The end of a trade fair comes with some conflicting emotions. When the last minute of the last day of the fair has passed, there is a sudden sense of elation: the hard work is over – four days of being on your feet, of being charming yet professional, and allowing yourself to channel without reticence your excitement about your own product. Yvette and I truly love our own product, but usually a sense of unbridled enthusiasm only lasts a short while; it is exhausting otherwise. And while the fair is going, you don’t really come down from your adrenaline high either, even at the end of a day when you go home and eat and try to relax and get some sleep. After all, tomorrow brings another day. I realize this might be different for everyone. Certainly the pressures are different for established firms than they are for small start-ups, but in the end everyone is there because they feel their company and their product will benefit from a larger audience.
But once the fair is over, there come at once a sense of relief and a sense of urgency. The urgency initially translates into a frenzied folding of the stand. The entire hall is filled with a cacophony of sounds as every crew chooses a different tune to work to while they release all their pent-up energy into deconstructing what has been their office away from the office for four days. And that’s just the stands that do their own deconstruction. The really big companies hire professional crews for this. They emit a different energy, something much more mellow and no-big-deal. They haven’t been standing there for four days promoting their wares. They come fresh to this gig: they are there to unscrew, fold, pack, wrap, load and carry, and they do it with unmatched efficiency. I watched with envious eyes.
Our plan for the aftermath of the Messe was this: we would take down our stand and pack up our things together, then Yvette would relax and wait for me while I went to collect the car which we had parked a few towns over where friends of ours live. I would bring back the car, we would load up and we would drive back to our friends’ place and stay the night before embarking on the drive home the next day.
And so, off I went: outside, on the train, then onto another train. It was a nice journey, actually, which gave me an opportunity to let my mind settle a bit away from the hustle and bustle of the trade fair being taken down. My friend met me at the train station at the other end and gave me a ride to the car. It had begun freezing pretty well by then: – 4 C and falling…
The car was an ice box, thank god for seat heating. And thank god for my TomTom, because as I approached the Messe, naturally everyone and their mother was arriving with trucks and vans to load up their things. And, in their infinite wisdom, the organizers had determined that all this traffic should be directed through one – count them: 1 – gate into the Messe. And it wasn’t the gate I arrived at. I was kindly but firmly pointed in the general direction of the general direction where general directions were given towards the correct gate. Lovely. After finally figuring out where to enter the terrain, it will come as no surprise that I found myself in an impressive traffic jam that literally stretched for miles as drivers were waiting to get in. All of them, through that one gate. For comic effect: pretty much every other vehicle in that line was at least the size of a large van, but most of them were sizable trucks. And there I stood, in my modest VW Polo… (And I’m not usually one to worry about size, you understand.)
In the end, all vehicles great and small made it to their respective destinations, and with the very kind help of the Hallenmeister, who allowed us use of an elevator that was technically not in use, we finally managed to pack everything in and drive towards good company, an excellent meal, a warm shower and a comfortable bed. Over dinner and breakfast the next morning, there was even some time to catch up with my friend.
And now, for the drive home. The weather was lovely: cold but sunny. And off we went: from Frankfurt back home. The trip took us longer than expected. It was a bad day for trucks all told: first we saw a truck let out a puff of red smoke while it was driving on the highway. It was immediately accompanied towards a stop by another truck. Truck drivers look after each other that way; it’s pretty heartwarming to see. Later, we got caught in a traffic jam, and watched emergency services try to inch their way through towards what we later found out was an accident involving three trucks. One of them had spilt a hazardous substance (probably some type of fuel). The truck in question looked like it had been wrenched open with a super-sized can opener. It was an unsettling sight.
That was the extent of the excitement, luckily. We arrived safely and decently on time, first at Yvette’s where fond greetings were exchanged with the home front, and finally, just before my daughter’s bedtime, I arrived home, tired and very happy to be back.
Since then, Yvette and I have been sorting through business cards, adapting business plans to include the exciting new options that have resulted from the fair, and moving towards the next step for Cardle. It’s an exciting ride, and we’re only just getting started.