Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Blood on the show floor: The New York Auto Show

Ah, New York. This big show wraps the season for most of us, although there are a couple of small regional shows in the next month. Some find NY to be the most challenging show (I personally give that crown to Chicago). Some would do anything to avoid working this show (I give that crown to Detroit). Some request this show year after year to revel in the energy of the city and the opportunity to play here with someone else footing the travel bill (that would be me).

I love love love NYC, but this show certainly does have its challenges. New York crowds are tough. They talk back when you're narrating, they get mouthy, and we always have a lot more vandalism here than in any other city (although this year, Chicago was really bad in this area). And sometimes they get violent, because obviously the auto show is the best place to vent your frustrations about your misspent life and the injustices incurred therein.

One luxury manufacturer was particularly affected by this last year. Another booth babe tells me this unfortunate area had not one but two fist fights in their display at the New York Auto Show, both of which happened in full view of the public and involved bodily fluids.

The first is my favorite: an overzealous security guard took a swing at a dealer associate because the guard felt the sales guy was too close to one of the prototype cars. The sales guy hit back. The cops were called. No charges were filed because there was not an independent witness to verify who took the first swing, but the sales guy was far more believable and the security guard (who was apparently being a jerk to others) was fired. The sales guy had a bloody lip and a shiner, but came back to work the show. That's dedication!

Later in the week at the same display, the booth babe tells me there was another fight involving some teenagers. It was close to closing time and a large group of them came in together (which always makes us nervous - there's a reason why teens can't hang out in malls in groups larger than four in many places). All of a sudden two started screaming at each other and blood was everywhere. One had hit the other in the face and his watch ripped off a chunk of the other kid's forehead, which was now lying on the carpet surrounded by blood splatters, right in front of a beautiful $70,000 car. Awesome.

(This is why you need to stay in school, kids - so you don't have to take a job on the cleaning crew and scrub blood and bits of flesh out of a carpet at an auto show at midnight.)

So far, as far as I know, none of this violence has affected the booth babes but that doesn't mean we're not afraid of it. Easter Sunday used to be Gang Day but Javits and the NYPD had put the kibosh on that in recent years. Regardless, working downstairs in the truck area can be spooky. It's never as busy as upstairs and in the evening can be almost deserted. Definitely not the place to be working a display by yourself, and in fact most now have a rule that there must be at least two (preferably more and at least one male) working downstairs at all times.

I am not going out by being shanked at the auto show, yo.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I've hit the big time: BlogHer!

I received a lovely email earlier this month from BlogHer asking to syndicate one of my posts! Namely, Life after auto show.

Do be a dear and visit it over there, won't you? I know you've read it already and all, but visitors would be nice to show their interest is valid : )

Do You Come with the Car BlogHer story

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

See, I'm not making this up

A comment came in over the weekend that I decided needed its own post. It is from another booth babe going by the name of "Car People" and backs up some of the stories I've written about here. It also  touches upon a subject I haven't yet: theft and vandalism. Don't worry, I'm getting to that soon.

Here's what this booth babe has to say:

"I can relate to 'Do You Come With the Car?' and while some of the views may seem a bit extreme, an auto show is an extreme environment. I'm sure that there are pro football games that are less intense than an auto show!

In my ten years working in auto shows, I saw tens of thousands of dollars of malicious damage done to cars, and theft of anything that was not nailed down, pop-riveted and spot welded to the floor.

Another challenge was the people who wanted to spend an hour telling you about the time they repaired a puncture on their own Model T Ford (very reminiscent of Grandpa Simpson).

When our security guard caught a guy who had stolen several parts off one of our Mercedes-Benz's he said 'I paid 20 bucks to get in here. I'm entitled to a souvenir.' Our security guard diplomatically replied 'And you're entitled to be introduced to the police so you can show them your great souvenirs.' The guy handed back the stolen stuff and left.

In 1995 as I sat in car with one guy who had perhaps showered once in the 1970's, his B.O. made my eyes water so bad I had to go rinse them for ten minutes afterward.

