The Five People You Meet at Trade Shows

I’ve been working at Frontera Foods for nearly three years, making it the longest, most profitable relationship I’ve had in my life thus far. Every year we exhibit at three major trade shows: a winter show in San Francisco, a spring show in Anaheim, and a summer show in NYC. Each show is special in its own right and I say ‘special’ the same way my 6th grade art teacher used to describe most of my artwork. Expo West, for instance, is known as the “party show.” Hotel bartenders love when this show rolls into town because we drink a lot and we tip generously. But if there’s one thing that each show guarantees, it’s unlimited kombucha and countless characters from all walks of life. I’ve discovered that each show draws all of the following types: the hungry exhibitor, the shopper, the Rick Bayless fan girl/guy, the salesman, and the ingredient snob. These characters, combined with all the amazing “fashion,” make these shows a lot more fun than one would think.

A brief note on the fashion: The clothing/overall look of some people at these shows is truly remarkable…I’m all for self-expression through fashion, but there is no reason a grown man in the year 2017 should be able to walk freely in an Ed Hardy shirt.

The Hungry Exhibitor

It takes one to know one. At my first trade show I consumed over 3,000 calories in 7 hours…probably. I wasn’t counting because math, but it was definitely an obscene number.

Because we serve actual food rather than slivers of bird food disguised as protein bars, people flock to our booth (unintentional bird pun). While I am more than happy to feed my hardworking peers, there are always a handful of exhibitors who treat the show like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Hungry exhibitors want to try anything and everything, including shit they don’t even like. The hungriest exhibitors visit our booth multiple times, but act like it’s their first time, every time. Like, I just saw you 5 minutes ago, Roy from Popchips, I’m sorry you have to eat Popchips all the time, but you’re getting annoying and you have bad breath.

The Shopper/Free-Loader

These people are the worst. They come to these shows with one objective: to fill their bags with as much free product as possible. Some people bring coolers. It doesn’t matter what it is – dog food, an actual dog, cured meats, they just want to walk out of there with a ton of free shit. Some of these scavengers have the decency to ask for a sample, but most just grab it off the table and walk away casually like they didn’t just steal something. News flash: it’s a trade show, not tryouts for “Looter #1” in an apocalyptic movie. Ass.

The Rick Bayless Fan

photo-944171793Bayless poses for a photo with a fan.

Rick Bayless is the brand’s celebrity chef. He’s helped to promote the consumption, appreciation and preparation of Mexican cuisine in the US through his TV show, cookbooks, and restaurants. He has over 200,000 Instagram followers, so yeah, he’s kind of a grande deal. One time we talked in the elevator at work. It was sweet.

Bayless has a lot of admirers and many are at these shows. The second most frequently asked question after “Can I take you out after the show?” is “Is Rick Bayless here?” “No, he couldn’t make it” I say. “But he wishes he could be here.” This is a blatant lie. Of course he’s not here, and in fact, he had no intention of being here…I’ve been to one show where he made an appearance, and it was kind of important for him to be there because he was accepting a lifetime achievement award.

So unless they create an award for chef with the best mustache or most flexible chef, the chances of him attending another show are very slim. And we all know Guy Fieri would win best mustache. If you really want to meet Rick, I suggest you go to one of the many cooking demos he does all over the country, or pay me $100 and I’ll personally introduce you to him. Now eat your taco and scram. But don’t forget to take a coupon and have a nice day, too. Ugh.

The Salesman

iStock_000016277947XSmall-200x300

At least 1 in 3 people at a show are in sales and are there to gather new business leads. I’m pretty much the lowest level employee at Frontera…like one notch above the copy machine, and I really have no power when it comes to making company purchasing decision. These sales guys don’t know this, so they just come up to me and start talking about whatever product/software/service they’re selling. I’m a genuine person with a heart of gold, but I’m also a master bullshitter. I’ve been subjected to countless sales pitches, and they all follow the same script…

Sales guy: Hi Christina! Who do I talk to about marketing/exporting/packaging…?

At this point I’ll either pass him off to a coworker or ride it out.

Sales guy: Great. So let me tell you a little about what we do….

He then begins to go into his sales pitch and I nod and smile, acting all engaged and shit. Sometimes I throw in random comments or ask a question to show I’m listening. Sometimes I actually listen.

