Monday, March 16, 2009

Goin' to the MATS

For a long while in my life, I was lucky enough to have a day job that included going to truck shows. Heck, they paid me to go - probably because with all the free eats the exhibitors threw at us truckin' scribes, my expenses bill was very low. That was back in the good ol' days of the 90s when $10 and the tube off your old recappable tire would get you into a brand-new diesel dreamboat (and a whole lotta debt). These days, I'm bringing my own key for the Vienna sausages.

My first trip to MATS as a representative of a respectable trucking magazine (is that a contradiction?), I way overpacked. I assumed that there would be time to go back to my motel room, shower, maybe nap and then put on some pressed jeans for the evening's festivities. Wrong. There's no time to even go out to your vehicle to drop off all the accumulated press kits, geegaws and trinkets. Truck shows are serious business, and if you can't run with the big press dogs, you get trampled.

I have to say, technology has lightened the load for us inky wretches. Instead of heavy paper press kits stuffed with slides of digitally enhanced trucks, we get CDs, DVDs or even thumb drives. I like the latter the best, since I can reuse them. Our computers are lighter too - the digital storage makes it a lot easier to download an article, change a few words, slap our bylines on it, and send it to our unsuspecting editor hundreds of miles away.

Some things never change, at MATS. The yardsticks are ubiquitous (that's a fancy word meaning everywhere you turn, one of them will poke your eye out), and my buddy Dave Sweetman has already mentioned the Wide Load stickers. I'm sorry that Peterbilt won't be at the show this year, because I dearly loved collecting pins from the evening gown-attired models who gave their exhibit its legendary class.

Western Star got in on the act last year with some snow-maiden lovelies, possibly signaling a return to the pre-PC days when "booth babes" helped leave a favorable impression of many products. (Perhaps the most suggestive use of booth babes ever at MATS was to promote a tandem sliding product, but I can't mention that here.)

Anyway, I pack much more lightly these days, though I would like to suggest to the yardstick people that they make a telescopic version that's less deadly and easier to pack in a suitcase. I'm also packing a lot of ziploc bags to bring pork chop sandwiches back to the office - I can use all the free lunches I can get.

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