Friday, February 22, 2013

The Apocalypse Now Trade Show

We caught a bit of Doomsday Preppers the other night.

Unlike most of the folks who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars stockpiling assault rifles, water purifying tablets, and freeze-dried legumes, the fellow profiled traveled light. He was prepping to survive a doomsday tsunami by running up a 4,000-foot-high peak in Hawaii, barefoot, and with nothing in his backpack but a water – or, when there was no water to be had and he had built up a powerful thirst running up the mountain, piss – bottle. He was planning on living by his wits and off the land and the “pros” who rated his preparedness efforts told him that he would probably survive by his wits, off the land, and with his very own piss for about three months.

(Me, I would undoubtedly (and blessedly) perish during the tsunami.)

Given this fellow’s rock-bottom material needs, he would not likely have bothered with the recent International Disaster Conference & Expo (IDCE), which I read about in Business Week the other day.

Samples of gourmet self-heating rations and drink pouches that could purify puddle water via reverse osmosis competed for attention near a booth that touted a product called Powdersafe, designed specifically to handle your anthrax-letter-disposal needs. (Source: Business Week)

It probably wouldn’t hurt to have a stock of gourmet self-heating rations around, just in case. And maybe even a pouch that can purify puddle water. (You never know.) But I suspect I will never have much by way of anthrax-letter disposal needs. Now junk-mail-that-comes-into-this-building needs, that I have a-plenty. It’s not that great a burden to have to toss six-units worth of Pottery Barn catalogs into recycle. Still, there are some times of year – the Christmas run-up and the eagerly-anticipated delivery of the Yellow Pages – when I wouldn’t mind having a pouch that could purify all that paper out of existence.

There were inflatable radio masts, triage tents, and decontamination showers. There were paperback-size solar panels ($160), portable seawater desalination units ($75,000), and a tricked-out 18-wheeler called the THOR Shield that functions as a rolling 911 dispatcher (for lease). Two Swedes proudly showed off a $45,000 field toilet—the EcoJohn—with its own incinerator.

At first, I was wondering why someone would need a $45K field toilet. Couldn’t you just, errrrr, go the way of the bear and shit in the woods?  But that’s so every woman for herself, such all about me and mine Doomsday Prepper thinking.

As I learned when I looked the EcoJohn web site, there are plenty of situations in which lots and lots and lots of folks need toilet facilities, and a spade and a slit trench won’t do much to help prevent disease from spreading and/or give people at least a tiny bit of the comfort of home when they’re out of commission for a while. As in”the military, disaster and relief efforts, refugee camps, oil and gas industries…”

Personally, I would love to see an EcoJohn replace any of the fetid Porta-Potties that I have had to use, fortunately with great rarity. Let’s face it, the average Porta-Potty makes an airplane toilet or highway restroom look like a place you’d want to spend hours chillin’ with a pina colada an a good book.

Post-Katrina, New Orleans – the home of the recent IDCS -  is certainly an excellent place to think disaster preparedness.

And while I am not exactly a doomsday buff – other than to wish that if  there is a capital-D Doomsday event, I hope that it occurs on top of my head – I do, on occasion, enjoy a good trade show.

When I worked full time – during the height of the technology trade show era – I attended (and worked the booth at) plenty of them, and liked nothing better than strolling around picking up swag: day-glo yo-yos, cheap pens, cheaper tee-shirts, ill-fitting ball caps, logo’d Post-it notes, mouse pads, squeeze balls, triangular plastic three-color markers. And, of course, seeing just what folks had on offer.

Although 99% of the time, what they were giving out – even if it was just a day-glo yo-yo – was far more interesting than what they had on offer in terms of their products.

If a booth was holding a drawing, I always threw my card in the fishbowl to see if I could win the grand-prize. Of course, someone who was not an “enterprise buyer with budget” the chances that I was going to win the bright Orange Hum-vee, or even the laptop, were slim to non-existent. Having run those collect-the-card raffles plenty of times myself, I realized full well that the business cards of non-prospects were as likely as not to find themselves glued to the side of the fishbowl. That said, I did manage to win a cam-corder at one show. The company from which I won the cam-corder was actually a competitor, so it was doubly bizarre that I –as both a non-buyer and a competitor - would win. (Or singularly embarrassing that they did not even recognize that my company was a competitor.)

Anyhow, disaster is big biz, and apt to get bigger and busier with climate change, melting ice caps, and all the nihilistic loose cannons out there.

Sorry I missed the show.

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