Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2007 4:15:42 PM by Paul Davis
This past Sunday, I peered into a world of the unknown, often unseen and clearly alien!
Where was I?
I was speaking at a conference for small boutique owners learning about web design and development.It all started out when I exited my plane in Raleigh, North Carolina and made it to ground transportation for the shuttle to my hotel. Sparing no expense, we were staying at the Day's Inn at RDU. I saw the shuttle coming in fast heading for a lady with her bags a few dozen yards ahead of me. Not wanting to miss the shuttle, I quickly hurried to catch the shuttle before it whisked away with the lady and her bags. However, half way through hustling, I realized this was no ordinary lady. She was brightly colored, well matched and properly accessorized (watching What-Not-To-Wear has paid off!) with at least four bags, one of which was about half her size – I could go to a fast walk and she would still be getting situated. By the time I'd gotten to the shuttle, she had just finished chatting with the driver, who only managed to get one piece of luggage loaded. I plopped my bag down and climbed in. Suspecting she was here for the conference, she chatted for 10 minutes during the trip (this was her introduction – she is Penny) after which I asked “So, are you here for TJ's conference?” To which she was surprised that I guessed she was! Several minutes later, we were at Day's Inn. As I entered the lobby, I noticed a group of ladies, all brightly adorned and chatting away. There was TJ, sitting among them and she welcomed me to the fold. We were too early to check in, so we stayed in the lobby while the ladies chatted away. This was my first experience being in the midst of such lively chatters. One of the ladies commented to another that she does “Keystone”, I wondered – where is Keystone?
I hadn't eaten lunch yet and right next to the Days Inn was a Waffle House (hey, we were in the upscale part of town...) and Penny, myself and Buck went to the Waffle House for lunch. Buck was from New York and was there for his retail organization. Apparently, in NYC, soup spoons are critical to eating soup or chili, the Waffle House didn't have a soup spoon and much to the chagrin of Buck, he had to eat the chili with his regular teaspoon. Penny and Buck spoke a language I'd never heard before – talked about going Tribal and something about getting Spanx. Now, I'd thought perhaps I didn't understand these boutique shops or what went on in them – but again they talked about Keystone – and I wondered, do they get tribal in Keystone and spank? The waffles were pretty good and the Buck picked up the tab, making the lunch even better!
That evening, the planned event was a social BBQ for the boutique owners and a tour of the local boutique. We rode in cars on the way over, I called shotgun citing I was as large as the rest of the riders put together and needed the space. After the 20 minute trip, I can now honestly say I know how those who aren't ubergeeks feel around us ubergeeks (not YOU, US, as in the CMX people, you're just a normal geek) when we talk shop. The conversation went from having Tribal, again with the Spanx – on to kids, family, location and the vendors and then back to Keystone again. I wondered what was Keystone all about. One woman even said she does Keystone 2! I've not even found Keystone 1 yet or know what it is and she is talking about Keystone 2 – then, much to my surprise, Tee, the driver (whom spent more time talking to the back seat than looking forward) said she's even gotten up to Keystone 3. My mind was spinning.
We arrived a little later than the rest of the attendees, 27 ladies and 3 guys. I realized, rather quickly, I stuck out like a sore thumb – not only in gender, but in attire. I'm monochromatic gray (#666666 colored shorts and #CCCCCC shirt) – the ladies are all dressed in the fashion style they sell, all sorts of colors, patterns, design, accessories, jewelry, shoes and fully made over faces. TJ calls the group to order and the chatting stops. She introduces Terre and Buck and calls on one of the ladies for an invocation for the food. I spent the rest of the evening eavesdropping on conversations trying to learn what Keystone was all about.
On the drive back, the conversation takes off again. I'm navigating because we don't have instructions on how to return to the hotel. I'm guessing on which roads and exits to take while they continue the shop talk. This time, the chat was about the product types. They were talking about camisoles and how they worked in the stores. I learned that they are used for layering and how cheap they cost the stores. One even commented that, with camisoles, Keystone isn't even in the picture. Maybe Keystone is an a cold climate... During the trip, the Tee is talking to the back seat again, paused for a second and thoughtfully mentioned to me she can't really see that well without her glasses, which she left in the hotel. Now my attention was very focused on the other cars, exits and such ahead of us as we barreled down the road at 70 miles per hour. The reason I bring this up? During this chat, they start talking about shelf bras in the camisoles. Tee mentions she doesn't like them and proceeds demonstrates the problem with the one she is currently wearing. Pulling open her top a little to pull up the shelf bra, she laughs and apologizes for digging around “in there” and such. I can't really say if she did bear anything, I was too focused on the traffic and the turn off, plus I was still thinking about Keystone.
Back at the hotel, I modify my session for the next day, join a conference call with business partners and talk geek. I once again feel like a guy! I turn in for the evening ready for my presentation the next day.
We head out to New Horizons for the conference. I show up early and setup the computer for my needs (Firefox, bookmarks, FTP program). I give the session. A few of them have chats with each other while I'm giving my speech. We take a break and I get good feedback – but I ask about the chatting. TJ says that is just how these women are, they don't ever stop. I decide to not let it bother me and continue on. We cover the basics of the web and I pull up those stores which have sites and give a light critical review. By the end, I'm thinking I have bombed. Then the questions flood in, it appears they can both talk and listen at the same time as they ask some really good questions. My session is over, I'm thankful, and we go to lunch.
At lunch, I sat with the international group (ok, two ladies from Canada...) and we discussed the session and some questions they have. Everyone says they liked it, I'm paid and I'm off to the airport.
But, before I leave, I do ask one of the ladies what is Keystone. She laughs, the same laugh we give when someone asks us what is HTML, knowing I've asked an apparent basic question, she explains it to me. Keystone is next to tombstone – if you're not marking up your product by Keystone, you will never succeed and your store will die and go to tombstone. Ah, so it all makes sense now. Further looking to understand, I ask about “going Tribal” and “Spanx” and I'm given the full product line names. I'm also told to never cross Brighton. They sue, apparently.
Content with my gained knowledge, I'm off to Delta (which means Doesn't Ever Leave The Airport) to fly through Atlanta to get back home. I hate Atlanta, every time I fly through Atlanta, I'm delayed and my 90 minute layover turns into a 30 minute layover. I go from being at gate B34 to gate B36 for my connecting flight to gate T01 to E45 (those people who travel Atlanta are groaning now, trust me) – this time, however, everything goes as scheduled for me. A connecting flight to Atlanta is canceled and I'm flying back home with no one sitting next to me – better than I expected!