From Our Readers – July 2020

Editor’s note: My how time flies! It’s just about one year ago that HSS had its first ever annual meeting overseas in Utrecht in the Netherlands. We are delighted (and immensely relieved) to hear from David DeVorkin, a long-standing and valued member of HSS, about his experience there.

Memories of Utrecht 

by David DeVorkin

David DeVorkin
The author, in his uninjured state

Just a belated report on my experiences in Utrecht, for the record.  The first thing on the agenda was the day trip to Leiden and the Boerhaave. I took the very last seat on the bus for more room and thought I had buckled up correctly.  The bus ride was fine until we got to Leiden and we hit a deep pothole.  I was propelled to the ceiling and hit my head pretty hard. Luckily it was just my head—harder than the ceiling. So the real damage was on the way down (rebound), when I hit both shins on the metal stair railing for the rear exit door.  The driver stopped the bus, some really lovely people attended to me, especially a very kind young woman who identified herself as a trained nurse midwife.  She got wet towels for my head and especially for my left shin, which was badly dented.

The Boerhaave took my mind off my throbbing head and shin. Their renovation is brilliant and gave me ammunition to contest my museum’s plans for renovating our galleries.  Got back to Utrecht just fine and slept through the night.  The next morning, when I was scheduled to host a session and speak (I think), I was pretty woozy, and during the session became dizzy and nauseated.  Thought it was the heat.  Changing rooms didn’t help.

I got downright sick in the middle of the session I was chairing, ordered Matt Shindell to take over, and went to the bathroom and collapsed.  Came out, found a meeting staffer, who took me to a nursing room at the conference center.  The same young woman was there, raised concerns, and a very kind gentleman whisked me to a local hospital where I was attended to and then released.  Maybe the heat, maybe gastrointestinal, he ruled—I had eaten two dozen mussels the evening before and I think I paid for the table.  The rest of the meeting was lovely save for the heat.   

After Utrecht I flew to London for meetings at the Science Museum (I’ll not more than mention that the airport was chaos).  That meeting too was great—more museum snooping, more ammunition, and then the  flight home via Reykjavik.  The airport there was chaos too and I lost a small carry-on with my papers from Utrecht, which contained the names of those who helped me. 

So this letter is my way of thanking them indirectly, and very tardily.  Despite what happened, the way in which it was remedied by HSS people in charge was very reassuring and most appreciated.  Don’t know if New Orleans will be real or virtual, but one way or another I trust the Society will take care of me if I overdose at Café du Monde. 

Thanks again, 

David DeVorkin, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

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