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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Going to CEDIA 13? What's the worst that can happen?

Posted on August 6, 2013 at 10:05 AM

This will be my 15th CEDIA Expo, and it is the tech event that I most look forward to each year. While I’ve written of some of my favorite CEDIA Expo memories and why I love the Expo, I thought I would share with you some of the possible WORST things that could happen while you are at Expo. Well, to be fair, this is a list of the worst things that have happened to me. I mean, the list is woefully short on things like “get crushed by large chunk of random falling Russian space debris” or “caught in freakish bird diarrhea pandemic as you are crossing the street” or “lose wallet and have identity stolen by Chechen radicals who buy several tons of fertilizer getting you placed onto the Homeland Security watch list where you are *thoroughly* probed for hours.” So, comparatively, these are some pretty tame things that can happen. But, alas! These are the worst things that have happened to ME at Expo, so I invite you all to learn from my mistakes to make sure your Expo is blood and torn pant free!

Bloody Shoes

There is a time to break in that brand new pair of sweet-looking pair of stylin’ footwear. Perhaps it is when you are going to a nice dinner with your significant other. Maybe it is for a power job interview. Maybe you’re gonna roll up into a club all Tony Manero style. The ladies can tell by the way you use your walk, you're an Expo man, no time to talk. Look, I’m not telling you when to wear your fancy new kicks, I’m just telling you when NOT to wear them. And that’s at the Expo. The Expo is a time when you will be doing *a lot* of walking. Like Trail of Tears level walking. Walking to the convention. Walking all day at the convention. Walking to dinner after the convention. Then just randomly walking around for walking’s sake. This is a time to wear shoes that are tried and true; shoes that have bonded and become great, well-traveled friends with your feet over many previous steps. I did not obey this rule one year and I sincerely paid the price. At the end of day one, I formed two blisters that were so incapacitating, they would have gotten you 4-F’d from selective service. We’re talking bleeding through the sock and soaking into the leather of the shoes to the point that even Curt Schilling would have been begging me to pull myself from the game. I spent the rest of the Expo walking in agony, but having learned a valuable lesson; don’t be a hero, take the comfortable shoes with you. Or lots of Band-Aids.

Forgot to Bring Underwear

I can remember being in the cab on the way from my house to the airport one year and literally saying, “Oh, crap! I think I forgot to pack underwear!” I spent the plane flight out there going through my packing routine in my head. Had I done it so many times before that I just threw in underwear on autopilot and just couldn’t remember, or had I indeed forgotten packing item #1? Turns out, my initial fear was right; no drawers. Sure, I probably *could* have found a local store in town that sold underwear, and just bought some, but, umm, well, yeah! That’s exactly what I did! Bought some new drawers! Problem solved! So, nothing to see here… No awkward stories of how I made it through the week on one pair! Nope. Just, uh, remember to make sure you pack all your clothes.

Wore a Manufacturer’s Logo’d Shirt

I wear a button-down shirt and suit jacket when I stroll the Expo show floor now, but there was a time when I dressed more casually, like business casual. And one day I wore a nice Stewart Filmscreen golf shirt and khakis as I visited exhibitor booths. But after a while, I noticed that no one was really engaging me, talking to me or asking me if I needed any help. At first it was like, “Sweet! I’m not being bothered! I can just look at whatever I want!” But after a while it became a bit unnerving and off-putting. I needed someone “To See the Invisible Man”!  So I finally went up to someone and asked them a question and he said, “Oh, I thought you worked at Stewart and were just wandering around the floor so I didn’t come up to you.” Moral of the story, if you want to be engaged at the booths, maybe don’t wear a logo’d shirt from some company in the industry.

Epic Face Plant

The day started off innocently enough; I hadn’t stayed out too late, hadn’t gotten too much of a drunk on, didn’t have any crazy early appointments. So I headed down the hotel’s elevator and as I’m walking out the door I see that the CEDIA shuttle bus is there. Waiting. Ready to go. So I break into this slow, loping trot to make sure I get the bus before it leaves, but due to the slight hill the bus is parked on, my slow loping trot quickly escalates into a faster, ungainly jog. Now, since I am wearing dress-type clothes, and shoes with soles not meant for morning jogs, carrying a stuffed backpack that I have come to call “The Burden” and it is about 8 in the morning pre-coffee, I am not perfectly outfitted to be engaging in any jogging activities. And that’s when it happens.

The tip of my left shoe caught on something.

