As a proposal writer, I was sometimes asked to represent my company at bidders’ conferences. These are often dreadfully boring affairs where you are introduced to officers of the state government department that issued the request for proposal, they present the RFP (which you already have a copy of), and you have the opportunity to ask questions (which you may later also submit in writing). So they are pretty much not very necessary events, although sometimes they are actually required if you want to submit a bid. So on occasion, if the higher-ups in my company had better things to do, they would send me.
One such event came up rather suddenly in Baton Rouge, and I was asked to attend. Due to the short notice, the only available seat on a plane that would get me there in time was in First Class. Oh, no, what a shame! ...
I was flying the night before the bid conference, so I figured there was no reason I should not enjoy myself. There was no need for business attire, so I showed up for the flight in, yes, overalls.
Well, there was a layover in Atlanta, and I made my way to the gate and found a seat to wait for my next flight. As I sat there, I noticed the logo of a competitor on the suitcase of a man in a nearby chair. Maybe it was because of the free alcoholic beverage that I had enjoyed on the first flight, but I was uncharacteristically extroverted and spoke up.
“Hey,” I said to him. “I bet you are going to the same place I’m going.” I told him who I worked for and where I was going, and he conceded that, indeed, he was headed to the same bid conference.
The company he worked for was one of the giants in the field, while mine was more of a small to mid-size company on the way up. I could see that this man was instantly sizing me up as a member of the competition. He was wearing a suit and was probably in his late forties, while I was in my twenties and my baggy faded overalls and Chuck Taylor high-tops. He must have thought, “Wow. This is the competition? I can’t believe they sent her.”
We chatted politely for a few minutes, and I was feeling a wee bit self-conscious, until I heard the page, “Now boarding First Class passengers on Flight XYZ to Baton Rouge. First Class passengers only.”
My counterpart didn’t move. But I stood up and said, “Well, that’s me. See ya tomorrow.”