Have you ever been to a trade show? I’m sure you have. I go to at least one every year, but I’ll ask you: Does your trade show have a working Ferris Wheel on the show floor? Are there people riding it? Can you survive for the entire week solely on the free food and candy given out by the vendors? Do you get to play the latest video games that haven’t been released to the public? Have you been sold products by people that make used car salesmen seem like rank amateurs? Are your scantily clad booth models unusually knowledgeable about epoxy flooring and personnel management? If you answered yes to all my questions, then you recently spent a week out in Florida with me on the business trip of a lifetime.
I’m in the amusement park industry, which means I go to a very special trade show each year. It’s called IAAPA. That’s the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. I call it “The Show,” like a minor leaguer that’s headed to the majors. My first one was about 5 years ago in Las Vegas. It can’t hold a candle to the Orlando setup. At the Orange County Convention center, there are 950,282 square feet inside with a 40 foot high ceiling and an additional 50,000 square feet outside. They cleared a million just to show off, I expect. If it’s happening or going to happen in the industry, it happened in Orange County, Florida on the second week of November.
Well, there’s as much story in my first two hours of travel to fill an article, so we’ll be going day by day and tale by tale, otherwise this wouldn’t be terribly interesting, would it?
Day 1: Travel
Mornings are retched, bothersome things. I’m not a fan. To catch a flight at 7am you have to get up at 3:30am. That turns your standard morning into something to truly loathe. I slither out of bed at the appropriate time, ooze into the bathroom, hop into the shower, and slowly think about how warm the water is and how soothing morning rituals can be. I, rightly, turn the shower head to cold and properly wake up lest I fall asleep under the delightful pummeling my shower massager delivers. (Are you writing me erotica? -Ed) Once out, I realize the full weight of the head cold that’s been building for the last few days. Thank you darling, that’ll be two DayQuil pills and I’ll call you in the afternoon. I get dressed, kiss the girlfriend goodbye (no longer in fear of her pestilence as I’d already received it), kiss the cat, hand her a handful of treats (the cat, not the girlfriend), walk downstairs, grab my bags and hat, and walk out the door.
Thus our adventure begins. I gave myself a little extra time in the morning, since there are a few light provisions that I have yet to pick up, namely toothpaste. Nobody wants to have extensive business conversations with a man plagued by halitosis. It’s just not done. I step into the 24 hour Safeway and business is just as hopping as you would expect. I scramble to the right isle, grab a TSA appropriate tube of dental cleanser and think I’m on my way but no… No checker. Where are they? There’s two men stocking canned goods, another polishing apples, I can vaguely hear “The Girl From Ipanema” being played in the background on an alto sax but nobody here is willing to sell me this vastly overpriced miniature toothpaste tube? I take my masculinity in hand (not literally) and decide to go and ask directions. Mr. Apple Polisher berates me for not asking (didn’t I just?) and walks to the check stand. He grabs the microphone of check stand #3 and says; “Check to 1 please, check to 1” then walks back to his apples. I'm left holding both my masculinity and my toothpaste.
Now, I’m a little annoyed and a small amount starving. I can feel the anger burning within me just waiting to be meted out on my next transgressor, like the Emperor’s Force Lightning from Return of the Jedi, but I hold it in. Also, I grab a pack of peanut butter cups because well, hunger and such. One of the men stocking cans turns out to be a woman. Must have been the haircut, my mistake. I silently apologize to nobody in particular and the transaction begins. She grabs my two items, smiles and shoves them towards the laser to get scanned. As she does this we both suddenly notice that there’s a little open space between the conveyer and our high tech friend. I’ve never had to tell anybody to mind the gap while traveling, primarily because I really don’t care if people trip or fall to a horrible death, I actually find it sort of funny. Well, my candy breakfast didn’t mind the gap and fell into the dark abyss beneath the check stand. Thank you, divine spirit. I’ll try to be nicer to people in the future. She offered to find a replacement but I was nearing my coworker’s pickup time and am a terribly punctual person. I paid $1.42 for the toothpaste, the story you’re reading, and a tid-bit of Karma.
I drive towards our pre-arranged meeting place, a coffee shop that will be open for business in twenty minutes. I pick up my coworker and leave for the airport. What, you thought we’d actually be getting coffee? We’ve no time for that.
Bag check was the usual mess. There’s a woman pointing everybody towards the touch screens while we all bunch up at the people behind the counter. There’s an old man shuffling back and forth at a speed easily outpaced by a drunken snail. It’s the slowest game of Pong I’d ever seen.
“Where do I go, again?” “Right over here, sir.” “What do I do?” “Just touch the screen.” “Then what do I do?” “They’ll call your name.” “But I’ve been here for ten minutes.” “Yes sir, just follow the menu on the screen.” “I don’t think this one is working.”
I’m stopping there. This went on for a while, and I didn’t see the whole thing since I actually followed the instructions, my name was called, and I checked my bag.
We get to the security line, and I prep myself for new travel tradition of surrendering your civil rights. I keep quiet to prevent from being hauled of as an instigator, First Amendment. There’s the video that tells you what you can’t bring: Fireworks, Knitting Needles, Bottled Water, Firearms. There goes the Second. I remove my shoes and prep for the X-ray, Fourth Amendment. Do I have anything illegal? Did I leave my bags in the possession of another? Fifth Amendment. Perhaps they’d like me to house some Marines and we could go for a clean sweep of the first five? Knock the others out before lunch, maybe?
I get the all clear which means no prostate exam. I’m thankful because I was hoping to hold out on that till I was at least 40. As I step out one of the guards leans over and grabs my left calf. I look at him, a little confused he gives me a sort of ‘Carry on’ look and I go gather my things. Do I look like a terrorist?
I tend to get a little airsick nowadays but, otherwise, the flights went well. We had Brunch in Denver and headed to our final destination after a short layover.
After a mere thirteen hours from start to finish, we arrive in beautiful Orlando, Florida. It was a roasting 58 degrees and with a humidity of only 95%. You could hardly feel the chill… I’ll stop with the sarcasm for now.
Now, when your boss calls and asks you what your plans are, at this point you think: Collapse? He wanted to have a nice dinner and by nice, he means expensive. Not that that was his initial plan but that’s just how things seem to turn out. And when somebody says pricey, this foodie jumps. We ended up at the Capital Grill, known for steaks as well as other delicious things. I’ll give you a quick breakdown: Me: Seared Sushi Grade Ahi Tuna over Gingered Rice with delightful dipping sauces, Compatriot: Gorgonzola dabbed over Medium Well Filet Mignon, Boss Man: Porterhouse served perfectly rare. Our sides were the Brussel Sprouts with Pork Belly (My recipe is actually better, I’ll give it to you sometime) and some rather delightful Lobster Mac and Cheese. This is a good way to end a day. Belly full and body tired, I went to bed happy.
Next time, we'll talk about the actual convention.