After the first day I was able to stop pacing the booth like a caged beast and settle into a stupor. That's when I commenced with the hard-core people-watching.
Yes, there is some prime people-watching to be had at a gathering of the mathematically inclined. As you can imagine, some of the fashions displayed are incredible. Dr. Okun would feel right at home. And that applies to both male and female attendees, excepting the teeny young women of Asian descent who disappear when they turn sideways.
If you've never had the joy of strolling the aisles of the vendor exhibit at a mathematics-centric conference, it's quite an event. Many vendors hand out swag, everything from candy to pens to frisbees to those woven straps with rings on the end for folks to clip their admission badges on. It's always enjoyable to watch these (for the most part) serious, highly-trained professionals cruising the aisles like the Saturday morning sample-fest at Costco, cramming handfuls of cheap crap into their stylin' black plastic complimentary tote bags, and dropping stacks of business cards in fishbowls for drawings of items they have no clue about.
The booth down the aisle was handing out the swaggiest swag in the entire universe: Flying Screaming Monkeys. Well into the third day, exhausted from screaming inside my own head, I saw him: A stout, round man, bald 'cept for a gray bushy halo of hair, in sloppy khaki shorts and a taut-to-bursting pink tropical print shirt, clutching his furry prize and beaming like he'd just sat on Santa's lap and walked away with a candy cane as big as his leg. Which was considerable in size.
It made it all worth it. I had a reason to live!
I couldn't get my cell phone out fast enough to catch him, but I spent the next two hours pretending to text while trying to shoot candids of these guys.
My favorite was the guy in uniform -- I'm guessing US Public Health Service -- fully engaged in an apparently very serious discussion of all things statistical with his monkey friend snuggled safely under his arm.
Also, our booth was right across the aisle from a major publishing house displaying hundreds of titles. At some point I noticed the visitors consistently formed a stag line, which remained intact almost the entire four days.
This guy stood in the center of the aisle for the better part of two days straight reading books held about 6 inches from his face, slowly rocking back and forth.
And before you get all up in my ish for making fun of the nerds, let me remind you that these are my people. I am One of Them. A scant 17 years ago, I would have been right there in the stag line, nose down, in complete statistical bliss. I am not even making that up.
Ah, good times. Good times.