The Taxi Chronicles

Filed by Susan Ainsworth

If you haven’t attended an ACS national meeting lately, you don’t know what you are missing. I know that I didn’t.

It’s been a while since I attended an ACS meeting. In May, I returned to the C&EN staff after an 11-year stint as a mom to my 15-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter (and as a freelancer for the magazine). I had been a reporter in the C&EN business group from 1989 until 1997, first as an associate editor and later as head of the Houston bureau. And I remember covering ACS national meetings as an editor for Chemical Week in the 1980s.

In my new job as senior editor for C&EN’s ACS News & Special Features group from Dallas, I have anticipated this meeting with great enthusiasm. (And okay, it had a little bit to do with going from a sweltering 98o to a blissful 70o, I’ll admit.) It’s that verve that has kept me plodding away through some logistical hurdles.

Even though I had studied the meeting program, I had not anticipated how big the ACS national meetings are these days. On my arrival after a long flight from Dallas, it appeared that ACS had almost taken over the city of Boston. ACS flags waved on nearly every street corner (or at least in front of every hotel, it seemed), marking sites where papers were being presented.

Clicking on my TV as I unpacked my carry-on, I was immediately treated to some ACS features about chemists and the Chemical Abstract Service. Picking up the hefty on-site meeting program as I checked out the glitzy new convention and visitor center, I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of presentations being made.

But I really began to appreciate the breadth of the meeting as I paid one taxi driver after another upon realizing that I didn’t have time to walk or take the shuttles provided. Right off, the taxi ride from the airport sent me straight to the hotel cash machine.

The next cab ride—to a staff dinner at the home of Deputy Assistant Managing Editor Amanda Yarnell with Associate Editor Linda Wang—also set me back quite a bit, given that our driver refused to listen to the great written directions Amanda provided and got lost. (At one point, he tried to dump Linda and me in an alley, explaining that our destination was just at the end of it. We pointed out that we were not game for scaling the 12-foot fence that stood in between and, needless to say, refused to disembark there.)

On Monday, I hailed endless cabs, darting back and forth across the city, attending some dynamic talks about age discrimination and open innovation sponsored by the Division of Professional Relations at the Sheraton Boston Back Bay and some presentations at the convention center, including an inspiring talk about being an effective leader by Cordis’ Cynthia Maryanoff, recipient of the Henry F. Whalen Jr. award for business development. Then it was back across the city to my hotel to change and take another cab ride (accompanied by some great, loud reggae) to a staff reception and dinner.

But, all in all, taking endless cab rides seems a small price to pay to gain entry into an astounding array of amazing presentations, which could never be corralled into one region of a city. It’s a bit exhilarating to think that many of the greatest minds in modern day chemistry are here in this city with me. I am not the only one who feels it. Most chemists—from longtime ACS members to fresh-faced students—seem happy to be swept up in the whirlwind of events that make up this national meeting, even if it means having to pay a small fortune in cab fares to maximize the experience.

Today, I will spend my birthday (and more cab fare) attending a smorgasbord of compelling events and talks. I’ll go back to the heat of Dallas with new contacts, new insight, and a greater appreciation for the expanding contributions of ACS, not to mention a strong impetus to submit my expense report promptly this time.

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