My 2007 ISC West: The Travel Gods Were Not Kind

When speaking to people who travel frequently on business, they inevitably have a horror story or three at the ready. My perilous trek to the 2007 International Security Conference (ISC) West provided this green security industry journalist attending his first trade show of any kind with his own go-to travel anecdote. From that point on though, I can only describe my four days in the City of Sin as overwhelming, leaving such an indelible impression that I cannot truly say what happened in Vegas will stay in Vegas.

I left my Disney-adjacent Anaheim apartment around 7 a.m. Tuesday morning to make a 10 a.m. flight out of Los Angeles Int’l Airport (LAX). I should have realized fate was not on my side when the pitchman on a radio commercial for nearby Ontario Airport observed, as if sitting right next to me, that I was probably sitting in LAX traffic at that very moment (“I am!” I thought). He suggested I consider his alternative launching pad on the outskirts of the city where I would encounter minimal traffic, shorter lines and better service. I ignored this obvious attempt by the travel gods to warn me of the impending odyssey and turn around and head right back to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Things began to fall apart when I reported to the wrong terminal. There must be some logical explanation, but why can I book a flight with one airline “operated by” another airline?! Apparently the big, bold “U.S. Airways” printed on my itinerary is strictly for decoration and completely arbitrary. The smaller, lighter-print “Operated by United by TED” was a more important bit of information. So after the long walk to the correct terminal on the opposite side of the airport, I needed to find out how many of my four bags I could carry on. Unfortunately, there was only one flight agent manning the 50 check-in kiosks. After about 20 minutes of competing for his attention and finally getting my answer, the kiosk refused to check me into the flight because it was too late.

On standby for the next flight, I thought I might kill some time on my laptop researching the most compelling security industry issues of the day (or updating the background on my page … either-or). Alas, LAX charges a fee for WiFi use (FYI, WiFi at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas is free). After about three hours of twiddling my thumbs and running through the tutorial for Sim City 4, my delayed flight finally boarded.

Once everyone was comfortably seated on the spacious airplane, the pilot was kind enough to inform us we’d be treated to a viewing of Night at the Museum due to the fact McCarran was closed because of hail (another bad omen sent courtesy of the travel gods). After doing an hour-and-a-half bid on the runway, we were finally given the green light to depart.

Thinking the worst had past and perhaps I’d have an outside chance to catch the tail end of the SAMMY Awards ceremony, I was brought back to Earth (literally) by the staunch reality that sitting in the jet is the easiest part of the proposition. Once on Nevada terra firma, I had to go through the excruciatingly time-consuming process of catching the tram to baggage claim, waiting through three other flights of suitcases, and arranging for a shuttle to the hotel. I chose a shuttle instead of a taxi at the recommendation of a co-worker who paid for a round trip in advance, planning ahead for the trip home. Learn from my mistake and don’t book with Gray Line Airport Shuttle. I paid for my round trip all right, but they never picked me up for the return.

After sitting through a few other hotel stops along the way, I finally found myself checking into Treasure Island. However, I tasted the cherry on the proverbial sundae of bad fortune when the clerk told me my reservation was made under another employee’s name. Fortunately, the benevolent travel gods finally smiled upon me when the clerk cut some corners and allowed me to check in anyway. It was 6:45 p.m. and I finally found myself inside my hotel room, just in time to get the call that the SAMMY gala was a wrap.

Karma continued working back in my favor when I, along with the rest of the staff, was treated by Bobit Business Media CEO Ty Bobit to a nice dinner at Alan Albert’s steakhouse in honor of a successful SAMMY ceremony (I was personally celebrating surviving the day with my life). Despite being tucked away in a strip mall behind a Fatburger, this place had a pleasant old-school Las Vegas ambiance with dimmed lighting and framed black & whites of Jack Benny, Jerry Lewis and various Rat Packers. I ordered the prime rib, a cut of cow large enough to make one forget everything that went bad in the span of 12 hours — a time I later realized would have been sufficient to drive to Vegas, back home and back to Vegas again. The two beers I had with dinner also helped alleviate the bad memories. I recommend the establishment but caution that if you’re a beer aficionado, it is a bit light on selection. The service was exceptional and they even allowed our senior editor, Rodney “Lobster Boy” Bosch, to snap a photo with one of those giant lobsters steakhouses always boast about. (We here at SSI encourage all readers who talk to or meet Rodney to feel free to ask him about his dubious nickname.)

After dinner I turned in for the night for what felt like a mere blink of an eye before I found myself hustling to get my new $99 suit on to make the Cisco keynote. Despite numerous warnings, I was not prepared for the sheer magnitude of ISC West. There were so many companies peddling so many products to so many people, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. The next three days of hoofing the immense convention floor is a blur. On one hand, there were dozens of names, faces and companies floating around my head like alphabet soup. On the other hand, I was made intimately familiar with all the features of video analytics after having it pounded into my head dozens of times.

Thursday night I allowed myself some “me time” and hit the craps table. A couple hours later (and only $50 in the hole), I was beckoned to the bar just outside of TI’s Tangerine club by new Publisher John Lacasale, Western Sales Manager Steve Grega and Eastern Sales Manager Steve Peterson. Along with a couple other staffers, we enjoyed some downtime to prepare us for the last day of ISC West.

My return trip home was completely uneventful (save for the aforementioned lost round-trip with Gray Line Airport Shuttle). Perhaps the travel gods weren’t so much letting up on me as much as they were sparing Campus Safety Executive Editor Robin Gray and Salesperson Wendy Rackley of my bad luck during our mutual flight. Whatever the case, it felt good to finally be on the other side of the tunnel and despite all that went wrong, I feel that I am better (if not way more overwhelmed by the industry) for the experience.

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