Large Rooms Filled With Baptists: Day 13

Large Rooms Filled With Baptists: Day 13 June 22, 2010

And . . . it starts.

I am in Charlotte, NC this week for the General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship—a really big meeting of Baptists that happens once a year.  As you might imagine with a Baptist convention in town, Charlotte is currently seeing quite a bit of raucous partying, trash in the streets, and scantily clad women.

Just kidding . . . geez!

I came a few days early for some pre-convention meetings, but I knew today that the Baptists are coming because it began.  I don’t think “it” has a name, but I know you know it.  It’s that sensation of walking into a large room—say a hotel lobby—and recognizing that it is filled with Baptists.  As you quickly scan the crowd, you try your best to control the rising panic that comes with the thought of crossing the room aware that you are supposed to know several of the people in that room.  By name.  And some of them consider you a dear friend.  Now, if only you could remember where it was you met them . . . .

To deal with this convention anxiety there’s a great little invention called the name tag, which minimizes discomfort by allowing for recognition with only a few seconds’ delay.  If you surreptitiously glance at the person’s name tag, usually you can smoothly extend a hand and slip in a first name, even if you can’t for the life of you remember where (or if) you have ever met this person in all your life.

The problem I had today, however, is that convention registration does not begin until tomorrow.  This means that nobody is wearing a name tag.  This paired with my horrible memory and shameful inability to retain names makes that moment—the moment of walking into a large room filled with Baptists—almost sheer terror.

Can I make it across the room without an awkward encounter?  (Please, God.)

My best strategy for said moments, other than trying to find another entrance to the hotel, say, through the parking garage or maybe the kitchen, is just to take a very deep breath, put my head down, and walk in a straight line as fast as I can from one side of the room to the other.  I’ve been employing this strategy all day today, but I’ve noticed throughout the course of the day that large rooms like lobbys are getting more and more crowded with Baptists as folks begin to arrive.  Tonight when I came in from dinner, I wondered if I would actually be able to make it in a straight line across the lobby with my head down and not run into anyone.

It’s now the close of the day.  I have had several awkward encounters today, but nothing too bad.  Tomorrow I am going to go straight to registration and pick up my name tag, hoping that everyone else does the same.  Then, I’ll probably arrange my day to avoid as many large rooms filled with Baptists as I can.

If that doesn’t work, there’s always the blond wig and large sunglasses strategy, which I have definitely not ruled out yet.

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