally pissed off my snake of a co-worker. She hates it when I get to travel. Major bonus.
Most of the attendees had never met me, nor dealt with me in any way, so I didn't expect them to recognize me or anything. I just thought the company name tag would be a clue.
Throughout the conference, I tried to guess what language to speak to whom, herded participants onto buses, handed out welcome packets, explained where the cocktails and dinners were being held, bullshitted my way through answering what kind of internet connection was available in the business center, and kept guard outside the meeting room while things were in session, all in full waitress mode, asking and answering with a smile. All the while, "Penelope Reider, X Company" was clearly visible on my name tag.
Despite this, almost every other person I interacted with asked,
"Do you work for the hotel?"
At dinner on the second night, I took refuge at the Spanish and Brazilian table. IT managers are one thing, French IT managers are another. I needed some spice. I was happily chatting with various members of the table when the Catalunian asked,
"So, you work for the hotel, right?"
"You are about the tenth person to ask me that," I said, laughing.
"I'm sorry, we have a tendency to repeat ourselves," he responded.
"No, no," I replied, "it's just that it makes me think people must say to themselves, 'That girl can't possibly be from X Company.' "
The table erupted in laughter. "That's it exactly!" several of them replied in chorus.
"But what is it about me that makes people think that?" I ventured, not sure where I was treading.
The Catalunian looked at the Mexican. The Mexican nudged the Colombian, who waved him away. The older Spanish gentleman patted my arm.
"It's nice to know people like you do work for X Company," he explained.
"Don't change a thing," said the Brazilian with a devlish smile.
Somehow, I don't think they were talking about my administrative assistant skills....