Public Speaking: The Prequel

Me, presenting at SF JUG
Me, presenting at SF JUG

There’s a video that everyone seems to have seen of me (seriously, when I went to Brazil everyone mentioned it) presenting MongoDB to the San Francisco Java User Group.  Unfortunately, I think it’s the worst presentation I’ve ever given, partly because of the lead-up and partly because of inexperience.

I looked up directions and gave myself an extra 15 minutes to get to the talk.  It looked like I had to take a bus so I walked down to the bus stop, but all the buses that went by had a different naming scheme than what I had to take.  I asked the driver on the next bus that went by and he pointed downwards and drove off, which I realised a second later probably meant that I wanted the subway.  Whoops.

I went downstairs and saw ticket machines, so I went over and bought tickets.  Then I went over to the gate, which didn’t seem to take tickets.

“Excuse me,” I said to the guard, “how do I get in?”

“Oh, that’s a BART ticket, this is the Muni system, it takes quarters.”

So I had to wait in line at the ticket/change machines again, because I didn’t have eight quarters on me.

I finally made it to a platform and the stupid Muni came.  I had to go two stops.  At the second stop I got out, went upstairs, exited the station and… had no idea where I was.  I had somehow gotten off at the wrong station.  I started to freak out.  However, San Francisco is a city, and as a city, it has cabs.  I gave up on public transportation and hailed a cab.  The driver drove me all of five blocks to the building where the Java User Group was meeting.  I handed him the rest of the money in my wallet and ran in.

By the time I got there, I was at least five minutes late.  However, there were thirty people waiting to sign in, so I relaxed a bit as I waited in line.

The organiser looked relieved when he saw me and pulled me and the other presenter aside.  We were supposed to each talk for an hour and hold all questions until the end.  I was up first and started in. With about two slides to go, I casually checked my cellphone to see if I was on track with the time.  I wasn’t.

I had been talking for 25 minutes.

I must have looked like I had suddenly been hit by a bus.  In the video, you can see me suddenly run my hand through my hair about 16 times (I didn’t even realise I did that when I was nervous).  Then I made those two slides last as long as I damn well could, which was about 10 minutes.

When people were done asking questions, I skulked to the back of the room where I found a seat on the edge.  After a few minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I went to the bathroom where I could freak out in peace.  When I got back, I sat down and tried not to think about my talk.  And, after about ten minutes, the other speaker wrapped up his talk.  It seemed like he had just started, but I assumed trauma had made time go all squiggly.  I checked my cellphone, and indeed, he had only talked for a half-hour, too!  I had died a thousand deaths for nothing.

Afterwards, I talked to a bunch of cool people who were working on interesting projects, which was definitely the highlight.  Once all the people who wanted to talk had gone, I packed up and left.  There was a bus that could take right to my hotel that I was right on time to catch.  I walked towards the stop and, as I approached, I heard the bus turn the corner behind me.  I was ahead of it, but it gained speed on the straightaway.  It was a long block, and it got a couple-hundred yard lead before it stopped to pick up passengers at the end of the block.  I went into full speed, sprinting down the street with my damn brick of a laptop.  The bus was stuck at the stop, as the traffic light ahead of it was red.  Hurrah!  I covered the last fifty yards, touched the back of the bus, and… the light turned green and the bus drove off.

I.  Was.  So.  Pissed.

I decided that I’d walk back to the hotel, since I now vaguely knew where I was.  It was a half-hour walk, but I was done with San Francisco public transportation.

When I got home, I realised it was just as well that the bus had driven off, because I didn’t even have a dollar left in my wallet after paying for the Bart ticket, Muni quarters, and taxi ride.

6 thoughts on “Public Speaking: The Prequel

  1. It is, although as a New Yorker, it’s a little embarrassing that San Francisco’s public transportation got the best of me. Ours is supposed to be the most complicated!


  2. It is, although as a New Yorker, it’s a little embarrassing that San Francisco’s public transportation got the best of me. Ours is supposed to be the most complicated!


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