It wasn’t easy, but I forced a good night’s sleep. When I got up, the once vise-like psychological steel strands that attempted to suture me to the bed had fallen away and were now scattered on the floor of my mind, brittle shards of thin ebony remnants.
I got up and I headed through the Flamingo for the tram. I waited and exited one stop further north so I would be closer to the Paradise Event Center in the Westgate Hotel where I would eat. I entered to the silence of carpet and began my long curving sojourn down the hall that was lined with “happy day” photographs of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Liza Minelli. Eventually, I made my way to the cavernous hall where the complimentary breakfast was being served. I sat with friends, and with my back to the stage, ate bacon, eggs, muffins, and potatoes oblivious to the speakers who sounded just like they did last year.
After a long introduction, the keynote speaker, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, walked onto the stage. I knew it was time for me to leave. I got up, went toward the back of the hall, quickly drank another glass of apple juice and headed for the exhibition hall.
I was early as usual, so I had time to get myself situated and locate the booths of those manufacturers that I would be visiting. The convention had yet to start, so as I walked the carpeted aisles, there was a soundlessness that unnerved me.
Only when the clock figuratively struck 9:30, when PAC VIPs begin to trickle in, did the once almost vacant floors begin to show signs of life. An hour would go by before the show was open to the general public that my day would truly begin.
And I must say, that it wasn’t long before all hell broke loose. I was at my main base, The Leaf, when people came from every angle imaginable. Orders began to come at me from all directions as water would from a damaged firehose that couldn’t be contained from spraying its pressurized water everywhere.
Orders for 200 bundles, then 50 bundles, then 100 bundles, odds and end orders of 10s, 20s and 30s. My body was trembling as I judiciously but calmly wrote each one down on the pre-printed form, chatting, smiling, and laughing with the customers. No one, not a soul, realized that I had not expected such an early rush and was ready to jump out of my skin with anxiety at any moment.
Yet, I loved every minute of it. But then suddenly I could feel the pressure building up inside my gut. Everyone expected to be taken care of at the same time. I asked myself, in a mental muse, “Jesus, is this the way it’s going to be all day long?”
No. It wasn’t. As quickly as a niacin rush leaves your cheeks and temples, the onslaught of people slowed to a manageable pace. Then the rush ebbed to a trickle and then to dribs and drabs – and eventually to a dead stop.
It was coitus interruptus. I wanted it to continue to a climax that would blow my head off, but it went nowhere. The motion was there but the release never came. The aisles seemed to swallow the people up. All the familiar faces faded away. I was sitting in a flimsy garden chair all alone without a soul in the booth, save for the reps, a few tire kickers and a pen whose frantic motion had stopped and was now capped. I replaced it into my shirt pocket.
I got up and went to a basket that had candy in it. I tossed around the selection until I found chocolate and orange flavored Tootsie roll pops. I took off the wrapping of one and eyed the dull, dark orb of candy. I substituted my cigar for the treat and headed for the back of the hall where the food court was located. It was well after the lunch hour. Maybe that’s where everyone had gone?
Despite my sitting down for so many hours, my knees were a bit wobbly as I made my way to find a solitary chair. The mental sound of cha-ching was being replaced with a real sugar buzz. A common trick in the business if you’ve had too much nicotine. It’s relaxing. A natural medication.
I found an empty gray chair and sat down. The dull candy was now shiny with my saliva. I looked up and down the aisles from my new vantage point. I knew this was a good time for me to be away.
I bit into the lollipop and savored the rush of the crunchy-flavored confection. Suddenly I had a mouth full of juicy delight.
I wondered if I could handle another day such as this first one, a rush of sheer ecstasy and then the let down of people petering out so quickly. Throughout the remaining part of the day, some bought – some didn’t. Time moved quickly and does go by when you’re so busy. But right now I was not.
It wasn’t long before the day slipped by. The halls continued to show signs of life, I visited my other booths, had a late lunch, and found another Tootsie Pop in my brief case. It wasn’t too long after that that all I could detect was sweetness and the smell of stale cigar smoke.
I bit down on the orange one. I hit the chocolate center. I could see it was time for me to go. So I got up, and with the residual candy stuck in my molars and me trying to get it out with my tongue – I left the hall.
(To be continued tomorrow in Day Three)