Uptrade

The graduation event is over and another event is taking place today. I signed up for both, not knowing exactly what to expect, a kind of a trust fall.

Some 225 of us clustered around the closed doors of the conference facility next to Madison Square Gardens and above Penn station. The level of noise generated by at least 100 conversations was deafening. The mood was upbeat, people were excited. I counted few men among the women, maybe a ratio of one man for every 10 women, and then a predominance of white women in the 30 to 50 year range. I asked one man what that felt like. “We are in the minority now!” He did not tell me what that felt like.

People had come from Korea, Turkey, Argentina, Australia and other far afield places. As usual, I saw no Africans. In the opening session we were asked to think about our aspirations for the day and people were invited to share (of course). I thought it would be good to get the microphone and say I hope to connect with people who were involved in development so that kindred spirits could find me. I wore my Burkina dress to help them. I also wanted to connect with a member of my French peer group, the only one there and folks from Boston.  It worked. But this is also why I know there were no Africans in the group.

Everyone there had completed the 7 months of webinar training and, presumably, the accompanying homework, though we have till August to complete it. I am among the non-completes. Some of us will continue our training to be certified (‘cert’) for short.

We participated in a fabulous simulation that I would like to run sometime. At each table we were considered a whole brain, with pairs of us representing various parts of the brain. And so I was, with a woman named JoAnn, the primitive brain, sitting next to the limbic brain pair, across the heart brain pair, with the neo-cortex and prefrontal cortex pairs at the other end of the table.  We then had to agree on a trigger event (being thrown under the bus) and each act out our reaction to the trigger. It was a rich exercise that helped me understand better how reactions to triggers happen. It was also a lot of fun.

As homework we were given a paperclip and given as assignment ‘to trade up’ with random New Yorkers, using our conversational skills in the process. My first reaction was one of anxiety and part of me saying ‘no, I am not going to do this.’ The assignment triggered the same intra-brain conversation that we had just acted out.

I was able to trade up my paperclip for a pen and then my pen for a bike light. I did both in one full sweep in the subway. After that I had learned that my requests only worked with people who carried bags full of stuff. I tried one more time with a gaggle of young women – they were game and searched through their tiny handbags (lens fluid?) but they had no backpacks with stuff and apologized they couldn’t help me.

The first trade was with a young couple who were interested in the program; the second uptrade was with a man sitting on my other side with earbuds in his ears. I interrupted him but he participated with a grin and searched in his bag for what to give me. That was the bike light.uptrade

The experience of such cold-calling was quite similar to trying to get stores to donate stuff for a school auction years ago and last fall when we went door to door in southern New Hampshire to convince people to vote the democratic ticket. At first I dreaded it and then I really got into it. same this time.

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