The trip to the dispensary was initiated by Maggie, a “product representative” in her mid-40s, who came over to our booth and tested the waters by jokingly asking a leading-question about pot.
“Where’s the weed,” she asked, pawing her way through our bowl of free candy. “You should give that away instead,” she laughed. “It would really catch people’s attention.”
For the uninitiated, trade shows are digestible slivers of Hell that are illuminated by fluorescent lighting. They typically take place in massive convention centers, and they serve as an opportunities for businesses within a particular sector to show off their wares to a captive audience. By way of some of my clients, my job puts me in close proximity to the consumer electronics industry, and so I spend about two weeks out of every year on and around trade show floors.
Each booth represents a business within the represented industry, and that business shows off and answers questions about their lines of products. Depending on the industry, the business might choose to hire what are affectionately known as “booth babes.” These are typically conventionally attractive women who are hired through modeling and talent agencies to hawk products at the show. Many booth babes are educated about the product, outfitted in company colors, and are used to lure in and educate the male attendees who largely think with their dicks. To appeal to the big spenders, those who take orders exclusively from their dicks, some booth babes are required to wear much more revealing costumes that feature the represented brand across their tightly wrapped asses or breasts. While I am not aware of any studies that confirm this hunch, it is my suspicion that the more booth babes the company enlists to represent their product, the less confident they are in the ability of their products to sell themselves.
Beyond giving the men working at the booths an opportunity to be near attractive women who are contractually obligated to be nice to them, and alienating female professionals in the industry, the booth babe is—of course—intended to lure new business. Other methods of capturing attendee attention include raffles and giveaways, offerings of free booze, and phone charging stations. One business brought in a personality from the television show Cake Boss, and he made and gave away a ton of cake. This was the first event of this kind I attended sober. Trade shows and conferences are meant to be experienced through impaired eyes, and so the free booze, which typically comes in small, plastic cups emblazoned with company logos, is often a very big hit. It makes the glare of the florescent lighting and the pain of being on your feet for 12 hours a bit more manageable, but it also inspires in attendees the compulsion to tell me, a complete stranger, that “all of these fine looking women are making me so horny.” The men are in the wild, off the reservation, and they want to get fucked up with abandon the way they used to before complacency crept in. They start at Noon and nod along as they are educated on an upgrade of some series of components they don’t quite understand, and end at a strip club that has banners printed that target the attendees of this specific show.
Because my client sells products made in this country, and because those products are backed by a lifetime guarantee, the quality speaks for itself. And because as far as I am concerned, the concept of the booth babe is insulting to everyone involved on a million different levels, an occasional raffle paired with a bottomless bowl of candy is the only good will that our booth offers.
“I gave that weed line at a couple of other booths, but they didn’t find it funny,” Maggie told us. “Everybody here is so uptight. It’s legal here, isn’t it?” The show is in Denver, and so yes, it is legal as of this year. I told her that there is a dispensary just around the corner from the show, right near the barbecue spot and candy store, and that she should just swing by there. “You’re not uptight and that’s cool,” she told me, before saying that I am “pretty nice for somebody from Maine.” She walked away for a few minutes before coming back.
“So I was just talking to my young and very attractive friend Robin,” she said as she pointed at a young and very pretty young woman who was standing back at their booth. Robin looked up, smiled, and waved. “I told her about that dispensary and we want to go. Will you take us there? We wouldn’t know how to get there—we’re from Tennessee and all—and it would be just great if you would take us over there. We’re just going to tell our boss that we’re having, you know, women’s issues and that we need to go to the store to get some tampons. You’ll go, won’t you? When it is time, we will signal to you by touching our noses and then you can meet us outside and then head over.”
While this sounded as much like a sketchy preamble to being led into an alley before being murdered with an ax as it did a painstakingly earnest and detailed invitation for me to serve as a chaperone on a field trip to the weed store, I agreed to come along.
On our ten minute walk to the dispensary, the two were talkative and giddy. Robin excitedly told Maggie that the tampon story was brilliant, and that she always knows what to do in these situations. “No I don’t, dear. No I don’t. I never know what to do, be it with work, men, or whatever the situation may be. I never have any idea, but I go ahead and I do it anyway.” Robin was an employee of the company, not a booth babe, though she was young, very pretty, smiley and exceedingly pleasant. She was particularly excited to be legally engaging in what is otherwise considered an illicit activity. “I never do anything illegal,” she said. “I had my first drink when I was 21. This is so great.”
“It’s no big deal. When I was a kid,” Maggie told us, “It was weed and booze all day, but that was it. I never saw any of those other drugs.
“You grew up in the 80s, and you never saw cocaine?” I asked (somewhat impolitely in retrospect).
“Nah,” she said. “It was all crack where I was and so we stayed far away from it.”
For some reason, seeing Maggie in her company uniform talk about smoking pot and staying away from crack in the 80s reminded me of the time a neighbor—a 50-something insurance professional—fondly recalled to me her party days. She started by explaining that her and her husband spent the weekends drinking beers, watching TV, and dancing with each other alone in their house.
“We used to be a lot more wild when we were kids back in the 70s and into the 80s.” A bunch of her husband’s friends would come over and everybody would party through the weekend. These guys drove trucks and owned motorcycles. “They would bring something called Ice around and we would smoke it and drink all night. What is Ice anyway?” she asked.
“I am pretty sure you’re talking about 80s biker meth. You used to smoke meth for real?”
“I don’t know,” she laughed. “I never really asked what it was.”
In the waiting room of the dispensary, which was much more bright and modern than I had expected it to be, I struck up a conversation with a couple in their 40s. The man wore a denim shirt and a giant cross, the woman looked friendly but plain. “This is so weird, you know?” he said. “You hide it all your life and then one day you can walk right into a store and buy it.” She explained that they had found his sister, with whom he had been out of touch for years, online. “With Facebook, all of the people you never wanted to see again, they get in touch with you, but so do some people you never knew you were looking for.” They were on their way to a reunion of sorts up state, but they stopped in Denver to pick up some weed and go out to dinner.
After a short wait, Maggie, Robin and I were finally called into the inventory room. The women received a great deal of counseling; the staff did an amazing job of explaining what product was what, and what to expect from each. Maggie walked away with over $150 dollars in edibles, Robin with less, two bars of chocolate she thought were “cute.” “I have to fly out tomorrow,” she said. “I am not going to be able to eat all of this before then.” Through a window, we could see trays of clones—small, emerging pot plants. Maggie inquired and the employee said that they could be bought for $30 per plant. “How would I get those home on a plane?” she asked, devoid of decorum. “A friend of mine picked up three clones once and put them in a tomato and mozzarella sandwich to get them onto a plane. The tomatoes kept them moist, and now they are growing in my garden.”
“I wouldn’t suggest doing that,” she clarified.
Upon later telling someone this story, I was offered a similar suggestion. “I got a bunch of lemon drop edibles,” he said, “and I needed to get them onto the plane so I found cough drops of the same size, unwrapped 20 of those, re-wrapped the edibles, and put them into the bag.”
The women offered to buy me some weed, or related products, in exchange for my efforts but I politely turned them down. We stopped at a candy store, where we all left with something, Maggie with a pile as bountiful as her stash from the dispensary. She also walked out with those holographic blinking eyes novelty glasses, which she wore as she told us about how exited she was to get back to the hotel and give everything a try. Was I sure there was nothing they could get me? Anything for my troubles? No trouble at all; I was just happy to get away from that fluorescent sliver of Hell.
Image Credit: Archie McPhee Accoutrements (there is so much cool stuff for sale here, by the way)