There were fewer contractors there this year, and I assume it was because it was in Atlanta instead of Las Vegas. I don't know who came up with Atlanta, but if it hadn't been driving distance, I wouldn't have gone. I guess this country boy just ain't wired for the big city. I won't make that mistake again!
I was driving my dually and delivering a piece of equipment to a customer right after the show, so I had a vehicle that was not really set up for navigating rush-hour traffic. I got stuck with an overpriced - like everything else in Atlanta - hotel about 5 miles from the convention center. That translates to about 40 minutes of driving time on the freeway.
One thing I did learn: Lane changing with a 40-foot rig is a challenge. The average driver there sees turn signals as a sign of weakness. Turn it on and about 30 of those little 100 mile-per-gallon cars will zip right up there and cut you off. Best way seemed to be to turn it on, give them one blink and get on over! That's when I found out how friendly folks were around there. They'd all blow their horns and wave - some of them told me I was number one, only with the wrong finger.
The roads are a piece of work, too. They take a road that normally would be four lanes and paint enough stripes on it to make eight lanes. I was hanging over the lines on both sides, making friends all 'round. If everyone drove bicycles, they could make 20 or 30 lanes.
Another thing I learned: None of wimpy little cars burn diesel, so none of the stations sell it. Thought I was going to have to call for a delivery on the side of the road.
One night after I left the show and headed back to my room, I realized that Atlanta doesn't seem to have the same sort of evening “activities” as Las Vegas. Out there, in the evening, I was able to join a prayer group (“Oh Lord, just let me win one hand”), and go to an “art appreciation center” (“Hey y'all, look at her…”) and all sorts of interesting things.
I got on the elevator with two young ladies in business attire and a fellow about my age. We all mashed the appropriate buttons and off we went - for about 10 feet. The elevator locked up solid, and button-pushing didn't help. About that time, one of the young ladies started looking wild-eyed and said, “We're not moving, we are not moving, we're trapped!” I asked, “Ma'am, are you claustrophobic?” Yup. Oh great, I'm trapped in an elevator with a nut - or maybe she was!
I figured I'd try to calm her down a little, so I said, “Don't worry; these walls aren't closing in as much as you think.” That didn't seem to help at all. After I told her that if we were trapped in there for two or three days, she could share my dinner, and that didn't help, either, I figured that I'd better just shut up and let her hyperventilate.
The other young lady figured out what to do, pressed the intercom button and got the front desk on the horn. She explained the situation, and they said they'd get engineering right on it. I stood there for about five minutes, quietly considering our situation. I wasn't worried about myself: I had my dinner, a couple good cigars and a pocket flask; I could hold out for a while. But I was starting to worry about Miss “We're Trapped.”
I figured that it was about time to get a little more attention down at the front desk. I pushed the intercom button again, and a young lady came on. I asked her if there was a man around that desk anywhere. After a minute, a male voice came on and asked, “Can I help you?” I said, “Yah, I'm stuck up here in this elevator, and there's a Big Ol' girl up here. She might be 300, 350 pounds, she's starting to sweat and take her clothes off - I'm scared. You gotta do something!”
I had to be a coincidence, but within five seconds, the elevator started! When the doors opened, those girls shot out of there like they'd been shot out a cannon. I said, “Ma'am, if that's the worst thing that ever happened to you, you've led a very sheltered life.”
I went on up to my room and finished my dinner and did some business. The best thing about the whole show was seeing Atlanta in my rear-view mirror.