One spring I volunteered to be a steward at the BSAVA conference.
I was a fifth year vet student, and was interested to see what a professional conference might look like. But instead of mingling socially with my colleagues-to-be I was worked harder than I have ever worked before.
We started by filling briefcases that were to become free gifts with advertisements from all the sponsors. This task alone, preparing for thousands of members of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, took all day.
For the rest of the time we stewards were greeting arrivals, handing out the briefcases and ensuring everyone knew where they had to be at what time. At the end of each day, we maintained a presence at the social events, and finally helped to clear up after the live bands and wheel out their equipment.
I was on my feet from eight in the morning until well past one the next morning, for three nights and four days. By the final day I was exhausted.
At last we were released from our duties on Sunday afternoon, and I slung my bag into my car, turning south. I knew the journey back to Hertfordshire would take a couple of hours, and I couldn’t wait to get to bed.
But for the first time ever, I began to realise it was becoming dangerous for me to drive. My eyelids were impossibly heavy. My concentration was shot. I desperately needed to rest.
Luckily a service station sign flashed up, and I was able to pull over within a few miles. I found a convenient parking space, and without even getting out, simply wound the seat back into recline and closed my eyes. I was gone.
A few hours later I stirred. I was stiff but much refreshed. Feeling much more alert, I set out again onto the motorway.
To my surprise I discovered that I was only minutes from the turn off to my own home. In my stupor I had not recognised it. At first I felt foolish for not pressing on and completing my journey, but then the sensible side of may brain kicked in again, and I appreciated how very risky that choice might have been.
I now attend BSAVA and other conferences like it regularly, and have a special appreciation of all the work that goes into arranging them.