The morning started with my heading down to Starbucks to grab an iced hazelnut macchiatto (something I've started to enjoy in recent weeks). I left early enough to beat the huge rush, but just barely... After waiting in line for about 5 minutes, I noticed the woman behind me sniffing (practically in my ear) every several seconds. This was one of my frequent triggers while riding the metro down in DC in the winter and early spring months. Back then, I would scramble to put my earplugs in as soon as I heard a sniffle, totally fighting the urge to shove a travel pack of Kleenex in their face to get them to stop. It never was just one sniff and for whatever reason, no one ever blew their nose. They just spent the entire metro ride sniffling. I don't know what made me offer the woman a tissue this time but maybe I've gotten to a point where I want to stop keeping my discomfort to myself. I turned to her and politely asked if she'd like a tissue, to which she responded, "No thanks. It's just allergies." I angrily thought to myself, "I don't care what's causing it!" and then said to her how I've got a medical condition that her sniffling in my ear was aggrevating. Funny thing... She actually stopped for the rest of the time we were in the queue.
From there, I picked up my conference badge at the speaker ready room and headed over to my first class. On the way, there was a maintenance man pushing a plastic dumpster down the hall while whistling. I immediately tried to put my fingers in my ears but since I was still holding the large iced macchiato, I must have looked riddiculous walking with my fingers in my ears, still holding the iced drink next to my left ear. I realized then that it was probably going to be a LONG day of trigger bombardment. Even though I arrived at class late (they switched rooms to the other side of the building), I lucked out and there was still a completely empty table right at the front of the room by the projection screen. (My ideal place to sit in these seminars.) Unfortunately, the guy sitting at the table directly behind me started sniffling so back in went the earplugs. That's the great thing about being at the front of the room. Even if the speakers weren't using microphones (in most of my classes they were), they were loud enough that I could leave in my earplugs and still hear the presentation while blocking out any background trigger noises.
I pretty much left in the earplugs for the majority of the conference. Only a couple of times did I take them out, usually when I was in a one-to-one conversation with a colleague. I was surprised to find out that even with them in place, I needed to avoid going into the speaker ready room around lunchtime. The conference organizers provided speakers coffee, munchies, and even lunch during the event but lunchtime was really tough because EVERYONE would grab a soda and the PSSSHHHHTTT-CLICK sound was constantly hitting me from all directions every few minutes. Not a good time to work on my own presentation (which, after all was said and done, seemed to be very well received by the people who attended my program.)
The one other thing I'll share about my misophonia triggers while at the conference (since much of that week was the same stuff, just a different day) is that, like most other conferences I've attended around the country over the years, the convention center likes to use the type of chairs in their "auditorium style" setup that link the chair frames across the entire row. (See left image below.) I'm sure they do it to keep the seating organized but for someone like me with tactile triggers, it's a real pain in the butt because someone could be kicking/knocking against the chair at the end of my row but because all the metal chair frames are connected, the vibrations quickly travel down to my chair. One of the first things I try to do when entering a seminar room is to find the end seat of the front row and detach it from the rest of the linked chairs. (Right image below.) At least then, I only have to deal with the people sitting directly behind me.
Next post: After the conference - My visit home