August 2, 2010
What’s that saying about the best laid plans? Well, in my case this summer, they went to hell in a handbasket. As with every summer, I was planning to spend weekends in my beloved Avalon, NJ (“the sunny place for shady people,” as W. Somerset Maugham once said about the French Riviera), attend the SAAC Show (one of my favorites) and then spend a week in Europe at the end of August with my pal Hillary Braubitz, ASI’s award-winning senior designer who lays out our magazines, at the brand-new Pro10 Show (a collaboration of PSI and its competitor, Pro8) in Amsterdam, followed by a weekend in Paris. Sounds fabulous, right?
Enter my mother, Judge Judye (she doesn’t sit on the bench, but is judgmental!) who decided to have an elective surgery at Tampa General (she and my stepfather live in Sanibel, FL) on June 30. The surgery was considered a success, but complications set in and she had to have a second surgery on July 1. Upon speaking to the doctors and my stepfather (who has the early signs of dementia), I immediately flew in from Philly on July 2, and have been here ever since.
It’s amazing how quickly you can adjust to a new reality. For the last month, my stepdad and I spend eight to nine hours a day in my mom’s room at Tampa General and our evenings at the hotel. Remember the famous children’s story of “Eloise living at the Plaza in New York”? My version is, “Michele at the Embassy Suites in Tampa.” That the hotel staff has been phenomenally hospitable, gracious and accommodating has made this whole experience that much easier. If there was ever a case for exceptional customer service winning someone over for life, it’s me and my new devotion to the Embassy Suites.
What’s been interesting to see, because the hotel is situated right next to the Tampa Convention Center, is the different trade-show groups and conference attendees who have come and gone. The good news? They all love ad specialties. What types of ad specialties they love varies according to the personalities of the groups. For example, the Convention of Physical Therapists went nuts for stress balls of all shapes and sizes; the meeting of Anime and Comic Book fans (which sold out my hotel), whose demographic is over-stimulated Gen Y-ers, got their freak on for bright, shiny, blinky items; the Florida Bar Association had its law students taking the bar exam at the Convention Center last week, so they craved pens, notepads, USB drives and coffee for late-night, last-minute cram sessions. The Stephenson family reunion (with over 200 people in attendance!) snapped up custom T-shirts, caps and slankets, all bearing a familial logo designed by a family member, and digital photo frames. And, the guests who attended the huge wedding held at the Convention Center (and corresponding cocktail parties by the pool and brunches at the hotel) were treated to gift bags filled with logoed, personalized candy, bottled water, beach towels, lip balm and sunscreen.
And in answer to the question, “Do recipients take their giveaways with them or leave them in their hotel rooms?” I’ll share with you what one of the physical therapy attendees told me in the elevator one day: “I’d leave my husband behind before leaving the bag of goodies I’ve collected at this show!”
The doctors tell me that my mom, who has been making excellent progress in the last 10 days, may be able to go home on August 9 (my birthday, ironically). Until then, I’ll be here – splitting my time between Tampa General (like the Embassy Suites, another extraordinary staff) and the hotel. How do I get by? As Ringo famously said, with a little help from my friends:
More soon from sunny Florida where – on the upside – it’s actually cooler than it’s been in Philly!