February 13, 2001

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


Cell Phone? Check.

Credit Cards? Check.

Daytimer? Check.

Power tie? Check.

I was ready for action. Last month I went on my very first business trip. I have been in business for almost 30 years, but I had never had the need or opportunity to go on a real business trip. The best I had done were regional shows in St. Paul where I usually got a free pen for my efforts. Last months ďbusiness tripĒ was the major league for me. My business wife and I were headed to Los Angeles to an international show in the huge Anaheim Convention Center. This complex is so huge that over 4000 exhibitors could show off their stuff.

The world of sales and distribution is a world of high speed and technology. It is amazing to think that for everything you see in a store there are sales representatives. They fly all over the country selling paperclips, sparkplugs, zippers and everything else to major and minor accounts. For most industries there is a once a year show where every manufacturer and distributor set up shop. We were off for the NAMM show which is where every musical instrument under the sun is exhibited.

We went not as sellers, but as buyers for our new import business that is slowly moving into the old bookstore. Getting ready for a power business trip was like preparing for a wedding. Our luggage we own goes back to the 70ís and predated coaster wheels. Having seen movies showing airports, like Diehard II, I knew that real power travelers had wheels on all there luggage. The next thing I had to do was retrain myself to tie a necktie. Since all my ties went back to Ronald Reaganís days I had to go get a new dark Regis Philbin tie. I pondered whether I should go for new hair Ė maybe the Jesse Ventura look or perhaps a two-tone job with moose? I decided the tie was enough.

Getting to Los Angeles was a new adventure. To get with this new era of the Internet we did book our flights and hotel over the Internet. This is suppose to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but you still wonder if when you get to the hotel youíll find out that you will have to sleep in the park. To my surprise it did work. The plane tickets came in the mail and the flights were actually on time. Even our luggage showed up.

We had a layover in Chicago where I was amazed at how technical even the restrooms have become. Chicago has solved the age old problem of dirty toilet seats. It is amazing, but someone has invented a machine to do just that. It is the darnest thing I ever saw. A tube of plastic is threaded around the toilet seat. Infrared sensors sense when you get up and the plastic rotates around the seat until all new plastic is ready for the next butt to sit down. I must have sat down about five times just so I could watch this thing work. Iím sure the guy in the next stall thought I was nuts. I wish I was the sales rep for that thing. I predict youíll see them soon at Menards for home use. Just think, men will never have to bother to lift the seat cover again. Now that is progress.

Another thing we learned is that everyone who gets off a plane must make a cell phone call. I am sure it must be a religious thing. I mean all the professional business travelers do it. They looks like a bunch of Captain Kirks calling the Enterprise as soon as they have beamed down to a new planet. I am not sure what the deal is, maybe they just call their mothers to tell her they arrived safely? Anyway, everyone walks around the airport with a cellphone glued to their ear.

Los Angeles is truly a city of gold. I canít believe how much cleaner it is since I last visited it as a tourist over 15 years ago. The only odd thing is that for the size it is their skyline is almost non-existent. Only a few brave companies have built skyscrapers. Everyone else is smart enough not to build high in an earthquake zone. Most of Los Angeles isn't any taller than Ely. It is just spread out as far as the eye can see.

The NAMM show was amazing. Noisy too. You canít imagine how many drum companies there are. I was amazed we did not end up with a headache everyday. The same goes for electric guitars. Whatever color, shape or style you want it is available. There must be over 1000 manufacturers of guitars. Luckily, we were more into band instruments and strings. Violins are so much more quieter. The trend for every instrument seems to be electronics. Everything is becoming electrified. I saw more gizmos than you could shake a stick at.

My lovely wife enjoyed trying out instruments that we knew we could never afford to sell. Imagine a flute for $8,000.00. Yamaha has several models if you need one. Electronic pianos are now so sophisticated that you really donít need to bother to learn how to play. The internal computer can store thousands of pieces so you can listen to whatever you want. The only thing they didnít have was a piano seat that cleans itself. For that you have to go to Chicago.

It was good to get back home after the five days. I started to wonder how these people ever took the fast pace. It is no wonder why so many men have heart attacks in there 40s down there. The pace is amazing. Luckily, I am not a full time sales representative. Luckily, for the airport people I am not either. Thanks to my broken leg I donít work as fast as the traffic flow does. Also, I set off enough alarms in airport security to alert the SWAT team. With seven screws, three washers and a metal plate in my right leg I sound like I am fully armed. So I am doomed to be hand probed every time I enter an airport. Thankfully, they stop when they see the long incision scares on my leg and tell the woman with the rubber glove that the anal probe wonít be necessary. That is why I wear shorts to airports!

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