I'm standing on a street corner as a police car is slowly passing by. The cop in the passenger seat is eyeing me suspiciously, which is probably because the street is deserted at 5 a.m. and my business standing there is not apparent. Sleepy as I am, I might look a bit confused, clutching my breakfast, a bag of Swedish cinnamon rolls. I'm waiting for my ride, and since this is the second time that police car has passed, I hope it will show up soon. It does.
Once I have settled in the backseat, I complain about waiting in the cold and offer to share my breakfast with the driver and the other passenger, who happen to be my boss, and Budo, a colleague from work. My boss suggests we get a few kilometers behind us before we stop for coffee. We get rolling and I decide to manufacture some ZZZs, since last night's production came to an abrupt halt when the alarm clock went off. Later I wake to loud radio music and get a chance to watch the sunrise break through the clouds in the distance. The front seats talk about car models as my boss just bought a new BMW. I sneak a look at the speed-o-meter and see we're going 220 kilometers an hour. Travelling this way feels comfortable to me. We stop in the middle of nowhere for breakfast. I have no clue where we are, and all rest stations look the same to me. There's no self-service but waiters dressed in red and white butler vests. My boss laughs at the fact that they dare put "one egg, scrambled" on the menu. There's a wi-fi internet connection, and we start tech-talking as well as going over our schedule for the fair, the CeBIT in Hannover, our destination.
The CeBIT is the world's largest trade fair showcasing digital IT and telecommunications solutions for home and work environments. This year is the 20th anniversary of the fair; there are over 6,200 exhibitors from around 70 countries and some 500,000 visitors expected. Strange to think we will be three of them. As we will learn later in the day, the Deutsche Messe AG organizing the fair has the practise of giving away free tickets to students if the opening weekend is slow. Then they're able to claim more visitors and thus satisfy their exhibitors and sponsors. In any case, the fair has long become more and more consumer and home user orientated.
As we pass Frankfurt and marvel at the airport when we drive by it on the Autobahn, watching planes landing and taking off, we stop for gas and more coffee. Budo announces his need to "check out something from the library" and comes back with a copy of the Bild Zeitung, Germany's worst example of a tabloid press. The front page for some reason lists the richest people in world (Bill still at number one). We agree that the first million is always the hardest to attain, then we savor the pit babe picture on page three. Budo compliments her nipples and claims he once had a girl like that. This will be only the prelude of all the girl talk following later in the day.
As we enter the fair grounds, traffic gets very slow, so we have ample time to discuss which parking zone we should head for. To our right they're building another huge parking garage. So far it's still only the skeleton of a building, but it shows how the fair is like an autonomous city. All our business will be in hall one, the largest of them, so we should park near there. In hall one the exhibitors have to rent their stands per year, even though it's only open to the public one week each year. I don't know what they have to pay per square meter, but to be represented adequately, companies like Microsoft and IBM are investing millions.
We don't know it yet as we walk into the hall at eleven, but we won't leave it for eight hours, otherwise we might have said goodbye to daylight. Our first stop is Xerox; as we're trying to locate them with the help of a huge wall map as well as Budo's PDA, we notice two things: not every visitor was smart enough to bring comfortable shoes, and women in business suits look good.
The Xerox stand is at F10, and we immediately note how they're not using the upcoming soccer world championship for their own marketing purposes. Instead they're sponsoring a motorcycle racing team which happens to have the same red as the Xerox X as a team color. You can get your picture taken sitting on a motorcycle next to a blond girl wearing a racing shirt. If you were to touch her face, you'd sink knuckle-deep into her make-up. Budo and I agree the girls at the BenQ stand were much more attractive. They looked barely legal.
Our business talk with the Xerox representatives consists of chewing the fat a bit, then giving feedback on the Xerox printers and copiers we're running at the shop. Sitting up in the V.I.P. area, fuelling up on complimentary coffee and cookies, I lean back and let the buzz of my surroundings sink in. Buzz seems to be what the CeBIT is all about. Last year it was VoIP and HDTV, this year it's the soccer world championship and HDTV ready Television sets, I think.
We look at a solution called follow-me-printing, which means you can print on the network and then enter a PIN at the printer where you want to pick up your print-outs. We would use that to keep track of the number of copies and print-outs each customer makes, which would be a lot less hassle than it's causing us right now. Later someone at the SHARP stand tells us how they have solved this with debit cards and a cheap software at the copy shop he owns himself. He talks about this leisurely--again over complimentary coffee--yet he doesn't know how much he's angering the Xerox representative we brought with us because he practically just out-bid the follow-me solution Xerox offered us. Anyway, we're probably gonna stick with Xerox, even though the catering girls at the SHARP stand are much prettier and made the visit worthwile, at least for Budo and me.
But it doesn't stop there: directly across from SHARP is a huge stand, and a lot of people are cluttering up in the aisle in front of it. Their logo is indiscernible, and we have no idea what they're doing, producing, or selling, yet Budo and I don't take long to see why so many people stop there and have a look: their reception desk is planted directly at the stand's corner and is equipped with five tall blond girls clad in tightly fitting shirts and extremely short dresses. They're standing elevated, so whenever they're talking to someone, they have to stoop down, accentuating their curves even more. In addition, the reception desk is lower than their shirts, thus revealing a bit of bare flesh of their legs. The effect is this: when you're standing right in front of the desk, you're not looking them in the face, you're not even looking at the girls--you're looking at their barely covered pussies. Never has the concept of animation been explained to me as precisely, yet as simply as by those five young ladies, just by standing there and doing exactly what they're contractionally obligated to do: to arouse.
I suddenly get an idea of what a huge industry the fair business is. Say you're a student looking to make some money during your semester break; you just send your application to one agency or another--make sure to include a photograph (it helps if you're good-looking, blond, and female), and they'll arrange for you to cater at some stand or work at some desk wearing that short and tight dress. I don't know what those students are making per hour, but I hear it's good money. You just don't have to mind geeks in high-water pants staring at you from across the aisle, and you have to be comfortable with the thought that a lot of visitors will take you home in their fantasies--or as a picture taken with their cell phone camera.
At seven in the evening, we're back at the red X for a free beer and a conclusive talk. I bring up the question of just where the exhibitors go for lunch or when they're hungry, cause surely they can't eat at those horrible snack points located at strategic points throughout the hall? Turns out they do more often than not, and I can see another reason why the exhibitors tend to hire all those girls: to keep up the morale of their own associates, otherwise they might have a �fair fit� after one week of this.
Jake thinks you wouldn't believe how hideously XEROX is pronounced in German.