We arrived Saturday. It was nice and misty, perfect weather, really. Tired, but after some rest and food, all was good. Sunday, I asked what was going on with the Day Trip only to find out that the local team had given up on the prospect because there was no sponsorship available for it, and thus, they believed nobody would want to go (everyone would have to pay out of pocket). Well, I asked for ideas of what *I* could do on the traditional day trip day that Steve and I could steal away and enjoy Scotland for a little while. I was given ideas, and thought, "well, why can't we let more people come, too?"
So, I requested BoF time to discuss this with a few other people at the conference. There was interest in the ideas presented - especially one idea, going to The Isle of Bute
. Well, with this in mind, I decided to make a general announcement on the mailing list, including the price (about 20 GBP per person for travel only).
I received a rather overwhelming response. This was Sunday. Moray and I discussed how we could do this, and started stressing - it looked like about 30 people were interested. But, no worries. As long as it stayed under 50, it was going to be easy to manage on short notice with no planning. We decided to collect monies from people interested so we could purchased their tickets while we gathered information on the best way to get there, and what would be the best idea once we arrived, then how to get back.
By the time I went to bed on Monday (way too late, honestly), I had 107 confirmed people for the day trip - 107 people /who had paid/ and followed the instructions I'd sent in the announcement email, and I knew a few more people were still interested even though they hadn't paid. I spoke with Neil McGovern about purchasing tickets, and we spent time trying to find a better alternative than taking a train to the coast - now we knew we were in trouble. We were looking at taking 120 people across the country and needed a sane way to do it.
During the day, we had a few people trickling in with more interest, but they either didn't understand the instructions in the email, didn't read the instructions in the email or simply didn't think the instructions in the email applied to them. So, I upped my count to 130 and added a sign-up sheet for people to get extra tickets on a first come, first served basis.
After much stressing, Neil came back with the hearbreaking news that we couldn't get coach buses on this short of notice. We were back to plan 1 of using the train system, and started building contingency plans on that - breaking the group into a couple of smaller groups; sending one a little earlier than the other, etc. But, I kept thinking back to our daytrip in Brazil, and how well that worked out despite the short notice and so forth. We would make this work. We had to.
Neil left for the train station to purchase the tickets. I remained behind the answer questions and look positive for everyone, even though my faith was wavering with each passing hour that Neil didn't return. More and more people signed up on the sign-up sheet, and we ended up topping 140 between those who had paid and those who had not, but wished to get one of the extra tickets. I managed to get the news to Neil that we needed *150* tickets, and he nearly fainted.
He returned, after having apparently stressed the Train People out and setting a record at Waverly Station for the most tickets sold in a single transaction. We now had *152* tickets. AND IT STILL WASN'T ENOUGH. However, the last 2 tickets were easy to work with. We did have a few restrictions on the 152 tickets - travel time restrictions - we were not allowed to travel during peak travel times - and we had to travel in groups of four since we were using FAMILY PASSES. Yes, Debian is apparently a family, and somehow, I'm the mom.
Now came the fun of imparting this information to the masses, ensuring they understood the information and were going to follow the instructions, and get everyone there and back with the very little planning we had.
We asked people to organize into groups of four and appoint a leader for their group. The leader was charged with the safety of the group - getting to the island and returning to Edinburgh and was given 3 UK phone numbers where Moray, Kevin and I could be reached in the event of an emergency. Steve helped figure out what to do and organize the chaos when handing out the tickets. ... And we managed to get them handed out in just a few hours. It worked amazingly well.
The next morning was Wednesday and we met early to get to the train station, then away. Noodles, Steve, Aigars, broonie and I took up the rear to help answer questions and direct people as needed - in both directions.
The island was beautiful, and it turns out there were no known issues. I know some people had hoped for more of a *forced* group activity, and some people had hoped for less travel, and some people yet had hoped for more individual options. In other words, there was no way to please all of them, and I accept that.
At first, I thought this was a thankless, hard job. And, hard it is. Absolutely. However, I've received such an outpouring of gratitude and appreciation from most of the attendees that I honestly feel my hard work was worth it. It paid off, and I believe they all had a chance to relax, enjoy each others' company and *have fun*. And sleeping until noon today I'm sure is helping my disposition on the whole thing.
Would I do this again? In a heartbeat, I'd just like more than 2 days of warning. I think a month or two should be sufficient, and never again will I be naive enough to believe it'll only be a couple dozen people. I now realize I need to plan for at /least/ 150, and I think, the next one will be closer to 200. Phew.
But! Pictures of the Isle of Bute at my gallery site!
And now, I get french lessons from Christian Perrier - probably the only person who can talk me into trying French. ;)