Another EXPO family reunion

It was at UMA EXPO back in the ’80s when a knock boomed on Sully’s door. A large, unhappy man was in the hotel’s hall demanding to know what the noise was about.

Minutes earlier, Sully had returned to his room and found a 300-pound ice sculpture of an Eagle bus in his bed… melting. The noise that irritated his grumpy neighbor was the sound of Sully dragging that sucker into his shower, where it could melt in peace.

The gentleman was more understanding when he saw the bus, and Sully survived with his body intact.

A cadre of miscreants had snarfed the sculpture from Eagle’s hospitality suite, grabbed a room service cart and plopped it on Sully’s bed.

At EXPO some years later, my buddy Oakie was sipping coffee on the balcony of his room in Tampa when a returning cruise ship idled past. A number of passengers were on a deck level with the balcony, and a lingering memory of their vacation was seeing Oakie in a lounge chair. Did I mention… he believes coffee is best enjoyed wearing boxer shorts?

A popular and highly visible motorcoach executive (pun intended) once locked himself out of his room at the New Orleans Hyatt. This is an atrium hotel with glass elevators, and he was in his… boxer shorts.

This was the 1986 EXPO… the same one I took my new bride to… as our honeymoon. We’re still married, but it was a near thing.

EXPO’s occasional misadventures and “wardrobe malfunctions” are fun, but there are better reasons to come.

There’s all kinds of new “stuff” to see, and sessions to learn about the latest things regulators have conjured up to confound us, but even those aren’t what really rings my bell.

It’s about the people. The internet and social media can be great tools. Call me old fashioned (or just old), but there’s still no substitute for relationships.

Our high school bus driver was an attractive blonde (teen-aged boys notice such things). The next time I saw her was at a bus show some years later, and she owned and managed a large, diverse transportation company.

When the evil bus troll strikes, we all make desperate calls for help. They’re less painful if we’ve already met the person we’re begging to rescue us, and what better place to meet them than a gathering of bus people?

If the phone rings in the middle of the night, and the person on the other end is one with whom you’ve shared a beverage… you’re more enthusiastic about leaping into action to help them.

This is a tough business, and one of the things that makes it worthwhile is the people. We’re family (including a few strange cousins), and meetings like EXPO are a sort of reunion.

A great pal is a retired coach salesman. He just drove 1,400 miles to see old bus friends at EXPO… because you’re worth it.

The occasional misadventures are fun… but the real value is the relationships.

In ye olden days, manufacturers had hospitality suites (a bit of alcohol was reportedly consumed). At the Eagle suite we always looked forward to Chuck’s visit… he was a fun guy who lit up any room he was in, and a heck of a bartender/anesthetist.

Part of what made him special was that he was a competitor. Chuck made the rounds of all his competitors’ suites, and we’d have been hurt if he hadn’t come.

That’s the kind of industry we are. I just got back from EXPO in Nashville, and I’m already looking forward to Orlando next year.


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