Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce gala

I'm an intravert.

I loathe, abhor, harbor an intense aversion to and go to great lengths to avoid Large Social Events. I'm capable of spending an hour seeking synonyms to express my feelings about Large Social Events.

Nonetheless, last Saturday evening I found myself girding my social loins to attend a Large Social Event, to wit, the annual awards gala held by our local chamber of commerce. The Dry Eye Company had been nominated for an award. Non-attendance, in the circumstances, would have felt a little rude.

Just to put this in context, a brief word about our town and local chamber:

Poulsbo is a burgeoning community located on Liberty Bay, on the Kitsap Peninsula in western Washington, and wears its Norwegian roots proudly. It is, fact, a lovely town and quite a tourist destination when the weather's good. And when the weather isn't, there's still Sluy's bakery. - The Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce declares that our zip code is home to 2,000 business. That makes for interesting math when you consider that the total population only recently topped 10,000.

Some time back in early 2017, Someone convinced me I should join the Chamber of Commerce. I knew it was the right thing to do. I ran my business solo and very quietly for a great many years, but the business has changed in recent years and now involves not only employing others but even interacting with business neighbors. It seemed high time to start learning how to be more neighborly as a business. So I duly signed up, duly paid the fee, and duly attended one of the monthly lunches. Lovely though it was, it reminded me distinctly of how I feel about Large Social Events.

Fast forward to January 2018. Someone nominated us for Emerging Business of the Year. The awards are given at an annual gala that the Chamber hosts at our nearby casino, and when you're nominated, someone needs to be there to represent you, whether you win or not. - It was packed. There were 350 attendees, and some of them dressed to the nines. They ranged from the mayor to businesspeople to representatives of nonprofits to youth leaders honored in pageants and other contexts.

Strangely, I actually enjoyed the evening. As an event, it was very well run and entertaining. They clearly had poured a great deal of work into it. Not that any of that is quite my cup of tea. For me personally, the pleasure initially all came from conversation, as there were interesting people at my table. An oral surgeon that I could chat medical stuff with. A pastor whose wife is involved in fighting human trafficking in India, and who struggles to shepherd people through a politically fragmented time. A mental health worker who does assessments of inmates and defendants in the court system. These things I relish.

As the evening progressed, though, for once I found myself taking an actual interest in some of the other businesses in our community. There were three nominees in every category and we heard about each of them. The variety of businesses and nonprofits in our little community is really quite something. More than that, though, was the sense of a strong community that wants to honor those that are taking care of the people around them. That's a community I could motivate myself to develop closer ties with, for sure.

Sluy's Bakery in Poulsbo, a local landmark. (Photo credit: TripAdvisor)

As for the award nomination, from my selfish perspective, it could not possibly have turned out better. We didn't win, but we got talked about and shown on screen, so the Someone who nominated us had the pleasure of seeing us recognized in front of all those people, while I got to avoid the acute misery of walking up to the stage and answering questions.

I was intensely amused to find that, after all my dread of the event, I was there till the end. I even came away feeling I might manage to gird those loins up again for another lunch. But not this month.

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