Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon

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MasterCard seminar in Chicago: Where the "i" divides

The seminar started this morning with breakfast. Typical conference fare -- bagels, fresh fruit, etc. The honeydew melon was excellent, but I hadn't planned on dwelling on food here.

The seminar is actually entertaining, and we all really like the presenter. Actually, none of the information is new to me, but I'm getting something out of being here, even if it's simply a reminder of what it's like to work disputes in favor of cardholders (which I don't do anymore). Most people there were learning A LOT. This frightens me. This frightens me because I've been resolving disputes for only a couple of years, and there are people who've been doing it for ten who think that the MasterCard Operating Regulations are "sort of a wishy-washy guideline." Actual quote. And they're not. You won't care unless you have my job, but the MasterCard regs are GLORIOUS. They lay out in simple, black and white terms everything you need to know about processing or disputing any type of transaction. The regs are inflexible. I'm so glad I don't bank with these people.

At noon we were served a filling lunch which my roommate couldn't eat any of. He's allergic to nearly anything that casts a shadow. Cesar salad. Chicken with beef gravy (?!). Zucchini, peppers, and squash. Tiramisu for dessert. After lunch we reconvened for the afternoon session which ended around 4:30. I hung out for awhile in the atrium.

Everybody's been to a party where they're the only non-drinker. I never drink, and I'm used to it. It doesn't feel awkward. Smoking, on the other hand, is different. Smokers are usually the outsiders, and it's easier to be anti-tobacco than anti-alcohol, so those of us who don't do it don't even notice when "no smoking" rules are posted.

Non-smokers at this seminar are a minority. The smokers here outnumber us by nearly two to one. It's very weird to be walking around inside the hotel atrium and suddenly realize that most of the people around me are holding lit cigarettes. It's a sudden realization, too, since the place is well-ventilated to the point where the smoke doesnt bother my sinuses. That's just the common areas, though. We're in a "non-smoking room" (why the quotes? Ask anyone who works in the lodging industry) and the ashtray has a "thank you for not smoking" sticker on the inside.

While I was wandering around the atrium a girl I work with named Margaret asked if I wanted to hang out. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant called Nick & Tony's which was within walking distance of the hotel. I ordered a mushroom lasagna and (since the meal is on the company) peach clafouti for dessert. Both were excellent. We went back to the hotel and I dropped the lasagna off in the fridge in my room. It wasn't until I got back a little while ago that I saw that guests are assessed a $25 penalty for storing their own items in the fridge. I'm sure they didn't see it. I'm um, eating it with my hands because two AA batteries can be purchased from room service for $12.50, and a roll of Scotch Tape is $5.25. I don't want to chance the fee for silverware.

Margaret wanted to take a boat ride (and I needed something to do (other than watch my coworkers get drunk)), so we headed to Navy Pier, checking out Michigan Avenue on the way.

For those from Madison who've never seen Michigan Avenue (not that any of you ever read my livejournal), it's what State Street will be if commercial space continues to rise in price.

For those not from Madison who've never seen Michigan Avenue, well, it's a commercial area where (and I struggle here not to quote Robert Lowell poems) even the homeless are prepared to give you a receipt.

Once we got to Navy Pier, we jumped on a boat almost immediately. Not true, actually. We shopped around quickly, and the cheapest one also happened to be the only one that didn't have a long wait. We eschewed the $120 tour, the $48 tour, and even the $25 and $23 tours in favor of the $10 tour. No matter -- it started to storm, and we were asked to move down to the lower deck, where everything isn't made of metal. The tour was about half an hour long, and we listened to a prerecorded presentation about the impressive buildings of the Chicago skyline. Did you know that the name Chicago comes from a Pottawatomie word for "smelly onion?" Neither did I. I'm learning so much.

By the time we got back to the Pier, the rain was coming down hard. We watched the fireworks for a few minutes, and took a trolley back to the hotel. A jazz combo was playing in the Big Bar, but I just wasn't in the mood for a bar (am I ever?) so Margaret and I parted ways, and I went upstairs. After my roommate finishes heckling me about hanging out with Margaret (who has a serious boyfriend, in case you were speculating too), I'm going to hop into the shower and hit the sack.

Becki, that's your queue to leave a comment that reads "Mmmmm. Sack."
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