Oh Me, Oh My, I'm Now in Oman

And how did I even get here? Talk about dry spells. No, I’m not referring to the vast desert here that is drowning in $125 barrels of oil just below the125˚ degree sand. By the way, I figured out why they quote the weather over here in Celsius: It sounds better to say its 47˚ Celsius than to admit its 115˚ Fahrenheit. But I digress.

The dry spell problem I am currently suffering harkens from the last worthy Telecom tradeshow, held in Vegas in early March, and the upcoming ITW show June 1st in DC. For a convention junkie like me, that creates withdrawal problems, so I powered up my trusty Compaq laptop and Googled for telecom tradeshows to find a quick show in between. Asiacom, late April, quickly came up. The only dilemma was the travel distance, it being held in Mumbai, India.

For those of you out of touch souls, that’s the City of Bombay, renamed thirteen years ago, but still the same old sewer system with double the population (to 22,000,000 including surrounding areas according to Wikipedia). So I am “in need” to cover this very important Telecom show, however the Blog site budget is fairly trim for expenditures labeled Boondoggles.

After my last private jet trip to Tahoe, the publisher took his plane keys back, so I needed to find another friendly pocket to pick. To my rescue: a very stunning and wise 29 year old looking woman, who is the wife of the publisher, and therefore I guess, my boss also. As luck would have it, her Maltese needed a new pooch collar and Tiffany had just the perfect little choker chain of diamonds for Fido that the Amex card quickly took care of.

I was dispatched to pick up the gifty for the doggie, and I swiftly recognized my opportunity. In exchange for my silence to publisher husband, I got the Amex points from the purchase, which scored me two first class tickies on Emirates Air to Mumbai. The added bonus is that all flights are hubbed through Dubai. I chose a layover of a few days, because I had never been to the UAE, and the idea of visiting a place with indoor man-made snow skiing parks intrigued me, let alone the new tallest building the world (even if they won’t disclose how tall they are building it to).

Emirates is a very nice airline. They fly very fast - something about not caring too much about the cost of fuel. The airlines, and the oil and other resources in the Country, and the two telecom companies for that matter, are all owned by the ruling family. Why have two telecom companies if both are owned by the exact same owners? So you have choice of course. Kind of like asking if you wish to be electrocuted or poisoned. But the staff at Emirates comprised of Australians and New Zealanders, and a Few Pilots from England, but not one person from the good ‘ole UAE where we were flying to was incredibly friendly and courteous.

Fresh squeezed juices were offered onboard with a choice of about ten different types, including my absolute favorite: sweet lime. I summoned the courage to ask about the devils brew, some vodka, and a beverage cart was quickly produced of the finest brands of liquor including Johnny Walker Blue label. I was stunned to see their choice of Champagne, Dom Perignon. It brought back memories of United’s International service of ten years ago, before the last five cutbacks and chapter 11 filing. So I ditched the nasty, tart limeade and switched to the monk’s tasty wine.

So, four movies and two and half bottles later, we arrived at 7 am to a 90˚ Fahrenheit morning. Emirates’ parting gift for its passengers is a complimentary limo ride to the hotel. My only complaint is that they should call it a courtesy shuttle or car ride. Limos are big black cars with lots of room in the back for cavorting. Every Emirates vehicle was a five year old Volvo station wagon; but still it was a nice gesture.

After checking in to the hotel and checking out the lobby to ensure that indeed, this was not a dry country as in, No Liquor, like most every other Country on its borders, I decided to explore the general surroundings. The city itself is devoid of trees or anything else green, just very tall buildings and very spread out. I am exaggerating of course, but not much. Lovely people and I am sure I will return again, but not until their rapid transit system is built and deployed.

Riding a dunebuggy in Dubai

Dune bashing in Dubai.

I decided the need to pursue my thrills out of the traffic area, so the next morning my free-loading sidekick, Max, and I headed 100 miles out of Dubai to the Oman border at the crack of dawn to go ”dune bashing.” It was absolutely worth flying halfway around the world for. At 7 am, the weather wasn’t an issue yet, we each had our own dune buggies and a local to get us on our way riding his own ATV. Off we went, riding the Sand dunes at 25 to 40 mph, sometimes on all four wheels, sometimes not.

I guess you had to be there. While there wasn’t any delectable fare offered to us to write about, or hilarious camel stories that transpired, and yes I heard about that joke being trapped in the desert with the horny Camel, I can say that skirting the border of Oman by fast off-road sand buggy was an adventure worth repeat. The next day, we flew to Mumbai. I never get an easy feeling when our car is stopped and searched by hotel guards as we check in as they use a mirror attached to a stick to check for magnet bombs under the car. I always wonder what they’d do if they found a muffler part they didn’t recognize. Would it jeopardize my suite upgrade? So, in I go after I pass the oversized dentist mirror check, all ready to check in and prep myself for a busy day at the Tradeshow. I have exactly 2 days before I catch a plane home, and I need a lot of material to justify all these travel expenses. After all, I have a major column to write.

Dubai countryside

Guards checking cars.

So, AsiaCom didn’t rank high on the Big Dave rating report because the vendors didn’t give out free stuff like flashlights or shot glasses or coffee cups. No free booze at 5 pm, and I didn’t see any trays beaming with foodstuffs for me to chomp or even nibble from. I pretty much had to raid the mini bar. That’s my story about Asia Com, and I am sticking to it. I don’t have any hard proof to give my publisher that I was actually “inside” the tradeshow exhibition hall rather than sitting poolside for two days at the Sheraton Mumbai, which just happens to be where Singapore Air and Cathy Pacific keep their Flight attendants. Besides, the AsiaCom admit fee was $395, and they didn’t think I qualified as Press, unlike some very cute airline personal I ran into who thought I was a very witty journalist indeed. I had really seen enough of Mumbai anyway.

So, a quick twenty-six hour flight, and I was home again. And now I only have a few weeks to chill until I have ITW and GTM, the Clash of the Titans, in DC. It’s a true test of happens when an organization pisses off its very members because the paid executives and staff stop listening to the real bosses: the members. This is something I have been preaching to Comptel for some time now.

Longtime, powerful members like Deutsche Telecom, and VSNL, now called Tata, and ATT and IDT were galled at the spiraling price for badges, up 25% to 40% each year. Worse was the packaging of requirements for suites which meant five day minimum stays and mandatory $5,000 sponsorships just for the privilege of renting a meeting room suite. Enough was enough and what started out as a protest letter signed by five and then ten movers and shakers in the carrier world, but totally ignored in a contemptuous manner by GTM, turned into a, ”let’s put on our own show,” as a last resort.

There were a lot of doubters, including me, that ITW would garner enough support, let alone capture major interest. I also felt abused by the pricing structure minimums of GMT and their partner in crime, the Wardman Marriott, simply the worst Marriott property in their entire portfolio. Holiday Inn would reject them from the Brand. I was very pleasantly surprised to see how electrified everyone was in vilifying GTM and the Wardman for their absolute greed and shabby service.

Within a day, the Hilton Washington, the ITW host hotel was completely sold out, and meeting rooms and trading desks were all spoken for. One month after getting the cold shoulder from GTM executives, it was GTM receiving the “who cares” treatment. This June 1st-4th, it’s ITW. I predict GTM will not be scheduled in the USA next year. The only way to save the organization’s meeting would be to move it out of DC and to another country. Or, of course, to Las Vegas, which would indeed ensure it would be a huge hit again with cheapo rooms and those tasty egg rolls. And did I mention the fun you can have with a roll of nickels at the video poker bar?