Digressions & Diatribes

by Kort E Patterson, Editor

Region 7's Director goes to the AGA

Once more into the breach! Milking the justification of duty and noblesse oblige for far more than it's worth, your intrepid RD managed to screw up his courage, repress the terrors of the unknown lurking in the darker corners of his mind, and venture out of the comfort and convenience of his globally networked hermitage to represent region 7 at the Intertel Annual General Assembly. The fact that I'm writing this report would seem to indicate that I managed to survive the adventure.

Unlike last year, none of my flights were canceled. I arrived before noon on Wednesday for a change, after traveling over night on the "red-eye". The flights were long but pleasantly lacking in the crying babies and turbulence that marked previous trips. Outside of the usual wasted hours spent idling in airports, my primary complaint would probably be that the seats on the Airbus A319 I took between Detroit and Providence weren't properly aligned with the overhead lights - the shadow of the reclined seat-back in front of me made it difficult to read my magazine.

However, in spite of the variations in my travails getting to and from the AGA, there were some constants in the equation. This was the third AGA I've had the pleasure of attending, and the experience was pretty much the same kind of good time I've come to expect.

The atmosphere at the AGA was much like a big family reunion - except perhaps that our Intertel "family" has a few more eccentric aunts and uncles than might be typical. My fellow attendees were a mixture of those I'd met in person at previous AGAs, some new faces that turned out to be attached to the long familiar names of participants on Intertel's TOP1 email discussion list, and a number of members, spouses, and guests I'd never met before. By Sunday I'd enjoyed the company of fellow attendees from at least Germany, England, France, and Canada - as well as the four corners of America.

One of the great pleasures of an AGA is the way that Intertel brings together a diverse assortment of individuals that would be unlikely to encounter each other in the "outside world". The sense of family in Intertel provides the added degree of acceptance of our differences needed to get past the usual superficial barriers, and find unexpected connections between seemingly very different life-styles and personal philosophies.

If nothing else, such a diverse group pretty much guaranteed there would be lots of interesting conversations about a wide range of topics. Just off the top of my head I can recall discussions as varied as truck driving, book publishing, the rise and fall of civilizations, child care, traveling in Africa and Europe, alternative medicine, the evolution of artificial intelligence, chemical sensitivies, taxes, Sax Fifth Avenue, skydiving, politics, pets, and of course computers. I may have mentioned my business and current software projects a few (dozen) times as well...

(Of course, it was only after returning home that my brain finally managed to come up with the witty quips and coherent exposition that "would'a dazzled 'em" during the AGA. However, my fellow Illians still seemed to be able to figure out what I was trying to say even though the words my brain was able to dredge up "on the fly" often fell short of the desired level of clarity and eloquent. But then again, they may have just been being polite...)

It probably comes as no surprise that the topics of the speakers tended to fall outside of my personal obsessions. However, I have to admit that I found them all more interesting than I'd expected. Who would have thought that a presentation on the supposedly dry and boring topic of actuaries would have the audience alternately rolling in the isles laughing and brought up short by intriguing insights!

Since this AGA took place in the heart of historic New England, I did manage to pry loose a bit of time to do some sightseeing. (At the previous AGAs I hardly left the hotel at all.) While in the isolation preceding the AGA I could only make plans based on my personal interests, in practice either fellow Illians invited themselves along or let me join them - with the unplanned companions and destinations substantially enhancing the experience.

(For what it's worth, the USS Constitution was still pretty much as I remembered from my previous visit as a child, but the Boston area had changed a lot in the 40-some years since the last time I was there.)

The next AGA will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The 2003 AGA will be in Chicago, Illinois. Hope to see you there!

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