Other than cancelling the Flip Video Camera, and having me fly across country for a meeting only to have the rug pulled out from under me when I landed and learned the Flip Video PR meeting was cancelled, this blogger has another reason to be be wary of Cisco: a very traumatic experience that happened at a conference today.
The definition of trauma that fits is this:
An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis.
That pretty much fits right now.
What happened today was that I went to this tech conference in San Francisco (I will leave the name out of it), and sat down to watch one of the sessions. The talk was informative and the movie studio rep did a credible job of talking about her company’s new movies and overall brand.
The place was packed, so I got one open seat that was between two women. One of them, as it turned out, was from Atlanta and we exchanged some observations about tech and the Bay Area. Cool. Nothing to think about at all.
The other woman on my left I didn’t get a chance to talk with. I also noticed another woman next to her, white, sitting next to this guy white, and they were whispering, and a bit flirtatious, it seems. So I figured they all worked together – what did I know?
So, I went to lunch, and realized there were two women who were right behind me – the same two women, and the guy.
Well, at first I thought, “Whatever.” But then I saw there tags said “Cisco” and since the conference concerned social media, to a degree, I thought one of the two women, the blonde woman, was the person who manages social media for Cisco I read about in an interview in the paper-edition of the magazine B2B . I could not remember the person’s name so I stumbled a bit, and she said a name, and I said “I think, so but I’m not sure.” She said “that’s not me.”
Without personal details, I will only say that what was cool about “A” at the time was we had sponsorships in common, for me, related to sports going back to my effort to bring the Super Bowl to Oakland. So, there as a lot to talk about.
We got in line, got our food, and then looked for a table to sit at. At first, “A” was sitting next to that guy, but we were cross talking with questions and responses, so A switched with her Cisco co-worker. After that we started talking about ESPN, and also a lot about Cisco’s brand reorganization plans.
I also talked with the other people at the table. But there was one woman with glasses next to me who seemed to almost deliberately overtalk, using a lot of jargon. She never made eye contact with me, choosing to look at “A” almost exclusively, even as I was sitting next to her, so I figured it was best to avoid talking to her unless and until she relaxed. That didn’t happen.
I introduced myself to the guy who was sitting next to “A” at first, and asked him what he did. He said, basically that his company was “in bed” with another firm (I’m leaving the names out of it). I could not resist, so I said “Well, I hope you two have an orgasmic experience.”
After some exchange of that kind with him – the guy never once asked me what I did – I went back to talking with “A” and her Cisco co-worker. Now at this point everything was cool. No issues or anxieties or pink elephants, or whatever. I figured I was making new friends, and was talking to someone I had a lot in common with.
Cisco Starting All Over
According to what I was told, Cisco’s starting its entire brand all over again after laying off 6,500 people three months ago. The planning for “the new Cisco” is still underway, with a possible rollout in the 4th Quarter of this year. It’s not that Cisco’s still doing its brainstorming sessions – not at all – they’re done. Now, it’s putting all of the documents in place that’s going on.
That’s what I was told in conversation.
So we moved from Cisco to talk about energy policy and politics, and politicians we both worked for, roping her co-worker into the conversation. Great stories she told!
As we were talking “that guy” just got up and walked off. Didn’t say “Nice to meet you” or anything. Just left. Quick.
So we finished talking and then went back to the main hall.
When we sat down, “A” and I sat next to each other, then her co-worker was sitting next to “that guy.” “A” proceeded to tell me a lot over the course of the next almost hour. That she broke up with her boyfriend, and said he wanted to get back with her, but then keep the other girl he was dating. Had sworn off men (which I don’t believe). And she’s into swing dancing, which I love, but suck at.
I then mentioned another event for later in the week, where I wanted her to meet my friend who’s in the same line of sponsorship work as she is. “A” said she would have to check her schedule, but was all for it. She wrote down her email, and then said ping me. Well, “ping” to me, means text, so I asked for her number, which she whispered to me. I type it in, and showed her the number on my iPhone. “A” confirmed it, and we started making quips about the presentation and how I felt sorry for the equipment that wasn’t working.
A few minutes later, before the presentation was over, I said “I’m going to try and get an interview with the presenter. Will you be here?” She said “Yeah. Go ahead. I’ll watch your stuff.” Then “the guy,” who had been looking at us from time to time, leaned over to get her email, and presumably because he saw that “A” was giving her email to me.
