I've been invited to attend a conference this weekend.
When I say "invited", of course, I mean that my boss' boss' boss' boss' boss at my new office came by and said, "hey, maybe you should go to this conference for us".
I call that an "invite". Or possibly, if he were another boss or two up the chain, an "offer you can't refuse". Either way, I'm packing a bag on Friday and shipping out to represent the group. It's very exciting. I might have to get a haircut, or buy some new socks or something.
As it turns out, this trip comes with an extra perk. Before I left my old office, I actually submitted a proposal to present a poster at this same conference.
(For the record, I was also "invited" to write that proposal. I'm a pretty popular guy, when it comes to things that might ship me the hell out of town for a few days.
I never thought of it that way. And now I wish I hadn't. Super.)
The poster was accepted -- and soon after, I ran screaming out of the office to my new job. Which was completely unrelated, of course. Mostly completely.
So the kids who were left there have been tasked with putting the poster together, rather than me.
"Smirkers before ex-coworkers, and other stuff that rhymes like that."
(I was "invited" to still prepare and present and explain the poster. But there are only so many hours in the day, you see. My debutante dance card was full. So with considerable regret, I politely declined.
Hey, polite declines can too end with the word 'suckers!'. Can TOO.)
I've offered what help I could from afar, and even seen a preview of what will be the final product. But it looked like I wasn't actually going to witness the poster "in action", since I'd left the job and begged out of the meeting. That was before I was "invited" back in.
So now I'll be at the conference. And with perhaps some free time to stroll over to the poster area to see what's what. And therefore, there's but one thing I can possibly do this weekend:
Find the poster. Pretend to read it. And ask LOTS of loud, pointed questions about everything on it, and not on it, and what should be on it but isn't.
Because it's fun to get out of a drudging construction job. But it's waaaaay fun to also know where all the bodies were buried before they laid the concrete. The smart ass in me can't resist sauntering by and nonchalantly remarking:
"Say, shouldn't that number be a seven? I'm no expert, but where you've said four there, I believe it really ought to be a seven. Any right-thinking person would say so."
You might think this would backfire. And it might, if the poster is close enough to a broom closet that they could drag me in there unnoticed and waterboard me in the mop bucket. But failing that, I'm actually in pretty good shape here.
If there's something wrong on the poster, it's probably my fault, from back in the day -- I mean, I wrote down 'four' as the answer for just about everything I had to guess at; it's just simple law of averages that one of those should probably have been a seven.
(Or so I'm told. The law of averages is too complicated for me to understand. I just assume the average of any set of numbers is -- that's right, four. See how handy?)
The thing is, even if I'm to blame, what's going to happen? I've flown the coop. Cheesed the joint. Scrambled the omelet. Four. I'm in no position to fix anything; in fact, I can point out my own caused problems with near impunity. Why, I may just march right up to that poster and exclaim in a loud accusatory tone:
'Who's the drooling idiot who thought that part there would work? Yes, right there -- between the beginning bit and the 'four'. That part?'
Even if they say, as they may well have reason to do:
'YOU did. It was YOU what put that part there, even when we protested and shook our heads sadly at your wanton hubris!'
What's the consequence? Nobody else knows me at the conference. I can claim to be an innocent passerby and mark them all as delusional, and who's going to prove me wrong? I'll go give 'em hell and high water, and watch 'em squirm in the heat. It's rare to so fully and completely have the upper hand. Even though I like those guys -- and I do -- I've simply got no choice but to rain on their poster parade. It's what a smartass do. Smirkers before ex-coworkers, and other stuff that rhymes like that.
I just got an email from those guys. They say they're going to include my name on the poster, given the work I put in. Now if I harangue them, I'm not just busting other peoples' innocent chops, but mine at the same time. That'd be MY good name I'm sullying. Crap.
So I guess I'll just go to this thing, and go see the poster and be all polite and nice and lovey-dovey when I talk to the guys who put it together. I guess that's how it should be, smartass compulsions or no. I want to stay on good terms, and not burn bridges, and think of this as a networking opportunity, and blah blah blah... Fine.
I just hope no jackholes come up asking smirky questions while I'm visiting over there, or we're going to have words. Ain't nobody gonna talk smack about MY poster, sparky -- y'hear?