Thursday, March 7, 2013

Social media and spilled milk

I had a nightmare a few weeks ago about not making it to the Land O'Lakes Annual Meeting on time. Most years, this wouldn't have been a big deal, but this year I was asked to be part of a panel titled Social Media 101.

In the nightmare, I'm in the passenger seat of somebody else's car on the way to the meeting. I'm not sure who was driving. My hair is a mess, I'm wearing yoga pants and a hoodie, and all three kids are in the back seat. I say to whoever is driving: "I'm not going to make it. I can't go looking like this." Then, the panel coordinator calls to ask where I am and I wake up.

I think the nightmare was a result of not being able to make it to Land O'Lakes headquarters the week before. I was supposed to be there for the first installment of Kitchen Conversations , an initiative launched by Land O'Lakes to help people feel more confident and have more fun when cooking at home. I was super excited to be a guest host for the bloggers' webinar along with Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, and Becky Wahlund from the Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen. Unfortunately, Daphne was sick, so I had to stay home. I was able to participate in the webinar via remote connection (with Daphne sleeping in my arms), but it wasn't the same as being there and getting to meet Ree and Becky in person.

Bizarrely, my annual meeting nightmare almost came true.

When I dropped Monika and Daphne off at our neighbor's before leaving for the meeting, our neighbor said there was an accident in the Minneapolis tunnel. A milk truck had rolled over in the tunnel and they had closed the road to clean up all the spilled milk. I was more concerned about leaving Daphne with a babysitter for the first time, so I didn't give the accident much thought.

Because I was so concerned about leaving Daphne, I left as late as I possibly could to minimize my time away from her and didn't put any makeup on before leaving, just in case my separation anxiety produced tears – which it did. With decent traffic conditions, I would have just enough time to make it to Minneapolis, find parking and put my makeup on before I needed to meet with the other panelists.

The mid-day drive was going great and I was feeling better, until I got closer to the Twin Cities. The electronic signs on the freeway were lit up with the announcement: "I-94 closed at 394. Use alternate routes."

That's where the milk truck roll-over in the tunnel was. Despite living in the Twin Cities for four years, I couldn't remember if the exit I needed to take to get to downtown Minneapolis was before or after the tunnel. I don't have a smart phone, we don't have a GPS device in the van, nor did we have any maps in the van. All of our road maps were still in our old car. Dang it.

I waffled between thinking the road closing wouldn't affect me and concern that maybe it would. Finally, after the third warning from the highway department, my concern turned to alarm and I was struck with an idea. My friend Chris lives in St. Paul and travels through that area of Minneapolis on her way to work everyday. I found her number in my phone and sent up a quick prayer that she would answer my call for help.

"Hello, this is Chris." No sweeter words have ever been spoken.

I explained the situation to Chris. She pulled up a map to double check and put my concerns to rest. I'd be getting off the freeway before the tunnel.

What we didn't consider, though, was that my exit was the last exit before the tunnel and that every other car, truck and semi in Minneapolis would be getting off the freeway at my exit to go around the closed tunnel. Just. Like. That. Traffic stopped. I was stuck in a Twin Cities stand-still at 1:45 in the afternoon. How ironic, I thought, that, of all things, a milk truck accident was the reason for the traffic jam.

I was literally less than a mile from the meeting's hotel. I could see downtown from where I was parked. I could also see about 600 vehicles between me and my next turn. And inside those vehicles, everyone was sending text messages or checking their email on their phones, so they couldn't see that I needed to move over a lane. I wanted to honk, but I hate horn honkers, so I waited.

And waited and waited and waited. Even if the texting drivers wouldn't have been texting, I wouldn't have been able to get over. We weren't moving.

I watched the clock as the minutes ticked past. I was going to be late. My nightmare was coming true.

I felt my chest start to tighten as the panic set in. I grabbed my itinerary for the meeting, but the panel coordinator's cell phone number wasn't listed. Don't cry, I told myself. Deep breaths. Man, I hate post-partum emotional instability.

I was suddenly glad that I had decided to leave Daphne with a babysitter; had she been with me, this was surely when she would have woke up and started crying.

Then, magically, the traffic gods intervened and traffic started creeping along. A semi driver let me over. Once I turned the corner, the road was clear. I had three minutes. I would be late for pre-session meeting, but I wouldn't miss the panel.

I got to the hotel and made a quick decision to use the valet parking. I grabbed all my bags and bee-lined for the restroom to put my makeup on. I quickly found the other panelists, only to hear that the general session was running late and the social media session wouldn't start until the general session was over. At least I had time to relax a little before taking the stage.

Social Media 101 Panel at Land O'Lakes Annual Meeting
Photo courtesy of Land O'Lakes

Thankfully, Social Media 101: Telling the Story of Ag went much more smoothly than my trip to the meeting.

I was joined by Jolene Griffin (Dairy Farming Today), Bill Zucker (USFRA), and Matt Friesen (Mid Kansas Cooperative). We shared our experiences with social media and answered questions from David Krejci, the panel's moderator, and the audience.

I didn't get to stick around for all the fun after the session – I was needed at home – but it was nice to connect with some of my Land O'Lakes friends for a little while. And at least the trip home was uneventful.

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