Taking all that into account, it made me more appreciative of the great people I did meet at auto shows - customers, colleagues and regular people who shared a passion - for cars, technology, design, comfort etc. "

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Car People!

Friday, March 19, 2010

You don't know Roger Penske

There's a slight variation on a conversation I have every day at the auto show. The gist of it is some unattractive aging woman decides to take out her feelings of inadequacy on the auto show models by lording her money and/or connections over us. Most of the time it is a blatant lie; all of the time it is obnoxious.

Another booth babe told me she once had a woman (who was sorely in need of microdermabrasion and the South Beach diet) become super-snotty with her, insisting that the booth babe was wrong about something that she said she knew for a fact was true because Roger Penske himself sold her the vehicle.

Give me a freakin' break, lady. Do you really think anyone believes that Roger Penske, one of the most successful businessmen in the United States, took time out of his incredibly busy schedule of running multiple global enterprises to come down to one of his many car dealerships and personally sell you your car? Yes, I am so sure RP walked the lot with you, took you for a test drive, brought you into that little back room where they wheel and deal on financing then handed you the keys to your new car after raping you on your trade-in. Please name drop some more, ooh, I'm so intimidated.

This morning Howard Schultz poured my Starbucks himself! Then Steve Jobs turned on my MacBook for me, Mark Zuckerberg personally emailed me to let me know my mom updated her Facebook last night and Rex Tillerson pumped my gas. (If you don't know who those guys are maybe you can call up Larry Page and Sergey Brin and ask them to Google it for you.)

And PS - Even if she did know Roger Penske, she was still wrong.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Art of Racing in the Rain

I read, a lot. I read in airports, on planes, in restaurants, in quiet hotel bars. I read in convention center food courts and tiny, dark back rooms of auto show sets. I read in strange hotel beds, in first class and coach, from sea to shining sea. I read at home with the back door open so I can hear the birds singing -- it relaxes me more.

I read fiction and non-fiction, classic literature and obscure modern writers, comedies, tragedies, coming-of-age tales. I'm not big on courtroom dramas (although I enjoy watching them on TV but not movies). I hate trashy romances. I like books that help me feel better about the human condition, a feeling which often needs repair after a ten-day auto show.

I read real books, books that I can hold in my hand with pages I can turn and paper and ink I can smell. I've toyed with the idea of getting a Kindle or an iPad because it sure would make my carry-on a lot lighter, but I like real books. I like the way they feel in my hands and the way they look on a bookshelf. Few things tell more about a person than what's in his bookshelf or the condition of her garage. Always investigate those two before investing in a friendship.

Last night I began reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This morning, at 3 AM, I finished it. I'm a sucker for dogs (any animals really, anthropomorphized or not) and stories of triumph over adversity. Plus, hello, hot fast cars! 

You must. READ. THIS. BOOK.

Here's the thing about life: it often sucks. People are mean a$$holes, jobs are lost, people you love die, houses burn down, kids are ungrateful, your underwear is too tight, you paid $10 to get into the auto show but are not allowed to sit in the Ferrari. You have unrealized dreams. Do you want to sit around and whine about the injustice of it all, or do you want to do something about it? Do you want the car to drive you, or do you want to drive the car?

Life isn't about what you can't do, it's about what you CAN do. And sometimes you have to fight through all the "can't" people to get to the "can"s. Actually, in my experience 95% of the time you have to do this. It's exhausting, but such is life. Most people either give up sometime in their 20's or never start at all, giving up on their dreams either out of complacency or simply because they have no one to believe in them. 

Maybe they just need a good dog. 

 Read more about The Art of Racing in the Rain at Garth Stein's website.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kidnapping jokes are not funny

Sometimes people's attempts to be funny fall flat. We've all been there. Just ask Steve Martin about his Toyota joke at the Oscars the other night - nary a giggle. Sometimes a joke is just not funny, even when it is meant to be.

And sometimes a joke is just downright creepy and frightening.

I was at a show a couple of months ago and having a lovely conversation with a visitor who was asking relevant questions about one of the vehicles on display. His cell phone rang and he excused himself to answer it, but did not step away.