After a few minutes of chatting, sales guy wraps up his pitch and suggests we schedule a follow up call. If I find him annoying I pull the old “I ran out of cards, but here’s my colleagues card” trick. But in the unlikely event that he is somewhat attractive, I give him my card and a room key.

Last but not least,

The Ingredient Snob

WD 0716-36

Remember when there were just people with peanut allergies? Those were the days. And while I respect people who don’t eat meat, or dairy or gluten, I will never be able to relate to them on an emotional or physical level. I am a passionate meat-eater and need to be with someone who is always down to go halfsies on a rack of ribs and a filet. A decent amount of consumers come to these shows in search of products that meet their specific dietary standards. They might be looking to lower their cholesterol or sugar intake, or they might be looking for organic baby food to feed their babies who can’t tell the difference. (When I was a baby I ate an alarming amount of sand from a dirty sandbox and I turned out just fine). It’s easy to identify an ingredient snob because they pick up product off the table without saying hello and study the label silently. After reading the ingredients they either smile and say “Wow, this actually looks really good,” or they quietly set the product back down upon realizing the product does not meet their standards, and disappear into the crowd.

Standard

Live from Western Ave.

I have three roommates. Their names are Madison and Mollie, but I just call them “M&M”(no I don’t). My third roommate is a gorgeous Maine Coon cat named Sophia.

My super cool microphone hasn’t gotten much action in the past few months. Sometimes I’ll take it out and pretend I’m a singer, but other than that it just sits in my drawer. I decided it was time for the roomies to sit down and gab about life over a glass of vino. After a glass, they were totally cool with recording our conversation. Imagine the things I could coerce them into doing after two! Wine is truly amazing.

WARNING: This recording contains explicit content and things I don’t want my parents to hear.

Standard

not so sweet sixteen

I overheard a girl about my age say that memes are the new Chinese Proverbs. Okay fine, it was me. Anyway, the other day I was scrolling through my instagram feed, and about four hours into scrolling I came across a meme that made me pause and think. It said “2016 was a great year if you’re a horrible person.” I laughed, but then I felt sad, because the meme was right. 2016 was a year that many of us will look back on with remorse…

Let’s face it, there was nothing sweet about this sixteen…2016 was bad enough to be the inspiration behind a trailer for a horror movie parody entitled 2016. This is going to be as vulgar as I get, but I can’t think of any better way to describe 2016 other than a gigantic turd year. I don’t really want to go into it – “it” being the clusterfack that was 2016, mostly because I promised myself I would never be the type of person that uses social media as an outlet to bitch and moan about things I can’t change. I think we can all agree that the past 365 days had ups and downs. A few examples of ups: The Cubs won the World Series, I learned how to use a lighter without burning my finger*, 128 million babies were born, tiger, manatee and panda (panda panda panda) populations grew, the Summer Olympics was dope, and after a 20 year hiatus A Tribe Called Quest put out a new album, which is also very dope. A few major downs from this year: I gave up carbs for a month and gained three pounds, the country feels more divided than ever, we lost Prince and David Bowie, among several other American icons, and the latest beauty trend is shaving your face…not for guys, but for girls. Don’t we shave enough as it is? I like my hairy face.

With 2016 in the rear view mirror, I hope that we can set aside our differences and work to insight real change. The circumstances may not be ideal, but that’s when we work the hardest. And that’s the most serious sentence I’ve ever penned. Right behind “I like my hairy face.”

*I’m still burning my finger. This is why I could never be a smoker.

UPDATE: 2017 is off to a rocky start. Male Chokers were the subject of a segment on the Today Show this morning. This is not a joke.

Standard

Breaking Curses

If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted in a while, it’s because I’ve been so busy spending time with my new boyfriend, Raphael. We met waiting in line at the grocery store…he was buying chobani yogurt and I had to comment that black cherry was also my favorite flavor…he looks a lot like Mark Consuelos in the way that all Brazilian men look like Mark Consuelos. Then he offered to buy all my groceries. AS IF!! I’m a Siggis girl forever!

