It was about a week and a half ago, but it feels like only 10 days or so. Several of us gathered at the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference in Las Vegas to resurrect our role on the National Bloggers Panel; to once again save the workers’ compensation world from imminent destruction. Fellow bloggers Rebecca Shafer, David Depaolo, Joe Paduda and I were joined by moderator Mark Walls for a scheduled session of lively debate and interaction.

At least that is what was scheduled. I hope that is what the attendees got. I’ve written about previous versions of this panel, and how we bloggers should be allowed to run the industry. After this year I am not so sure.

Walls, the venerate moderator extraordinaire, always prefers to ask his questions of the panel from the back of the room. He says that this gives him a better feel and connection for the audience. Personally I think it is so he can stand by the nearest exit, in case things go horribly awry on the dais. And this year, something went horribly awry on the dais.

Paduda and I, who do not agree on much anything politically, were seated next to each other on the stage. The dynamic between us is an interesting one. It is not so much that I am right and he is left; it is more that I am right and he is wrong. At any rate, during a rare Kumbaya We Are the World moment we embraced for a quick hug on stage.

And the bastard kissed me.

And it’s not the first time that's happened. For some reason the man cannot keep his hands off me. Of course, having met me, I get it. It might also have to do with his political persuasion (of which he has little). I think the Soviets used to kiss each other a lot.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

The last time Paduda kissed me in the midst of a Kumbaya We Are the World bear hug was in Orlando, Florida. Dave Depaolo howled that he didn't have a camera to capture the moment. This time, however, someone did have a camera, and did capture the moment. Too bad Depaolo, seated to my right, completely missed it. It is not his fault, entirely. He is the resident Californian for our panel, and these sessions take every ounce of his strength and concentration remembering not to start every sentence with the word “Dude”.

Becki Shafer clearly was aware of her surroundings. She needed to be. As our resident Mary Poppins, she used more props in our session than a B-29 Bomber. When she mentioned employers should send a get well card, she had one to display. When she spoke of an increase in comp activity after immigration reform (not this round, but one of the previous reforms to “fix” the problem), she had a chart to hold up. When she spoke of developing cost savings techniques, she had a wallet card to hold up. Someone could get hurt with all that stuff lying around. I realize that real life examples are a good thing for the audience, and visuals certainly make an impact, but I was waiting for a floor lamp to come out of her bag of tricks. Of course, she probably would have only used it to beat the rest of us to death, incorrigible group that we are. That would certainly been a real life visual the audience could take away.

While the conversation centered on workers' comp and immigration reform, workers' comp and exclusive remedy, and workers' comp and California, it was the latter element that seemed to draw much attention from the panel. Depaolo attempted to defend his state, and its status as the most expensive in the nation for workers' compensation claims, by telling the audience that “the reason California is so expensive is because it's worth it”. Depaolo may have been referring to the state lifestyle over all, rather than just the workers' comp cost element. Otherwise he was suggesting it is only worthwhile getting injured on the job in California. The rest of the nation's injured workers are apparently wasting their time. Close but no cigar….

So there we have it. Butterfly kisses and colossal near misses during an otherwise enjoyable event. Enjoyable for us bloggers. I have no idea how the audience felt.

Since Walls never used the emergency exits, I assume it wasn't that bad.

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