His end of the conversation:
"I'm talking to the girl at the auto show. No, I haven't taken her out to the parking lot. Yet."

Yup, color me totally freaked out. I'm sure it was a joke (I hope it was a joke), but in my line of work, that kind of "joke" is scary.

Here's what we need you guys to understand. We're women traveling alone. Yes, sometimes there are men with us, but there are generally more women than men and I've worked plenty of shows with no male counterparts in attendance on my team. We're staying in strange hotels in strange cities with which we're not very familiar. The closest thing we have to bodyguards are the dealer staff who sometimes work the show and can be more odd than the visitors. The crack security teams in these places are a joke -- half are gray-haired grandpas and the other half aren't paying any attention to us because they are stoned. Now, I took a self-defense class and I know how to stay aware of my surroundings, etc., but still, if someone really wants to grab you, he can find a way.

One of the main booth babe talent agencies stopped using a certain hotel in Detroit because one of the girls was attacked on a supposedly secure floor. Yes, things like this can happen anywhere, but hotel management refused to heighten security by checking room keys before allowing elevator access. That move cost them about $100,000 a year in bookings, I'd estimate.

I'm hearing that another booth babe was drugged at the hotel bar in Detroit this year. Luckily her friends were keeping a close eye on each other and were able to take care of her before the guy slipped her out.

So please understand, your insensitive jokes about kidnapping us are not funny. If you are making us uncomfortable, we don't have to talk to you.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Your one-eyed monster

I want to know who signed off on this infected-looking phallus with a nasty case of genital warts as a key marketing character for Kia.

A one-eyed monster? REALLY?

Here's the commercial in which Dickie is featured. Apparently bumpy dongs hang out in the back seats of Kia crossovers with your friendly neighborhood sock monkey.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Photo etiquette

Everyone with a halfway decent camera at the auto show fancies themselves the next Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue photographer. I assure you, you are not. We are not celebrities, you are not the paparazzi, and for most of us the nature of our jobs does not dictate we must agree to have our photos taken. If I'm not standing on a platform and my coworkers and I see you aim a camera in our direction, you will often quickly see our backs.

There is a very simple way to figure out if it's okay to take my picture.

- If I am standing on a platform next to a car, it's fair game.
- If I am not standing on a platform, ask for permission.

Lots of people do ask and that is awesome! Some of us will say yes, some of us will say no. When we say no we have very good reasons.

Here are some reasons why we say no when you ask to take our picture at the auto show:
You're super creepy
We don't want to be part of your spank book
We're afraid you're going to Photoshop our head onto the body of some naked chick with an ugly face and add it to a porn site
We're pretty sure it's going to wind up in a "Girls of the Auto Show" blog post where men who haven't gotten laid since the recession started will have the audacity to pick apart our appearance
We're not wearing something we're supposed to be wearing and don't want to get busted if someone important happens to see it on the interweb
We wish to retain as much control of our image and how it is used as possible
You're super creepy

All of us ladies at the auto show have developed Spidey-sense and can tell from a pretty fair distance when someone is trying to sneak a photo of us. We will then send a signal to the other girls in the area and strangely all of a sudden you will notice all of our backs are facing you. I've spotted cameras with telephoto lenses on balconies trained on our information desk. I've nabbed guys trying to set us up like a bad pickpocket job, one distracting us with conversation while the other tries to snap photos of my a$$ (that's handled by clasping my fingers behind my back, covering my cheeks while flipping the photog off - I can't be identified anyway because he's only focused on my butt).

One booth babe told me she was asked by a group of teenaged boys to pose by a car of a different manufacturer than the one she repped. She told them she couldn't do that, then inquired why they didn't ask the ladies in that particular booth to do it. "We did," they said. "They told us they weren't allowed to leave the desk."

That booth babe had to break their hearts. "Boys, they just didn't want to take a picture. Sorry." To make them feel better she offered to snap one in front of one of her vehicles, but they were too dejected to even consider it.

But they asked. So if a group of horny teenaged boys can manage that level of civility, why can't you? Ah yes, because you're super creepy.