Have you ever tried to balance a broom stick or pole on your hand and that when it starts tilting you run forward to get momentum to keep the stick from falling? That was me. Except the stick that was tilting ever further forward was my face. So now I am *sprinting* down the hill, but because destiny already determined the outcome of this little moment in time the second my shoe got caught, it is all happening in this horrible, dreamy, slow-motion. And even though my legs are fighting the fine-fight, taking these super-human length strides trying to stave off what seemed impossible just seconds before, it quickly becomes apparent that I am going to lose this battle with mother gravity and that this play is destined to be a tragedy. And probably a comedy for those watching.

So I go into this full-on barrel-rolling ground plant where I literally fall face-first onto the ground, holding my hands out to help break the fall and kind of use my palm skin to friction-burn slow my descent. And because I have been running down this hill, I hit the ground and continue to roll/slide for a bit in an epic display of the gracelessness of the human form. Then to make matters even more awesome, The Burden unzips and ALL of my contents explode out of it and go sliding down the hill. And, oh, look! There’s my laptop, completing a long, slow, agonizing downhill slide on its moments-before shiny black lid.

So I got up and slowly start jamming all my stuff back into the pack with as much dignity as I could muster, trying desperately to ignore the bus just feet away from me, but absolutely sure that EVERY passenger on the bus is starring out the tinted windows recovering from their collective laughs – “Oh, God! He just totally bit it! Tell me you all saw that! Please tell me that EVERY SINGLE person on this bus saw how awesome that was!” – and praying that somewhere a camera didn’t capturing that for the YouTubes. I finally make my walk-of-shame onto the bus, which, of course was in absolutely no hurry to leave and I just sit there; totally ignoring every single thing behind and around me, refusing to acknowledge that yes, I was that guy. And while we wait for about 5 minutes and I’m picking chunks of debraded skin off my hands and taking an inventory of goods and body and then notice the – Ah! Hot-frickin’-Damn! Isn’t that just GREAT?! – gaping hole in my virtually brand new Polo slacks.

There will be another bus. Do not be that guy. And if you are gonna be that guy, bring an extra pair of pants.

Missed High School Reunion

The last time that CEDIA Expo was in Denver – 2008 – I attended the THX Video Calibration workshop immediately following the show. This meant that I was away from home for almost two weeks, which, considering that I had a sub-two-year-old daughter at home and work a full-time install job, seemed like an awfully long time. Also occurring during the middle of all this was my 20-year high school reunion in northern California. Unfortunately, that meant I had to make Sophie’s Choice, and I picked Expo and THX over Acalanes class of ’88. This was a pretty big bummer, and I’m still smarting over it five years later. I would have loved to see what my classmates were up to and how had gotten bald and fat. Layering on the disappointment was that the reunion was attended by our most famous classmate, Will Forte, aka MacGruber. So, yeah. Not sure how to help you with this tragedy. Hopefully your reunion committee won’t plan anything for the end of September…

Accosted in Atlanta

Leaving Atlanta on the final day of 2010 Expo, I decided to take the Marta – Atlanta’s equivalent to the subway – to the airport. I mean, the Marta station is just like 600 yards or so from my hotel. I mean I can SEE it from my hotel. So, I leave the hotel and it is before 7 and it is dark and the streets are empty. And, oh yes, I am still in the ATL.

So there is this large man standing outside in a tight, white muscle shirt talking to a porter or something. And as soon as I clear the hotel doors, he sees me, disengages from the porter and falls in next to me step-for-step. So we walk for a bit and he starts talking to me.

“How you doing, young man?”

“I’m great, thanks. How are you?”

“I’m fine. For a 59 year old man who is forced to live on the streets.”

“Oh. Well, you look great. I mean you’re arms are huge. I should be so lucky to be in such great shape.”

“You look like you in good shape, young man.”

“Well, not like you. I mean, your arms are giant.” (Yeah, I said it. I should sack punch myself.)

“You want to know how I got in such good shape, young man?”

“Uh, yeah. Sure.” (Internal dialog is saying, “No! You don’t want to know! Not at all!)

“I just got out of prison. On Thursday. After serving 10 years.”

OK. Here alarm bells are starting to go off. Like we’ve escalated from alert level beige-tan to alert neon-frickin’-radioactive-crimson. I know this is NOT good. No, sir. Not good. And yet, the Marta is *so* tantalizingly close.

“Oh. Uh. Wow. Well, you know, it’s never too late to start over and have a second chance.”

“You want to know why I was in prison for 10 years?”

In truth, I did not. I wanted to tuck my Rolex as far as it would go up the sleeve of my cashmere Polo blazer and run my skinny little butt back to the hotel. But that seemed to be off the table right now. And, damn! The Marta is just….right….there!

