The West Coast Reception hosted by San Francisco Bay Area Evaluators (SFBAE), Southern California Evaluation Association (SCEA), and Claremont Graduate University (CGU) is an AEA Conference tradition and I look forward to it all year long. I never miss it (and as Director of SFBAE, I had better not).
But as I was leaving the hotel to head to the reception my coworker came up to me and whispered, “I am in severe pain—I need to go the hospital right now.” Off we went to the closest emergency room where she was admitted, sedated, and subjected to a mind numbing variety of tests. After some hours of medical mayhem she called me in to her room and said, “The doctor wants me to rest here while we wait for the test results to come back. That could take a couple hours. I’m comfortable and not at any risk, so why don’t you go the reception? It’s only two blocks from here. I’ll call you when we get the test results.”
What a trooper!
So I jogged over to the reception and found that the party was still going strong hours after it was scheduled to close down (that’s a West Coast Reception tradition). Kari Greene, an OPEN member who may be one of the funniest people on the planet, had us all in stitches as she regaled us with stories of evaluations run amok (other people’s, of course). Jane Davidson of Genuine Evaluation fame (pictured below) explained that drinking sangria is simple, making sangria is complicated, but making more sangria after drinking a few glasses was complex. I am not sure what that means, but I saw a lot of heads nodding. The graduate students in evaluation from CGU were embracing the “opportunivore” lifestyle as they filled their stomachs (and their pockets) with shrimp, empanadas, and canapés.
Then my phone rang—my coworker’s tests were clear and the situation resolved. I left the party (still going strong) and took her back to the hotel, at which point she said, “I’m glad you made it to the reception—we can’t break the streak. If you end up in the hospital next year we’ll bring the party to you!”
And that, in a nutshell, is the spirit of the conference—connection, community, and continuity. Well, that and shrimp in your pockets.