June 11, 2013 by kittynh
The Amazing Meeting is a wonderful event. There are great lectures and workshops where I learn a lot that I can then apply to own skeptic work. Still, a lot of the excitement that takes place isn’t planned.
The best thing about TAM for me is the ability to just be myself and be accepted. Many people attend, changed forever as they can for the first time open their mouths and just speak without thinking. I found if I am in a group, I have to do a mental inventory of the beliefs of everyone in a group before I speak.
If I see an article about vaccinations in the newspaper, I can’t just comment without making sure there are no anti-vaccination advocates in the group, unless I want to waste half an hour arguing. Sometimes it’s worth speaking up, but we all know the reality is we have censor ourselves somewhat to get through the day in peace.
TAM, even if someone disagrees with you, is free speech central. People often will engage and educate you if they disagree with what you have said. I learn something from the lectures and workshops of course, but I always learn just as much from talking to other people attending. You have the pleasure though of talking to people that are also critical thinkers, and you aren’t just talking in circles to someone that will try to win an argument by saying “Well it’s in the Bible!”
I found you don’t have to worry about being shy. If you have a TAM name tag, people will start talking to you, I find TAM begins when I put that name tag on. People at the restaurants will want to sit with you, people at the Del Mar will buy you drinks, people on the elevator will say “Oh didn’t you love the Bacon and Donut party?”
You continue the friendships you make at TAM by friending these people on facebook. You join the JREF forum and find yourself engaging in online conversations and learning still more from your TAM friends. It’s like seeing your best friends when you attend the next year. For many, it’s like going home.
One of the most exciting times I’ve ever had at TAM, and the most frightening, involves my good friend and sometimes nephew Jason. Jason goes by the nickname “Loon” on the JREF forum.
I was walking to the bathrooms at the Flamingo, where TAM was held that year. Jason was walking away from the men’s room, and one glimpse at his face and I stopped in my tracks and said “What’s wrong Loon?” He said he felt unwell, but I could tell it was severe pain. I sat him down and quickly tried to find a doctor. I grabbed Hal Bidlack, and he found a well known, but he shall remain nameless, doctor.
At this point, Loon was down on the floor, and it wasn’t helping ease his pain. The doctor had the hotel call an ambulance. I offered of course to stay with Loon, he’s family, and when the ambulance came I instantly became his “aunt”. I needed an official family title to ride along in the ambulance.
Right before the ambulance left, the well known doctor pulled me aside to tell me that he suspected the problem might be a twisted bowel, as Loon seemed in “too much pain” for it to be anything else. The doctor hinted this was rather serious.
I didn’t have to be told, a Bee Gee had just died of this! I remember climbing into the front seat of the ambulance, and inquiring of Loon just where his family might be. He mentioned his brother was in town. I had a sudden vision of taking Loon’s phone and calling his brother to report his death. I then told the ambulance driver in a quiet aside “the doctor thinks you should drive really quickly.”
I soon learned that in Vegas, no one gets out of the way of the ambulance. The ambulance driver was a gym teacher also, and told me all about how horrible it was to teach in Vegas. I just kept saying “drive faster! Why aren’t they getting out of your way? WHAT IS IT WITH YOU PEOPLE SOMEONE IS SICK IN HERE!”
My suggestion we just take the ambulance on the side walk and people would get out of the way was rejected without even a hint of consideration. Since Vegas has an open container law, and many people were already so wasted they could barely stumble along, this was probably a good thing.
Loon kept an upbeat outlook in the ambulance, and his pain seemed to ease somewhat. At the hospital we were stuck in a room while he was given pain killers and later a CAT scan. Soon we were relieved that he was not off to join the departed Bee Gee, but instead had a kidney stone. It hurt like hell, but he would soon be fine.
Once reassured, we soon became aware we were facing new dangers in the ER. The patient one bed over was tied to his bed. He was obviously a magician as he was, despite obvious PCP use, escaping his knots. If he had not a drug problem, he would be headlining as the new Houdini. I picked up the plastic chair I had been sitting in ready to do battle with the crazed escape artist. No one was hurting my nephew!
The ER was filled with people in desperate need of help. There was a senior that had fallen asleep in her car, a real danger in a hot climate like Vegas in the summer. There were the usual drunks and moms with kids that had fallen or hurt themselves. Loon, once he was feeling better, was taking it all in as if it were the best show in town. And remember, this is a town that features shows with almost full nudity.
He asked every doctor “Where did you go to school?” He asked the entire medical staff what they were doing. He was inquisitive about every aspect of his visit. Loon had mentioned he was thinking of going to medical school, but I think that visit to the ER really convinced him that the life of an ER doctor was his calling.
The best part is when we were ready to go back to the hotel. Ambulances give you a ride to the hospital (and it was some ride) but they don’t give you a ride back. Our friend Vinnie Pescado offered to pick us up, and he did in his lovely convertible. The only problem is Vinnie walked into the ER waiting area with a nail up his nose. So he looked like a patient that needed help NOW. Vinnie kindly bought us both lunch on the way back to TAM.
The joke is that we missed a speaker known at the time to read his slides, which were often misspelled. To this day at TAM when he speaks I slip Loon a note asking how he’s feeling, as even a kidney stone is preferable to hearing this guy read his slides again. (The speaker has improved greatly, but the joke is still a good one)
I’m happy to report that Loon is now Dr.Loon. He’s starting his internship and he’s got what he refers to as “the long white coat” now. Yes he is going into ER medicine, and he’ll be terrific. I know his dream of becoming a doctor started before his ER visit, but I like to think the lovely staff and interesting patients, helped with his choice of specialty.
Not all the excitement happens on stage at TAM. It’s Vegas!