Planes, Shuttles and Windmills
That I had the opportunity to travel twice within a month in advance of drupa is not surprising. Editorial Director Mark Michelson has been a stranger in the office, with the Inkjet Summit and pre-drupa press events — both international and domestic — dominating his time.
The pace set in these events can be quite hectic. Often, it’s tough to step back and just breathe in the moment, because the next moment is scheduled to go off in 15 minutes and you’re 20 minutes away. But while I’m not a traveling aficionado, it’s nice to take in unfamiliar territory every now and then, especially when said terrain is on another continent.
In March, I was invited to an event, “Press On to the Future,” which was headlined by Xeikon and Agfa but included a bevy of other technology providers (X-Rite Pantone, Enfocus, Esko, CHILI Publish, Cerm and Asahi Photoproducts).
This event was held in several cities in Belgium, primarily Bruges. I flew in exactly one week — to the hour — before terrorists set off several explosions around Brussels (including the airport) that took the lives of 32 people. I remember going through one of the sections of the airport that was impacted. Quite a sobering moment.
The shuttle from the airport to Bruges was fascinating. The countryside reminded me of my native South Jersey, with acre after acre (or hectare after hectare) of farmland. Every few miles, I’d spot a weathered, enclosed soccer (football) field, complete with bleachers. That, in turn, made me long for a nice baseball field.
One of the most striking sights en route to Bruges was a set of wind turbines. I wasn’t able to see the famed windmills of Sint-Janshuismolen; the ones along the highway were designed with function rather than form in mind. They were absolutely gargantuan in size; extremely menacing.
I certainly gained an appreciation for how the good folk of Belgium make use of their highways. Cars and trucks weaved and darted their way from lane to lane, without a Sunday driver among them.
The trucks were fairly aggressive and sometimes hilarious. A number of trailer panel messages made me chuckle, as their English translations weren’t exactly crisp. An advertisement for Carlsberg beer declared, “Now in probably the best bottle.”
Probably the best bottle? I think a certain pitchman needs a little work on his self-esteem.
And speaking of truck drivers...
Driver Beware: On another trip to San Antonio for the joint Jetcomm and Dscoop conferences, I endured the shuttle ride from hell. I made the mistake of going with a certain shuttle service, figuring I’d be the ideal company man and save a few bucks as opposed to taking a taxi. It might take a few extra minutes, but no big deal, right?
It took 30 minutes for my ride to arrive outside the airport terminal. Also, it became readily apparent that the driver fancied himself as a tour guide, providing tidbits of useless information to the passengers in a not-so-thinly veiled attempt to curry tips. My fellow passengers feigned interest while I made small talk with a printer from Amway’s in-plant. As the minutes ticked away, I could sense our driver was in no particularly hurry, taking a deliberate approach.
Meanwhile, I could feel the back of my neck grow hotter as the driver continued to leisurely go about his business. My Amway friend could only shake his head sadly, but he continued to smile. The same couldn’t be said for yours truly. Easily the defining moment was when my driver, while waiting his turn at the stop sign, shifted the shuttle into park and warmly greeted a pedestrian friend with a hearty handshake.
At this juncture, I could sense the involuntary twitching of my eyelid, indicating either a meltdown or a stroke was in the offering. A momentary reprieve came when our shuttle passed the Alamo. Not having been to San Antonio previously, I have to admit that the site was pretty jarring. I’d always figured the Alamo was located out in the middle of nowhere, with only the occasional tumbleweed passing, as opposed to sitting in the heart of a bustling business hub.
Regardless, the minutes continued to drizzle away. So after finding the most delicate manner in which to impress upon the driver that I needed him to get his ass moving, our hero began to navigate the streets of San Antonio with a little more purpose. And it was nearly a fatal mistake on my part.
While idling at the light waiting to make a left-hand turn, with a box truck waiting opposite us, I saw an elderly man begin to cross the street. The light turned green, and when the box truck finally passed, the shuttle driver hit the gas and turned left. There’s no way he didn’t see the pedestrian. Or so I thought.
“Look out!” I screamed, and the driver slammed on the brakes. The elderly man stood merely inches away from our truck’s front grill and a certain tragedy. Incredibly, my driver began to berate the poor fellow, even though the pedestrian had the right of way. Within seconds, several passers-by pelted the driver with verbal insults. After an acceptable period of requisite hand gesturing, the shuttle rolled to a stop, at long last, in front of my hotel.
If PI columnist and sales guru Bill Farquharson had written this, he might conclude that when you take someone out of his/her comfort zone, the results can be disastrous. As for me, I think the message is a little less complex: Pay a few extra bucks and get to where you need to go. PI