Just like camp!« an older post

High Maintenance

I find meetings with large groups of people fascinating. The interactions between people and among groups have to be one of the most interesting things to observe.

Individual behaviour in a group is also interesting to watch. Some people rise to the occasion (I love watching Ben schmooze a crowd), others freak out. Some thrive with the stress, others complain and whither.

Depending on the circumstances, I can go either way. I'm more to the stress and flee side of the range until I become comfortable with the group. I certainly can't work a room like Ben, nor can I be "on" like Andy (and I wonder if anyone can switch as quickly as he can), but given the right situation, I can hold my own.

For the first night of BarCamp, Messina asked me to greet people as they came in, let them know what was up, and ask them to sign our scroll with their names and hand-drawn pictures of themselves. How could this possibly be a better situation? I do well one-on-one, where large crowds overwhelm me (in as much as I have to fight every fiber of my being desiring to run away, flee, hide out on the sidelines and watch), and I get to meet each and every person one and one as they merge into the crowd.


It was also the perfect opportunity to watch interactions of various people in the crowd.

For the most part, the tech crowd is completely different from the ultimate crowd. Where ultimate is about athletic performance, bonding as a team, throwing discs, running hard, goofing off, revelation of intensely personal details that would embarass me if the revelations weren't to my teammates, and flashing breasts (hmmmmmmm.... should I delete that?), the tech crowd is about talking tech (well, duh!), work, and interesting problems. There's no discussion of breasts (really!), or personal details (work related is okay, family if you know the person, the size of your breasts? no way). There's no physical contact, no hugs, no cheers, no butt slaps, no high-fives, no holding hands, no shoulder-to-shoulder huddle and cheer. Tech is strange, and sometimes terribly lonely.

That's the general idea of the differences between the two groups. The individuals, well, that's a different story.

At a previous job (one of many, many of them), a coworker was this worked up, can never have any fun, uptight (yes, redundant, I know), always busy, life-is-hard, high strung woman. Nothing was ever quite right for her. Life was difficult. Things didn't work out the way she wanted them to. Ever.

Tragically, she was a poor communicator, too. Which made things worse for her boyfriend, another coworker, who became her ex soon after I started working with them. I became closer to him, as she was an emotional vampire, terribly draining and hard to be around.

You see where this is going?

From my perspective as an outsider with respect to all the relationships these people share (the longest I've actually known any of these people is 4 days at this point, with Messina being the slight exception, having met him in passing 2 and a half months ago, and Kaliya about 6 months ago in Berkeley at a talk for Greg), and recognizing said perspective is completely coloured by my experiences and that I really don't know these people at all, one of the people here reminds me of this woman ex-coworker. Everything needs to be perfect, she's not happy if there's something to do, she's completely stressed, and bringing down everyone around her.

Yep. She's high maintenance.

I did my best to help her out. I smiled. When she complained in my presence, I countered with offers of help and suggestions (that were actually reasonable suggestions). When she stressed, I asked if I could help. When she freaked, I stepped aside. Her personality was exactly like that ex-coworker's personality, to the point of near flashbacks for me.


May I never become high maintenance.