Once upon a time, a lowly graduate student (yes, me) got lucky. Her illustrious dissertation advisor (so ruggedly handsome and casually profane, he is) actually ponied up like, a dollar for her to attend an international paleontological conference (yes, like Ross on Friends, fuck that goddam show)! And so she packed her bags, prepared her presentation, grabbed her passport, and boarded her jetplane. And our fearless heroine flew and flew, crossing borders and time zones, to head once more into the grand unknown. And at what fabulous sunny locale did she alight? That’s right! Fucking Canadia. Ah well, at least it was free…
My luck didn’t end there actually. It turns out this conference was in Ottawa which (sorry, Cannooks, I love you guys!), I must say, is easily one of the crapiest places in all of Canadia. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Canada, I swear, I grew up near there and spent many a school holiday marveling at the CN tower and wondering why anyone would ever voluntarily put poutine in one’s mouth. But Ottawa? Let’s just say, Toronto it is not. Not that I can talk, I’m pretty sure my homeland picks state capitals solely off their capacity for propagating mind-numbing boredom (Columbus Ohio, anyone?), and now live in a land whose capital is virtually unknown outside its borders and universally detested within them (sorry, Canberra, I’m sure you’re… not entirely useless? Humm…). So maybe Ottawa’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s definitely the most boring bit of our frosty neighbor to the north. All of which should serve to half-ass explain my need to pull the following disaster…
Now, if you’ve never been to a paleo conference, or a science meeting, or even anything half so dorky, allow me a minute to explain. Paleontologists, as a whole, think that they are cool. This is partly because they get to spend summers outside dicking off and drinking an unnecessary quantity of beer (and occasionally digging something out of the ground). It’s also partly because of Michael Crichton, who did us all an unimaginable disservice when he simultaneously taught the all-believing public that Paleontology = Extinct Animal Planet and somehow managed to convince greater Hollywood that neither Laura Dern nor (gasp) Sam Neill is in any way far too fucking attractive to represent a functional paleontologist at the movies. Sadly, while the former is a fair enough reason to brag (we’rrrrre better than geooooologiiiiiists!!), the latter has occasionally caused those of us paleo-dorks still an ounce shy of complete cluelessness to occasionally hide our heads in shame… I won’t say that we’re like Ross on Friends, not because we’re any cooler, but mainly because his science is totally fucked-up. Why is it Hollywood can vet their lawyer / doctor / crime statistician shows to the minutest detail, and MadMen can check their authenticity to the very minute of 1962, but NBC can’t be bothered to find out that paleontologists, geologists, and archaeologists are in fact different people?? Not to dwell, or anything.
So what happens when you group together the world’s foremost paleo-dorks in one hotel for a week? Well, it usually consists of some long-winded arm-waving from our senior members, some desperate bargaining for used yet mainly useless scientific books, a corner dedicated to the Dorks Who Create Dinosaur Casts, some mind-numbingly boring talks from our desperate junior members, and a fuck-ton of generalized debauchery from the rest of us. That’s right, it’s true, the only people who drink more than ad execs or failed novelists just might be… paleontologists. Trust me, it’s impressive, as I actually know an ad-man who got so drunk he was thrown out of first class on an airplane. Like, can that even fucking happen?? It’s ok, he’s also a jerk. Just as an example, at this same conference a couple of years prior to the Canadian Disaster, I’d somehow ended up on the interwebs, doing a keg-stand in a mini-skirt at 4 in the morning with some senior researchers, after which a friend of mine was subjected to an un-requested golden shower from another friends of ours. For submitting (yes, yes, totally involuntarily) to this indignity, we dubbed him the first recipient of an annual award that celebrates the stupidest shit pulled each year at this conference. I personally feel I was robbed and should’ve won that year, as well as at least the next two running, but whatever. I mean, what’s stupider, a) throwing up drunk in the backseat of your own car or b) getting so trashed you need a piggy-back-ride home, then nearly sleeping through your own talk and missing getting your dissertation signed? Y’all can guess which one was my achievement… And, yes, this is what passes for fun for your average paleontologist.
Ok, let’s just ruin the suspense shall we: Ottawa did indeed turn out to be the year I took the Golden Skull. Yes, the award comes with a trophy, which the winner gets to display for the year, and yes, the trophy is a deer skull spray-painted gold. Don’t ask, I actually don’t know. I told you we aren’t cool And here’s how it happened:
The whole week of this trip was a disaster. We won’t talk about the night we whored a poor friend of ours out to purchase some, umm, stuff from some club kids down the road (seriously, Ottawa’s like, really fucking boring…) Or the one where I found my advisor drunk on the roof, getting up to fuck knows what with his old buddies from grad school. Or the evening we spotted an illustrious colleague sneaking out of the hotel in sunglasses and… what appeared to be ass-less leather chaps? No, no, let’s focus on the main event. The last night.
