Unwanted networking


August means three months ’til election. Ninety days left for desperate politicians to vy for the affections and votes of undetermined or disinterested voters. In the political realm, this means crunch time.

This particular week was a good one for U.S. congressmen and women because the congressional session ended two weeks ago, which gives pretty much every representative in the U.S. House time to go back to their districts and kiss up to voters.

Our representative for this district was particularly hard at work. I don’t know why, since he’s been in office about as long as I’ve been alive and the guy running against him is…well, let’s just say he’d never make it in Washington. Ever.

Anyway, so our representative has been campaigning pretty hard. He made three appearances in our coverage area this week alone. In fact, I saw him so much I felt like I was stalking him.

One of the appearances he made was at this minority business conference. He gave some opening remarks, then he split the minute it was over because he had to drive to the next county over to speak at their rotary club.

The congressman was scheduled to speak at 9 a.m. I got there super early because the press release said he’d be there an hour earlier. Whatever. That wasn’t what bugged me.

What bugged me was one of the conference-goers who thought I was a fellow conference-goer.

From the minute I spotted him, I knew he thought he was hot shit. He was dressed in this really tacky, khaki suit with a deep blue shirt that didn’t match at all. He was kind of a squat man with a well-groomed, but dated mustache. And he wore this self-satisfied grin, like he knew all the tips and tricks for making it in this world and he wanted to share them with everyone.

He zeroed in on me the minute he walked into the room. I, having no reason to formally suspect him of being a gigantic asshat, grinned and shook his hand when he offered it. It was clear from the beginning of this conversation that he thought I was a conference-goer, just like him. So I introduced myself as a reporter right off the bat.

“I’m with the local newspaper. I’m covering this event, I’m not attending it.”

He still kept smiling at me and nodded. “OK. Well let me give you my card.”

For the record: I didn’t want his fucking card. I wasn’t looking to network with anyone at this thing because 1) I’m not a business owner and 2) I WASN’T ATTENDING THE EVENT, I WAS COVERING IT. But whatever. It’s just a card.

Then he went on to brag about how he was a journalist, too. He’s a “blogger” and he writes about news and entertainment, blah blah blah.

First of all, I haven’t really ranted about how I feel about bloggers calling themselves journalists yet (because that probably deserves a book by itself), but in a nutshell: I don’t consider bloggers journalists.

Second of all, he was being a condescending douche about it. Granted, he was probably twice my age, but that didn’t mean that he was a better “journalist” than I was. I told him I was there to talk to the congressman, and he replied that he wanted to talk to him as well.

Well the congressman made his remarks, then he split the minute he was finished. I ran out to catch him and ask a couple of questions before he could go, and the blogger guy followed me. We waited while the congressman took care of some business in the conference hall offices, and the douchey blogger regaled me with more tales of his own awesomeness.

“My business has taken me all over the world. I’ve talked to all different kinds of people,” he said.

Oh, really? “That’s cool,” I responded.

“Have you ever considered radio or television news?”

I’d rather gouge my eyes out. “No, I haven’t.”

“Hmm. Well you should. You have the voice and you have the look. And it’s been my experience that when you know more, you get better jobs. People will be more willing to hire you if you know a lot about different mediums.”

OK, first of all, the plural of “medium” is “media.” That’s why we’re called THE MEDIA.

Second of all, WHAT THE HELL. Do I look like I need your help? I already found a job, thank you very much! And yeah, I don’t plan on staying here forever, but I think I know what it takes to get hired in this business. I want to THE best school of journalism in the world. I studied under numerous Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, and I worked alongside some of the best reporters and editors of my generation. I’m perfectly capable of understanding what it takes to compete in my chosen profession. Thank you.

But it didn’t stop there. Oh, no. When the congressman finally came back out to answer our questions, Bloggy von Doucher graciously allowed me to ask my questions first. So I immediately pounced.

“Mr. Congressman, why did you decide to make an appearance at the Minority Business Conference today?”

[Insert trite platitudes about encouraging small business owners who happen to be minorities here.]

“Mr. Congressman, one of the speakers mentioned an interesting statistic. He said that soon the minority population would overtake the white population. What did you make of that?”

[Insert more drivel about how awesome and diverse America is.]

“Mr. Congressman, the same speaker also mentioned that without immigration, America would actually experience a population decline, and that instead of closing our borders, we should be opening them. What do you think about that?”

[Insert meaningless talk about how illegal immigration is a problem, and we value diversity, we just wish people would immigrate legally.]

“Mr. Congressman, the same speaker also mentioned that government should invest in businesses by entering into contracts with them. He offered the example of IBM supplying the government with computers. How do you feel about that assertion?”

[Insert more talk about how government should invest in businesses, but by deregulating and limiting barriers to entry.]

I chose this line of questioning specifically because the congressman is a Republican, and the speaker who came after him brought up a lot of points typically held as platforms by the Democratic Party. So I thought his answers would be more interesting than they were. I should have known better than to expect a Washington Republican seeking reelection to provide interesting answers.

Well when I was finished with my questions, the douchetastic blogger chimed in with his questions.

“Mr. Congressman, how do you propose helping minority business owners?”

[Insert typical answer about deregulation here.]

“Mr. Congressman, why is it important to invest in minority businesses?”

[Insert another typical answer about creating new jobs to get out of the recession.]

“Thank you so much, Mr. Congressman,” we both said when he finished answering our questions. Then we shook his hand and he took his assistant and aid back to the car to go wherever they needed to go next.

When he was gone, Senor Asshat smirked at me and said, “Nice job, little lady.”

Ugh, I wanted to punch him in the face. His two questions were the most basic questions any beginner reporter could have asked and he was looking at me like I was the rookie.

After I left the conference, he sent me an email saying we should keep in touch and that I should check out his blog. Needless to say, I deleted that shit before I read through the whole thing.


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