EXPO Retribution

Normally this column is a place where I steal ideas from you guys, massage them into written form, and take all the credit. This time it’s about… revenge.

EXPO is a bit like a family reunion, and it was great seeing old friends. Like any family, there are a few bad apples. For example, some of you took the opportunity to mock my honeymoon column about the way in which I, years ago, took my bride to the New Orleans show.

Retribution in this case takes the form of letting you hear embarrassing stories about other EXPO folks. I’m not the only idiot.

First, let’s thank one good guy—Ralph. To let me know that I wasn’t the only bussy romantic, he told the story of his first date with the lady who is now his wife. He invited her to dinner and a show. In passing, he mentioned that they’d be in a bus he was driving, and by the way, all the seats were taken, so could she ride in the lav? They lived happily ever after.

After 9/11 the bus industry showed support for NYC by having a major show at the Javits Center. My pal Darril had to get into the building with a demo, but couldn’t enter without the correct “paperwork,” which was inside. Catch 22, he couldn’t get the bus in without papers, but couldn’t get papers without getting in. He orbited the center on city streets until he got cranky, blocked the entrance with the bus and would not move till they let him in.

In the 1990s, Eagle had the catchphrase “Above All Eagle.” A hydraulic lift manufacturer asked if we’d lend a demo to go up and down on their lift. It was a great marketing opportunity until a hydraulic line ruptured while the coach was high above the floor. Fluid sprayed across the EXPO and we couldn’t get the bus down for the rest of the show. (It may still be roosting in a dark convention hall.)

In 1980 Eagle was introducing a new super-duper luxury interior. “New” is an understatement. They loaded boxes of parts on a bare coach, and as it drove 1,000 miles towards the EXPO site, engineers assembled the interior en-route.

Lest you think Eagle was the only miscreant, in 1998 a show ended, and the demos fired up for the LeMans start as they all try to escape the convention hall first. One builder had a brand new model, which thumped a curb as it exited. The rear corner bumper fell off, unseen by the driver (Dave) as he entered the interstate at warp speed.

I stopped, grabbed the wayward part, and tried to catch him to give it back. A dirty secret: bus drivers race. Dave was not going to let me catch him, and the drama unfolded over nearly 100 miles of I-95, until he stopped for fuel.

Another dirty secret: the sales guys and drivers are pretty good friends. The most popular person during setup is the one who will share their ladder or Windex.

After sitting on the show floor with lights and videos on, some of these spiffy new demos won’t start. While not as intimate as sharing a toothbrush, everyone is willing to lend jumper cables and tools.

My most vivid memory of EXPO 2019 is a former UMA Board Member in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. That’s a great look for some folks, but for him. Bleh. I’m still trying to “unsee” it.

The old Dragnet series announcer used to say, “The names have been changed to protect the innocent.” Not this time… Mitch.

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