Our first day checking in had been a shit-show. Clearly we were all splitting rooms, involving a lot of the boys sleeping on the floor for fear of having to like, touch each other if they were to share beds, and somehow in the shuffle my reservation had been… forgotten? Just as I was about to join some strangers on someone’s floor for the week, another renowned and indescribably amazing professor of ours arrived to the rescue. Two snarling, arm-waving, bug-eyed minutes later, and we’d been bumped up to the executive suite. Ha! I mention this because the first thought to now enter my head (you know, right after ‘haha, bitches, winning!’) was ‘fuck man, we gotta throw a party’. Yeah, yeah, I was a terribly grown-up 26 year-old at the time, clearly well on my way to a high-powered career in… Oh fuck that crap, we’ve got a suite! Party on the last night it is…
The last night every year at this meeting involves a banquet, featuring invariably terrible food and an obscenely long awards ceremony. I brought gin. This is annually followed by an even more horrific event, which I find hard to admit attending. Yup, it’s the famous After Party, complete with paleo folks gettin’ down ‘n groovy to an invariably fuck-me-that’s-a-crime-it’s-so-bad cover band / DJ. And then there’s usually some After After Parties in the cool kids’ rooms. I never get invited to these, hence my previous starring role as the Amazing Keg Stand Facilitator. But this year would be different, this year I was gonna throw the partay! I’d been spreading the word all day, finagling all my friends into inviting literally everyone they even half-knew, cornering all the old guys I suspected of being raging alcoholics, and literally everything else I could think of, short of dropping flyers. I knew it was serious when, at the first After Party, someone invited me to this ‘bangin’ shit goin’ on in 2167 later’. Score! That bangin’ shit was in my room! I’d already thought ahead and ordered a 5:00am cab for the 6:00am flight almost everyone was catching, my bag had been packed, what could possibly go wrong?
UBP 2: ‘Yeah man, sounded fuckin’ sweet, why’s no one answering the door??’
Me: ‘Oh my fuck. We gotta go!’ Grabbing friends and bounding upwards…
So we ran to my room (difficult, what with that executive suite being on the 21st floor and all), and there were actually like 4 people waiting! Aww, I’ve thrown a party! I’ve never thrown a party before! I let them in, and I’d even thought of ice, somehow had an iPod, and all was looking smashing when… crap, don’t people usually BYOB to these things? I mean, I’m a grad student, I provided the venue, not the beverages! Fucker, now I’ve got about 20 people in my room and no liquor. Quick, I’ll run outside and just like, sort something!
So I run down to the elevator, thinking I’ll… ‘sort something’ out, and get in, and then… Oh dear, I feel of… ick. So I hit the button and the elevator stops, I get out and look for somewhere, anywhere, but… And that is how I fouled a corner of the 18th floor of a reasonably inoffensive hotel in Ottawa. Back to the elevator. Thinking fast now (‘no more vomit, no more vomit’), I decide to go back upstairs and scrounge for money and, I suppose, a store, you know, at 2:00am in Canadia, and I head off. And aww fucker, definitely more vomit. But damned if I know how, I guess I’m just that bloody polite, I actually made my second deposit on top of the first. You’re welcome, dear housecleaner, for only leaving you one
Back on my floor (gee, I’m feeling much better now), I seem to hear what sounds like a raging fiasco coming from… My suite? Huh? Dear lord, how long had I been gone? I swear, in 10 minutes, half the conference had ascended to my room, filled the tub with cases of beer, covered the bed in bottles of liquor, and started chugging absinthe straight. Ahh, if I only had the balls to name-drop the famous people (haha, I’m funny. Like paleo people could be famous…) I got trashed that night. My favorite bit was the second time hotel security was called on us (it seems the rest of the floor had been taken by airline pilots. Like they even need sleep, the pansies!) and we actually got evicted ’round about 3:30am. That’s right, 2167 got evicted, bitches! No biggie either, as we just dragged our liquor down two flights to some other room with less picky neighbors. And that is why I got to end the night with the following conversation, conducted circa 4:30am, on a bed shared by approximately 14 drunk-ass people:
Yale Guy (I’ll leave him unnamed, as he’s really very sweet, though sadly a perfect match for his profession…): ‘So, like, would you ever have sex with me?’
YG: ‘But, like, what if you were single?’
YG: ‘But, like, what if you were really desperate??’
Me: ‘______, I wouldn’t fuck you if you were the last human being left on Earth and the survival of the species depended on it.’
Bless him, apparently the best party ever thrown in the history of paleontology just barely made up for my asinine bullshit, and I happily spent the next years’ conference sleeping on his floor
And the Golden Skull goes to?
P.S.- Yes, those adorable Canadian Mounties will let you through customs dead drunk at 5:30am. Ya hear that, T.S.A.??
P.P.S.-Yes, we all survived, although I had to physically restrain myself before stabbing the gushing undergrad sitting next to me on the plane who wouldn’t let me sleep ’cause he wanted to babble loudly about this ‘really sweet party he’d almost gotten into last night’.
P.P.P.S.- And finally, yes, my advisor did bail on the epic 2167 adventure. He’d got so drunk at the first After Party that he actually missed his flight. That’s right, I win again