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Business suits and breast pumps in America: Business as usual - Part 3

21:28 August 01, 2011


Once up, I was ready in time to catch the store opening of Staples. I was bracing myself for a similar fiasco to the one just a day before. Before that however, I had ensure that my pumped milk found a safe home until I was ready to collect it. I figured the reception area had to have a refrigerator. A young maboy (man/boy) no older than seventeen was most obliging. His only concern was to mark the cooler with my name and get an ETA. I assured him that I would be back on my way to the airport.
I found my way to Staples. The store was empty save for the employees. I was surprised when my 150 pages were printed in less than 20 minutes. I had some time to kill before I needed to be at the conference center.
I spend my time buying a larger cooler. The small one that I had was bursting with milk. I found a decent one at the CVS opposite Staples. Fortunately, the Best Western was en route to the convention center. I stopped by the front reception where breakfast was in full swing. I requested the two wogirls (women/girls) who didn’t seem older than the young reception clerk if I could have some ice. I didn’t realize they would be getting it from the ice machine, or I would have gotten it myself. They obliged and filled my new cooler with ice.
Once at the convention center, I lugged along more thing than a woman my size should have to. I signed in, unloaded everything, set my table, the banners, and waited for my scheduled meetings.
Enough time had passed between my last pumping and I had some before my meeting. However, the usual challenge of where I could find a secluded place to pump presented itself. My search led me to an aged gentleman in paramedics uniform. His kindly voice urged me to follow him to the first aid station. Two unassuming women were watching a soap opera on a small television that had seen better days. He explained that I, the “young lady” needed to pump, and that they should step outside. I felt awkward at unceremoniously moving them from there rightful spot. They didn’t seem to mind, and nonchalantly pulled the curtain behind themselves. They stood literally a foot from the drawn curtain. Since I wasn’t going to get any more privacy than that I decided to speed up the process. Alas, the electric plug point they had pointed to earlier did not work. I buttoned up quickly, hid my pumping equipment as a drug addict, I assume would hide his drug paraphernalia, and whispered for some help.
I didn’t have to do more than whisper as the ladies could well hear me. They unplugged the television and hooked my pump to that electric point.
I urgently finished my deed so that I could return their television and room back to them. Even though they were so accommodating, I knew I wasn’t going to come back to dethrone them again.
Once at my table, I quickly arranged the printed papers into neat files, and waited for my fate to be decided. After what I thought was a productive meeting with the buyers, I spend a few hours walking and networking with other vendors.
Over ninety-five percent were food vendors and not in competition with our organic skin care line. Each enthusiastically shared their samples and story. It was invigorating to see these small vendors many with day jobs displaying their wares. The blend of pride, thrill, fear, joy is something that only another entrepreneur would understand.
I pumped once more, this time in a conference room that a guard opened up for me. I left, killed a couple of hours learning about the entrepreneurial talent of a Mr. Hershey, and then headed back to the hotel.
The next part of the story is I think is one that highlights the milk of human kindness (literally!) Since it was time my pumping again, told the maboy (a different one since I had left), that I had surrendered my room earlier this morning, but needed a place to pump. Sheepishly, he gave me the keys to a guest room, but only requested I didn’t “mess it up, or have a party in there” as it would get him into trouble. I took more care than handling fine china to ensure nothing was out of place. The fact that he was willing to get himself in trouble to ensure that I had a comfortable place to pump was most touching.
While my trip was overwhelmingly positive, I had one experience that left a sour taste in my mouth. This was at the United Airlines Red Carpet club at MDT. An airlines service rep had directed me to it, to see if they could offer me a secluded place to pump. I was glad to see two elderly women behind the counter. I was wrong. The first asked to see my ticket, since it didn’t have enough of a premium status, she gave me a scowl. Then she introduced me to her fellow associate with “she’s a nobody, but she…..” Then she corrected herself by saying “ I mean, she doesn’t have a status.” The other women responded by saying “ I had five children, and I always found a way.” By then, I had enough and was about to leave, when she directed me to a meeting room. Normally my ego would prevail, but my baby’s milk was more important. I was shocked to see where I was being directed. The room had see through windows, no doors and looked directly at the sea of people with “status.”
As I walked away, the women who had directed me screamed out to me past the customer she was serving “Miss, you leaving, what happened?” Like I needed to clarify, but I politely thanked her and said I be more comfortable elsewhere. I finally pumped in a public restroom a distance away.
Of course, my flight back was delayed due to inclement weather, and I returned home exhausted, but maintaining a cold chain throughout.
It never ceases to amaze me the responsibility we carry as mothers. Now add the excitement of entrepreneurship or travel to it, and it makes for quite an adventure.
I had to take several favors, hear a few jabs, get a few glares, get few words of encouragement, and everything in between. It was the face of my baby smiling in his sleep when found my breast that made it all worth it.

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