How to Get Someone ELSE to Pay for Lunch

press preview“Miss Kat!” announced one of my students earlier this week.  “Today is a special day!”

As the student in question was one of my preschoolers, I smiled my best better-luck-next-time-with-that-knock-knock-joke smile and inquired, “Why is today a special day?”

“Because you have a MEETING!”

And so I did.

(Hence the reason I was totting around The School in my five inch stilettos and a floral print dress.)

My “meeting” was none other than the 2012 Press Preview for—well, basically the city’s largest and most prestigious cultural institution.  Having never been to a press preview before, I spent the morning:

A)     Stressing over my outfit (red shoes seemed a bit much for a luncheon)

B)      Agonizing over which compartment in my pocketbook ought to hold my business cards

C)      Worrying over the fact that as a freelancer, I’m not exactly press (I don’t have a pass and figured I might get kicked out for gate crashing)

D)     Cursing the sorry state of my notebook collection (I’ve never owned one of those proper reporter notebooks with the spiral on top—probably because I’ve never actually wanted to be a reporter—and I knew I couldn’t very well show up to a press preview with one of my college-ruled bargain books from Staples)

E)      Wracking my brains for suitable parking near said cultural institution (and by “suitable,” I mean the kind that doesn’t require parallel parking; I’m about as good as parallel parking as I am driving stick).

By the time my “special day” rolled around, I was doing everything I could to find an excuse not to go.  Sure, it would be good for me (and for my career, and for my future as a writer and all that jazz) but I hate networking, I hate talking about my work, I hate introducing myself to new people and I especially hate finding myself in a room full of strangers.

Usually when I end up in these sorts of situations, I just hit the bar, polish off a glass of wine and say (to whomever’s listening) “I’m going in.”  Unfortunately, there was no bar to hit.  Just a waiter with a tray full of iced tea.

I hate iced tea (almost as much as I hate trying to work a room) but I figured an iced tea would help me to “circulate.”  You know: first there’s the act of getting out of one’s chair to acquire said iced tea (score! I’m on the move!), then there’s the holding of said iced tea (finally! Something to do with my hands!), and then there’s the added bonus of the brilliant conversation starters that come along with beverage consumption (such as, “I couldn’t help but notice that you’re also drinking iced tea”).

I always manage to attract creepy old men at these sorts of events, probably because I generally try to compensate for my social awkwardness with some sort of killer (read: short) dress.  My strategic iced tea drinking, for example, was interrupted by a man who took one look at my nametag and asked “Kat?  What’s your last name?  Pussy?  Like pussy Kat?  Or Kat’s Pussy?  Hahaha.”  (As if he stood ANY chance in the entire universe of landing himself a spot on my spreadsheet—I don’t care what newspaper he was writing for).

Fortunately I was saved from complete social ostracism (and all associated lasciviousness) by a film critic from the ‘burbs and once you’re in with one person, you’re… well, one person closer towards feeling less awkward the next time around.

I must say, I’m still rather aghast at all of the ass kissing that goes on at a press preview.  It’s basically “Come on down, have lunch on us, witness our critically-acclaimed such-and-such for free and then go back to your office/editor/coffee shop and write nice things about us, okay?”

Is that really how the media world works?  Whatever happened to journalistic integrity?  And how’s a smaller non-profit supposed to compete with fancy Powerpoint presentations, a luncheon catered by Steven Starr and—wait until you hear this— free parking?

My “special day” left me feeling incredibly naïve but I did learn one rather valuable lesson.  I used to think that dating was the only way to get someone else to foot the bill for my Steven Starr indulgences but now I knew better: dating is for amateurs.  The press preview is where it’s at.

(And no, I didn’t forget about my 51st date.  It’s just that today is Writing Wednesday so you know… I promise I’ll get back to my personal life first thing tomorrow.  Until then, have a good one and wish “Landlord” a very happy birthday 🙂 )

7 Responses to “How to Get Someone ELSE to Pay for Lunch”

  1. mydatingprescription

    Happy Birthday, Landlord!

    Not only can you get your Steven Starr lunch at a press preview, it appears you can also meet the same creepy men that you can online. The problem with the press preview is there’s no filter of “block” function. But, all in all it didn’t sound too bad.

    Reply
  2. Zak

    I think you and Ember have something in common: creepy old guys that are attracted to you.

    Happy birthday Landlord!

    Reply
    • Ember

      Z-
      You wouldn’t be refering to drunk, old, married guy who was leering at me at that conference in Denver eons ago, would you?
      Kat, best of luck with the networking. It’s essential in almost every business, so hone those skills.
      Happy Birthday, Landlord!

      Reply
  3. Lincoln

    Happy, Birthday Landlord!

    As for the body of your post… that is, it seems, entirely how the press world works with cultural non-profits, at least in my experience. It’s a fine balance — they’re (media and instutitions) esssentially have a symbyotic* relationship with each other: The press needs institutions for stories, institutions need the press to share their stories.

    There is a fine balance, though — of course the institution wants you to write good things, but if it’s unfounded good things–or excessively clear astroturfing–you loose your credibility and without credibility the orginization receives no benefit to you.

    For example, there is an institution in Cleveland where the astroturfing is so blantant that I don’t really trust anything with a news spin that comes from their marketing people.

    Ultimately, even as a freelancer remember, your credibility is worth more than a free iced tea!

    *- I have absolutely no idea if I even came close to spelling that correctly.

    Reply

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