Friday, March 30, 2012

Another Day, Another Clustersomething

I’m a day out from this week’s “adventure,” so I can chuckle at the craziness of it all. And not even search too hard for someone or something to blame. Although playing the blame game is part of my birthright. When I was growing up, if a glass of water was knocked over, or if a bee stung someone on the toe, we only had to wait – five, four, three, two, one – and fingers were pointed, blame assigned.

But never mind. Yesterday’s experience wasn’t about who was at fault for what went wrong. Or not totally.

So Women’s Wear Daily wanted me to cover a textiles show -- very sexy -- and hired a photographer to go along with me. He mentioned to me that the show was kind of far out of town, by the airport, so we hired the wonderful Mr. Mu and set off. When we got there Thursday afternoon, something was not right but we assumed it was the usual Chinese mass confusion. Workers were hauling out the detritus of the show as we made our way inside. In the hall, naked mannequins tilted forlornly on the floor and boxes were everywhere.

The show was closing down even though it was supposed to be only the second day of a three-day show. Did that make us stop and think? No, not right away. I hurriedly interviewed some folks who spoke English, got some quotes (at that point I was happy to have any quotes at all) and Jonah, the photographer, took some hasty shots.

But then we encountered more strangeness: We couldn't find the press center. And then when we found it, they told us they were closing down. But wasn't there supposed to be a press conference at 4, we asked? Confusion. Remember, too, that few people speak English well enough to be really helpful. Lots of blank looks. Press conference? Press briefing? Media? Journalist? Interview? I kept asking them.

Finally, I pull out one of the press releases from the show so I could call the flack and ask her what the hell was going wrong. And then, only after a good hour at this other show, it hits me. We've gone to the wrong convention. Yes, this one was also fashion (it being Beijing fashion week and all), but the one we wanted was back in town. An hour back in town.

I called Mr. Mu, who was relaxing over lunch at a nearby McDonalds, and he booked over and headed back into town. Traffic ensued. We finally got to our convention at about 3:30, went through the complicated process of getting registered as press (my card read Womens Eear Daily), and got into the show. I interviewed some nice people from a Portugese exhibit, and then went to a rather uninformative press conference. 

Promptly at 5, the show shut for the day. Making my way home was another story, but one that has been covered at length in some variation on this blog. A slog to a subway, a packed subway at rush hour, a long tired walk home after trailing through a Dongzhimen station that is about as large as a D.C. neighborhood.

But then where the three of us went out to a great Yunnan meal. Yunnan is my new comfort food. The day ended with a nice, spicy thunk. Then today I looked back at the press release, which said:

China New Internatioanl Exhibition Centre
6 East Beisanhuan Road, Chaoyang District
Beijing 100028, PR China

Wouldn't you think that that meant the convention was at the NEW exhibition center? You would. And we did. But it was at the OLD one. Close to home. What a waste of time and RMBs.

Back to blame: I’m not blaming China on this one. I’m blaming PR types who can’t take the time to make sure they have correct information on press releases. And it’s not just Chinese speakers, of course. A final note comes from a Portugese textile association:  “To do that, they carry in their luggage competences in the art of weaving that crossed already two centuries…”

After this week, I feel as if I’ve crossed a couple of centuries myself.

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