“Whatever, it’s a conference,” I thought. But then I realized the dude was massive jealous. And the vibe I got was more because he thought we were an interracial connection (Which in a way we were but who cares?) – remember, the guy never said anything to me, even as I asked him what he did (I’m always on the lookout for a good interview).
So then she changed and said that “We’re going to go to another panel, so you should get your stuff before you go over there.” Fine with me. When the panel ended, I said “I’m going to try for it. Wish me luck. I’ll see you later.
And off I went.
And after some doing and waiting, I got the interview I sought after. Something like an hour or two hours later, I sent a text to “A” saying “Hey, I interviewed ‘Mr. X,’ of ‘Company Y’ You must have left. I didn’t see you.” She didn’t text back so I figured she was driving home or something.
I then saw the final presentation of the day for another 40 minutes, or an hour, then went to have cocktails.
I walked in, got a drink and it was obvious some others had already started before me. So I started talking to someone, turned, and saw “A” at a distance looking at me. But not waving like ‘Hey! How’d it go’ which is what one would have expected given the way we were relating to each other before. You know, as friends.
So I didn’t go over there. But then I figured maybe the vibe was of my imagination, you know? So after some awesome conversations, I went over to “A,” who turned into the Ice Queen. Just cold.
And if you remember the woman who had the glasses who didn’t say anything earlier, well, she was being the same way again. I guess all of them watched that panel – whatever.
So, she said “I’ll be right back,” and I nodded as if to say “OK” but was listening to this guy talk about his work. Then I got a call I had to take, so walked to the side and away from the crowd.
As I did this, I noticed that “A” was leaving, and so I figured, “OK. Something is wrong because she’s not waving to say ‘ciao’.” I got off the phone, considered the matter and then walked over to ask her if I’d done something wrong.
At first, she said “No,” but then said that I sent her a text and that I should not have done that at a conference.
I’m not kidding. My blood ran cold.
I said “What? All I did was tell you about my interview, and I figured you’d be happy that I got it.” I just can’t make sense of what happened next. My head started to spin.
I was woozy from the illogic. Sick from the sickness. Messed-up from the messed-up-ness. She then said “You know. I should not have given you my number. You sent a text.” I was trying to find the right words, but then keep my voice level to keep it calm. “You expected me to text you back,” she said.
I told her I thought she left. I didn’t care that she didn’t text. I looked at her like she’d lost her mind. “I thought you were a friend. You’re being hurtful,” I said.
I started to just walk away, but that would look weird, so, trying to savage the wreck I didn’t cause, said “let’s take eight steps back and do an overview of this….” – she said “NO” I’m going over to my friend, and you’re not coming!”
I never said I wanted to, so where that came from was beyond me.
I needed a drink. Iron Man / Tony Stark’s love for martini’s has nothing on my interest in a vodka and orange.
The Only Black Guy In The Room
That’s when I realized I was the only black guy in the room then, out of about 120 people, and I didn’t know what this suddenly really weird person was going to do. I felt the walls close in. I was crushed and massively confused. It didn’t make sense at all. None of it. All of that for nothing. I had to have a cocktail and talk it out.
So I did talk about it to people. And I even showed the text – no one could make sense of what happened. But I had to get it out to protect myself from this person.
I have my theory.
First, I think she was wanting “that guy” to get jealous in some kind of game, and figured that being friendly with me was the way to do it because I’m black. Racist? Yes it was. Awful? Damn right.
Second, she told me earlier that she got “really loopy” after just one drink. “I’m a total lightweight,” she said. But drink or no, that behavior was still off the chart weird and hurtful.
One guy there suggested that I blog about what happened saying “That’s the way you express yourself. Blog it. Get it off your chest.”
Lesson? There is no lesson. I didn’t know they still had women around who were like that. I thought the era of white women faking like they were be-friending a black guy, then turning on him for some made up reason were all over in 2011.
Well, “A” is new here and from Texas.
What can one learn that doesn’t involve being neurotic? Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Fear this person. Fear that person. It’s all silly. I did nothing I’d regret. I didn’t nothing wrong. If she has an issue with race, I’d have never known it up front. But it looks like that.
Does Cisco have black men in marketing? Is that person the token? I hope not.
Well, one thing’s for sure. This blog post worked all the trauma out of my system.
Er, most of it. There will always be a scar. A scar that should not be there. It’s too bad to have to be reminded, from time to time, that there are some really terrible people out there. Sad.