About a month ago my President looked into my office and said he wanted a word with me. Normally a “Word” with the President is invariably unidirectional ( his) and met with mixed feelings (mine) but well these aren’t normal times, a story for another day, so more out of curiosity than anything I accepted the invitation.
Suffice to say that one Friday afternoon I duly showed up at the President’s office where he, in his inimitable way and to my mild surprise, announced that I was to go to the “Baselworld-2012” show in Switzerland for the week March 8 – 15.
Now if you don’t know what and where “Baselworld-2012” is I’ll quickly explain. It’s an exhibition for Watch, Clock and Jewelry professionals, that takes place once a year in – yes you guessed it – Basel, Switzerland1 and is about the biggest show in the trade, the equivalent of the Geneva Car show or the Frankfurter Book show.
(1 I had actually worked in Interlaken-CH, near the Swiss capital Berne, some years back and had spent a day in Basel, albeit in the offices of the Border Police getting my Resident’s permit, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Apparently the reason why my particular presence was, dare I say, “urgently required” was that the person initially supposed to represent the company at the show – a trilingual jewelry professional of many years experience and an address book to match – had suddenly upped and, without a goodbye, left the company, leaving the President in Dire Straits and my presence, along with my own specific brand of trilingual talents in Communications, “direly” needed.
Torn between the love of a challenge, curiosity and an agenda – both personal2 and professional – I consented, the fact that there was an incentive – never say “No” to those! – (also neither here nor there).
(2 Skipping the details, the personal obligation I ‘d told the President about meant that no sooner in Mulhouse the Wednesday I had to drive back down to Grenoble, Thursday evening, only to drive back up to Mulhouse Friday mid-morning)
My agenda constraints duly announced and negotiated curiosity, and the love of a challenge, won the day and there I was, Wednesday March 7th, on my way to Mulhouse – a 5 hour car trip on some of France’s quieter motorways – where the company had booked rooms for a colleague and myself for the show’s duration.
So why am I talking about Mulhouse and not Basel? Well, Mulhouse is ±30 kilometers from Basel and, the President assured me, logistically easier to manage for the company than Basel. In retrospect the jury are still out on that one. Luckily representing a computer software company we only had a couple of boxes to haul around, nothing much, otherwise it would have been different matter…as I had the chance to see at the end of the show when the other exhibitors started packing up.
Welcome to the “Show”
Baselworld-2012 was definitely a show, with a capital “S” and if I personally never saw the ringmasters, i.e. the organizers, their eyes and ears were everywhere, assuring and ensuring that the show went without a hitch, and the “Hitches” here were mostly of the security kind.
It’s been a long time since I saw so many police or security personnel, plain clothes or uniformed, and “Men-in-Black” (persons of athletic build, M&F, with slicked back hair – uh, yes, both the M & the F – determined walks and ear pieces with wires disappearing behind jacket lapels) in one place.
Conclusion? With all the supercars, jewels, diamonds, watches, important looking people and pretty hostesses sparkling each way you turned the show was definitely assured.
And so my colleague, also press-ganged, and I duly arrived at Basel and, as the previously mentioned circumstances might suggest, set about getting organized, i.e. parking facilities etc, and learning in the process, like thousands of other exhibitors – and much to my amusement – that even VIPs have a pecking order.
Knowing in advance where our stand was we made a beeline for it, saluted our German partner – a knowledgeable veteran of the jewelry show circuit, installed our material, set up shop and waited patiently for the show to start.
Now, as to “Show” itself. Right from start the tone was set. Parked outside between the halls #1 and #3 was a collection of Maseratis, surrounded by a flock of hostesses and snappy dressed men. I had never seen so many Maseratis in 100M2, mind you living in the backwaters where I currently live that’s hardly surprising, not even when watching Clarkson and acolytes on “Top Gear”3.
(3 I must admit that finding Ferraris and Lamborghini’s a tad too flashy if I were ever to get my hands on a Supercar it would be a Maserati “Gran Cabrio”… in my dreams!)
Once inside our particular hall(#3), set aside for related professions and split up into sub-halls, the eye was irresistibly caught by the sight of glittering diamonds, pearls and precious stones and hostesses. If you’re a newbie it’s hard not to be impressed but that’s when reality needs to kick in and you have to remember why you’re there and even then you can’t help taking a couple of photos, as I did for the wife.
Going up the levels, each a little universe of its own, we finally reached ours – called the “Hall of Innovation”, set aside for clocks, packaging, displays, components, etc (our company being in the “etc” category). It really felt like going from the sublime and excellence of the ground floor to the “Whatever’s left-over and apparently had to be there” section.
And so there we were, right up in the furthest corner of the top floor, near the exit, where they take the rubbish out, looking like we were going to be spending 8 very long days, watching the world go by, going in at 9am and coming out at 6PM, with moments of stressful activity and just sandwiches and soda at lunch to be going on with… OMG! Sounds just like a day at the office!
Well it could have been like that except that after a couple of days I felt I needed to sort things out with my colleague, proclaiming that we would be right royal idiots if we didn’t make the most of it and go and have a look around, and so we did.
That’s how I went to the Hall #1 and entered the “Hall of Dreams”. With its abundance of chic, suave, elegant looking people milling around in front of this or that famous brand name’s stand the Hall’s name was apt and the illusion complete. The general atmosphere of the place was one of fleeting luxury, a mirage where “Appearances ” were more important than reality and where the sensation of “here today, gone tomorrow” was very strong!
Later, after talking with my wife – who had seen the photos I’d taken, read some of the Trade magazines I’d brought back home and was wondering what effect all this would have on me – I decided not to go overboard about it. For me it was a “One-off” experience, something to write about in a blog post, nothing more…
I also remembered the Hassidic Jewish diamond dealers at the show and wondered if they, too, had such existential thoughts!