The real reason is because I’ve been living and breathing MLB Baseball. Up until this season, as far as sports go, Baseball was like the slightly nerdy but sweet guy in high school that you were nice to, but never really gave a second look. Now you’re back from college and you see this good looking guy from across the room and you’re like “whoooo is that?” to your friends and they tell you it’s that guy who used to be a nerd.

Well for the first time in a long time – 108 years to be exact – our lovable losers became lovable and winners. The Cubs won the World Series. And not only did they win it, they came back from a 3-1 deficit, which is really really hard to do, you guys! I will never forget the moment we got that last out to seal the deal. I was about to finish my sixth bud heavy when suddenly the room erupted into shouts of celebration. I grabbed a bottle of champagne out of the fridge, ran out of the house and fell down the stairs. I quickly got up and joined the rest of the city in what will easily go down as the greatest celebration of all time. I can’t wait to tell my kids, Brooke, Landon and Randall, that their mom was there the night the Cubs made history. After a few sips my bottle of champagne was confiscated, but it was more just for show, so I didn’t mind. Wrigleyville was the most lit place on earth (I never thought I’d say that) and I was in the center of it all. I think I high fived over 100 people that night. Kind of gross touching all those hands, but also kind of neat because high fives are the absolute greatest gesture.

I’m not gonna lie to you, I am as fair weather as they come. Three years ago, if you had asked me to name a player on the team, I would have said something stupid like Blake Shelton. When Joe Maddon came on as our coach I kept referring to him as Joel. I was confusing him with the lead singer of Good Charlotte. Now I know the names of the owner, manager, most of the players and of course, the WAGS. Because behind every successful ball player is an amazing WAG.

Watching the games leading up to the actual World Series was like watching the longest, most suspense-filled sports movie ever. I laughed, I cried, I drank a concerning amount of beer and an unhealthy amount of nachos. We all know this season will be made into the most epic sports movie, but I think it’s worthy of much more. A museum, perhaps? What about a wax museum like Madame Tussauds? Or how about a remake of Groundhog Day, but in this version every day is November 4th, 2016. I think Bill Murray would be into it.

Chicagoans will be talking about this season and this team for many years to come. Governor Rauner proclaimed November 4th to forever be “World Champion Chicago Cubs Day.” If it were up to me, I’d make every day “World Champion Chicago Cubs Day.” Even my birthday, because honestly I’m kinda over it.

14910542_1362776400401405_9121079805580709993_nlegendary night with a legendary crew

Standard

We Found Love in a Hyundai Sonata

About a month ago I went on a date with a nice Filipino boy. I met him on an app, but not a dating app – I actually met him in an Uber, making it a little less embarrassing, right? Maybe not. At first, the idea of sharing a ride with a total stranger seemed a little shady, but then I realized that Uber drivers are total strangers, so what difference does it make if a couple more strangers are added to the mix? So I gave it a try and now I have 10 new friends, including a guy named Murphy who texts me every couple of weeks an enthusiastic “Hey!”, a couple of Irish guys named Mike and Chris, a Real Estate mogul named Glen, an Analyst at Macy’s whose name I can’t remember but we’re definitely friends, and of course, Bae (Anthony).

I met Anthony in a Hyndai Sinata on a ride to a conference in Rosemont, which is a comically unromantic combination of car model and location. I’m not sure how we got to talking, but our conversation went on for entire 45 minute ride, with only a few awkward pauses. We touched on many topics typically discussed on a first date: origins, blood type, job, whether or not we’d ever been convicted of a felony, best deep dish pizza in Chicago, music, and of course, which Friends character we relate to most. Anthony claimed to be a Ross, but he’s a Chandler through and through. When we rolled up to my destination, the ultra glamorous Crowne Plaza Rosemont, friendly goodbyes were exchanged, but nothing more. I had a feeling this wasn’t goodbye. This was confirmed in the form of an unexpected LinkedIn request. This is modern romance, people. Girl meets boy, boy likes girl, boy hits her with a friend request on a business-oriented social network.

