Day 3: Sunday, March 14, 2010

I had to be at the MCC by 7:30 that morning, and we were scheduled to register another 1000 attendees that morning. So once again, I missed a bit of the morning’s addresses for late arrivals. (In my sleep deprived state- I asked people if they were here to “registrate”). Thanks to many road closures in Melbourne that day, people were not all that happy to see me. The alternative was for volunteers to be constantly interrupted by security at the back of the plenary hall, so I said I would stay out there. In hindsight, that was a dumb idea. Although, I’m quite sure I would have fallen asleep in the hall, as I did the day before during a prominent speaker’s speech, and would repeat on Sunday afternoon. When I was in the plenary hall, sitting in the gold section as volunteers were allowed to do, I spent a fair bit bouncing those without gold lanyards or maroon shirts out of the front section (via the ushers, which then backfired, as one of them tried to kick me out of gold because I had a blue lanyard and I had to reiterate to her that maroon shirts identifying the volunteers were allowed to sit there).

As for the actual speakers, I saw Peter Singer’s Q&A, and Ian Robinson’s presentation. I’ve met Ian before (he’s out go-to guy during UMSS debates with the Christian Union), and I thought he was great, although a few people were offended by his “I’ll talk slowly”comment and “drongos” comparison for believers. I’m not going to get into whether or not ridicule is an effective tactic because there is no right answer, just different opinions with valid supporting facts.

Then back on duty for queue patrol for AC Grayling and Peter Singer book signings, then registration (again). So I missed Kylie Sturgess and Robyn Williams but I had a purpose this time. I was going to be on queue patrol again for Catherine Deveny (and at the time, Dan Barker was scheduled too), as the previous AC/Singer signing had been massive, I was going to need my energy. Anyways, being out in the hall meant I could snag lunch early. Good thing I did, they had ice cream for dessert. I then spent the lunch break holding up a sign saying the book signing line was here, which no one could see. Signage is something that could be improved for next time.

Unfortunately, one of the other volunteers had taken ill, so I missed Dan Barker and Jamie Kilstein (who had come up to me in the morning to get his pass, in a repeat of the Chaser episode. Too bad I had no idea who he was until he said “I’m Jamie Kilstein”). Apparently, he swore a lot. Thanks to Dr. Jason Tye-Din for helping with the sick volunteer, we made it back in at the end of Dan Barker’s Q&A. Of course, I was out of breath, sweaty and just generally exhausted, so I tripped getting into my seat and managed to be disruptive. Another volunteer made sure to point out that he noticed me tripping afterwards.

Then, the moment we were all waiting for. Him. Introduced by a Fatboy Slim video, Richard Dawkins walked out, wearing a Hawaiian shirt. A Hawaiian shirt. Unexpected. I wasn’t taking notes, so I can’t really remember what the talk was about other than the title “The evolution of gratitude and the gratitude of evolution”. However, he truly shined during the Q&A. Some woman who openly declared she was a Christian and asked “what is DNA?”, naively. Beyond the booing of the audience, he answered her question patiently, and thoroughly. I don’t think he’ll ever stop being the science professor, and I love him for it. He’s willing to engage, and teach, rather than my response – high school biology. He also signed at least one book/material for every person in line during the book signing afterwards. Back on queue patrol, I was quite grateful for that as the line stretched up and down the MCC.

I was both simultaneously relieved and sad that the convention was over.

Day 4: Monday, March 15, 2010.

Almost over, as it turns out. I had to be at Tullamarine Airport by about 6:30am the next morning for a nice long day of flying. But while wandering, I ran into Kylie Sturgess! She (and Stuart Bechmann) did a fabulous job of MC’ing the entire event. I did admit that I had missed her presentation but she filled me in on some off-the-record details over a coffee before our respective flights left. Then I walked away from her, realizing I never actually said my name. She was cool enough to pretend she knew.

Thanks to all the other volunteers, and the committee, particularly, Tanya, Joel and Jason for executing a near-perfect convention without any experience.

And thanks Australia, for giving me the adventure of a lifetime.