The Conventional Convention

Robin Cunningham Health Guide

    During my business career, I’ve managed to avoid a great many conventions.  This was much more difficult when I was a featured speaker, but then I employed the ever popular “I must leave right after” tactic.  I would fly in just in time to give my speech and then fly out immediately thereafter.


    The above aside, I have nevertheless attended numerous conventions.  Most of these have been what I call a “conventional convention,” tedious and boring.  A few of these have approached the bizarre.


    For example, one convention in the mid-summer heat (90F plus) of New Orleans I was booked into a Bourbon Street hotel only to find it had no air conditioning.  About 4:00 a.m., after tossing and turning, and drenched in sweat, it occurred to me that it might be helpful if I rearranged the furniture.  I opened the refrigerator door and pushed the head of my bed up against the doorframe of the refrigerator (which made it impossible for the door to close).  I removed the two wire refrigerator shelves, set the temperature to low and shoved my pillow into the refrigerator.  I slept the remainder of the night through with my head in the coolest place in the room.

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    It was also at this same convention in the middle of the superdome that I witnessed the operation of an automated chicken processing machine.  This huge contraption had a long and winding conveyor that transported each chicken, hung by the neck, from one process to the next.  I could only speculate why (perhaps due to the intervention of public health authorities) that the conveyor was loaded with about 300 rubber chickens.  I asked if I could have one as a memento.  My request was denied.


    Most business conventions are one of two types: 1) a convention involving an industry association attended by representatives of each member company, or 2) a “private” convention that is limited to the employees of the sponsoring company only.  The primary difference between the two is that in the case of the former, each company is trying to outdo the others.  In the case of the latter the employees are crawling over their peers to curry favor with senior management. [This is the primary reason senior executives like to come late and fly out immediately after their speech.]


    At this point, you must be asking yourself – “Why is he (me) babbling on about conventions?  Does he realize this is the website?  Is he decompensating at the keyboard?”


    I’m pleased to say that / have asked me to cover the NAMI [National Alliance on Mental Illness] 2007 Annual Convention during the last week in June.


    Without coercion, I’ve attended four out of the last five NAMI Annual Conventions.  These conventions were different in a great many ways from the “Conventional Convention.”  It is one of the very few that I call “An Unconventional Convention.”  During and after the NAMI 2007 Convention I will provide the details that have led me to hold NAMI and its conventions in such high regard.  On a personal note, I will recount my feeling about this years’ event and the most important things I have brought home with me.


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    The perspectives on mental illness I provide are not those of a psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed clinical social worker, but rather a consumer and family member.  I have walked the walk on both sides of the street.  As such, I can speak with experiential authority.  It is my objective to share with you, as best I can, what my experience with a serious brain disorder has been like on a day to day basis, i.e., to compare notes with you.   Equally important, I will also make observations about being a family member and advocate based on my own experience.  Any observations or comments you choose to make in return will be of great value.


Published On: June 06, 2007