When I told my friends the story they laughed, but ultimately encouraged me to give him a chance. I asked them what my next move should be. Like, how does one go about flirting on LinkedIn? Do I endorse his Powerpoint skills or is that coming on too strong? We started messaging, and our conversation dragged on for about 4 weeks before he finally mustered the courage to ask for my number. We went on two dates, and while the spark just wasn’t there, I think he’s a really cool person. There was one really big turnoff about Anthony, and to be honest, it may have meant the difference between a third date…I hated his sunglasses. I’m being serious. They were circle frames, kind of like the ones sported by Mugatu, Nicole Richie, and Willie Wonka. That’s a fucking deal breaker in my book.

johnny-depp-as-willy-wonka

 

Standard

High Times at Barnes and Noble

I’ve been sitting on this story for well over a year now…I’ve told a small number of people the abridged version, but I think it’s time for me to come out with it in its entirety. Much like the time I wore a vest with an embroidered owl on it and called it “fashion,” or the time I ate an entire family-size bag of chex mix in one sitting, it’s a day in my life that I am not proud of, but it happened. I hope – if anything – this story serves as a cautionary tale of the dangers of over indulging in marijuana-laced brownies.

It was an unusually cold Sunday in November…the forecast predicted a chance of flurries and a 100% chance that I would be tripping balls by afternoon. I made plans with a few friends, let’s call them Ron, Harry, Hermoine and Ginny. Together, we decided to do what I suspect most 15-18 year-old boys do every Sunday: get baked and see a sci-fi movie. Harry and Ron, who are well-versed in baking of the herbal kind, brought over a batch of fresh brownies for us to eat before the movie. We each took a portion of a brownie. I finished mine in .3 seconds out of habit. Then I ate another small portion 20 minutes later.

The walk to the theater was a cold one, but everyone was in high spirits (pun intended). The movie we were going to see, Interstellar, was sold out, so we bought tickets for the next showing. With some time to kill, we wandered into the Barnes and Noble next door, and as we roamed through the stacks of books I started to feel really really stoned. I began to have dark, abstract thoughts: “Why am I here?” “What is carpet made of?” “How did all these books get here?” I sat down at a table with Hermoine and Ron and tried to act nonchalant, although I probably looked something like this:

enhanced-23683-1424224343-11

I looked down at my phone and told myself that everything was going to be okay. I was without a doubt the highest person at the Barnes and Noble Cafe and maybe even the highest person in the entire Barnes and Noble.

I decided I needed to leave immediately before I had a full on panic attack. “I have to make a call,” I announced to the table, slowly rising out of my chair. I charged my way toward and started walking back to my apartment. About two blocks into my walk I decided that now would be a good time to call my dad. I told him I’d eaten a pot brownie and that I felt weird. He responded by telling me that I was extremely high and advised me to go home, pour myself a glass of wine and put on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon. I was not amused. About three blocks from my apartment I began to feel queasy and decided to rest on a street curb. I distinctly remember examining my hands and thinking they weren’t mine. I saw the blurred image of a girl across the street and decided to call out to her and ask if I could sit on her couch. “I’m just really high and need to sit down,” I yelled to her from the other side of the road. She said she didn’t live here. I told her to enjoy her visit. I picked myself up off the ground and with newfound determination, walked to my apartment.

I was home, but I was alone and in a very fragile state. I called Ginny and asked if she and Hermoine would come back and comfort me. I also told them not to bring Ron and Harry. I didn’t want them to see me like this. Ginny and Hermoine took turns holding me and scratching my back. I swayed back and forth like a crazy person before I finally fell asleep. Meanwhile my phone was on silent and my parents were trying to reach me.

At around 9:30 we heard a knock on my door. My apartment was pitch black except for the glow of the TV. It was a waitress from the restaurant downstairs, we’ll call it Three Broomsticks. She explained that she was instructed to do a wellness check at the request of my parents. I looked at my phone and saw that I had 12 missed and one text from my brother asking for the Netflix password. I called and told them I was okay, that I was watching Silver Linings Playbook and had fallen asleep. Needless to say, I haven’t touched a weed brownie since…regular brownies, yes.

 

Standard

My friend Barbs

My dear friend Barbs stopped by and showed me what she’s learned on the piano! Also covered in this episode: summer fashion trends, the sound of both of us biting into rice cakes, and Barbie reveals her first crush! So much drama! And you definitely don’t want to miss Barbie’s display of how terrible she is at song lyrics…it’s seriously mind-blowing how bad she is.

 

Standard