Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?

Early in the year I attended a project management workshop in Spokane. The speaker turned out to be much more entertaining and fun that I'd anticipated, and I did learn a lot, but the biggest lesson of that trip was that my instincts deserve respect.

I arrived on Super Bowl Sunday. Spokane was cold, drizzly and windy. Yuck. After getting a car to my hotel, I set about the business of checking in. All I wanted to do was put my stuff in my room and then relax with a room service salad and watch what was left of the game.

I boarded the elevator and slipped the card key in the slot to gain access to the 4th floor. Just before the doors closed, a somewhat disheveled man got on the elevator and pushed the button for the 7th floor. I did what we all do when enclosed in that vertically-mobile little room: gave him a brief hello nod and then stared at the doors. When the elevator reached my floor, he exited right after me. I turned and said, "I don't think this is your floor. Didn't you want the 7th?"

He looked a little nervous and, after hesitating, replied, "Oh." Then he backed into the elevator as I proceeded to the T in the hallway. As soon as I reached the T I stopped, realizing he had gotten off the elevator again. The entire floor suddenly felt as quiet and deserted as a tomb. I put down my suitcase and began pulling my cell phone from my purse. I also scanned the area and located the nearest fire alarm.

The man also stopped at the T. We were standing next to each other and he was just standing there, looking at me. As I fumbled with my stupid BlackBerry. Damn! Why does this thing have to make me enter a password?! I turned and faced him, looking directly into his eyes. "Can I help you with something?"

"Oh, no," he said, "I just needed to get off the elevator to call 911."

"Excuse me? Why do you need to call 911?"

He fumbled. I spun around and got back on the elevator, shaking. Close you stupid slow doors! Close!

I lucked out that night. The doors closed before he made it back to the elevator. Once on the ground floor, I raced to the front desk and told them what had happened. They summoned a security guard, I chose a bar stool hidden behind a large, muscular man watching the game at the bar, and from that perch I watched as Security escorted Mr. Scary from the premises. Three times! Yes, he kept on trying to come back in!

The gentleman at the bar, along with his wife, took me under their wing. They sat with me, drank with me and watched the game with me until my knees no longer shook. They stayed until I was ready to return to my room. The were friends - adopted family - and yet I don't know their names. Thank you, friends!

So, kids, the moral of the story is to trust your instincts. When the man first boarded the elevator, I felt nervous. Why, you may be asking, didn't I get off the elevator right then and there? Because he was black. And I didn't want to be racially offensive.

Okay, now wipe the coffee spray off your monitor.

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