“Uh. Sure.”

“I killed a man.” (Damn. There it is. Now it’s out there.) “Right here,” he points to the ground, like it might have been right where I was standing, “in Atlanta.”

We walked on for a few more yards, companionably like you would see any preppy, totally citified white guy and ex-felon at pre-7 AM.

“Man raped my daughter. She was 15. So I shot a mother-f---er. And did 10 years’ time for murder.”

There is basically no reply to this besides an, "Umm, uh, man, that's just awful. Sorry."

A little more walking where, honestly, I might have lost track of time and space for a bit. I wasn’t feeling super chatty.

“I see you got a wedding ring on. You probably got yourself a wife and daughter. Mother f---er do a thing that like to your little girl, you tell me you wouldn’t do the same thing.”

So we walk on for a short bit where he explains that he is so giant and ripped because over 10 years in prison he had nothing to do but wait, serve the time, and work off the anger in the yard. Then he says, “Be careful, young man. You look like life’s been good to you. Everything you have, everything you own, it could all be lost in an instant.”

And despite the previous tone of the conversation, at this moment, I started being *seriously* worried that THIS might literally be that instant. It is pre-7 AM on the dark streets of Atlanta. And I am totally alone dragging two suitcases and a backpack to an empty subway station and he has just told me that he has been out of prison for four days for actually killing someone and he doesn’t seem super rehabilitated and I’m wondering if this is his way of getting by until his next parole hearing.

So we reach the Marta entrance and he says, “You’ve heard an old man’s story. You seem like a nice young man. I’m hoping that you’ll have it in your heart to help an old brother out.”

So I pulled out my wallet and gave him some money. And I said, “Take care, man,” and I walked down the steps to Marta and didn’t look back.

So, um, yeah. Sometimes the Marta is farther away than it looks. Be careful out there…

Luggage lost on marathon flight

One year I decided to take a rather non-conventional flight home from CEDIA. Instead of the simple 360 mile, 6-hour drive from Atlanta, I took two full days of flying and a total of seven flights and 2,217 miles to earn Gold level status on US Air. (It was a pretty epic journey catalogued in this blog post.) Even with the “Priority Handling” tag on my luggage, the crack US Air baggage crew couldn’t keep up with the “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” exploits of my bag, meaning that I arrived home bagless. When filling out the lost baggage form, one of the questions was, “Is there anything distinguishing about the contents of your bag?” I wrote, “Yes. I’m coming from a technology tradeshow and I have like 50 USB thumb drives in the outer pocket. Is that unique enough?” Fortunately the bag showed up later that night. (Also, do you tip the bag delivery guy? I didn’t. I mean, I didn’t lose my bag, why should I have to reward someone for bringing it back to me. Jerk move? I can’t even tell any more.)  So, make sure that anything you have that is precious – laptop, camera, charging cables, ADD medicine – is kept with you in your carry on. Better to be stranded without underwear than your laptop.


My first CEDIA was in New Orleans. And it rained. A lot. And when it rains in New Orleans, the water likes to celebrate by throwing a huge party in the city. The water likes that you can walk down the street with an open container of booze, and it just walks all over the place. Then it starts inviting more and more water, and the party gets totally out of bounds. Pretty soon all this water fills the streets, jumps over sidewalks and rushes into hotels. If you’re not water, you are not really welcome at this party and so the city pretty much shuts down until the water sobers up and leaves town. Here’s a list of the potential natural disasters that could affect Denver just so you can prep for the possibility of “the atmospheric discharge of static electricity in a bolt of lightning [that can cause] 1) electrocution of living things 2) vaporization of materials along the path of the strike.”

Didn’t Go

But what’s THE worst thing that can happen at CEDIA? Well, except for that whole vaporization of materials thing; there’s pretty much no way around how much that would suck. The *next* worst thing that could happen would be not going. I missed the Expo in 1999 and I’m *still* pissed about it. Are we going to have HDTV?! Will TVs get flat?! Will this surround thing catch on?! I may never find out! Don’t look back 14 years from now and regret that you missed CEDIA 2013… Register today by clicking here and using code CT1 to get yourself in for free. You’re welcome.

Categories: August 2013, CES/CEDIA

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1 Comment

Reply Gina
3:26 PM on August 8, 2013 
I LOVE reading your posts. You brighten my day and make me laugh so loud my co-workers have begun to think I am insane. BTW- always pack an extra pair of undies in your carry-on...just in case.