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Happy to be leaving Las Vegas

N0vember 19, 1998
Web posted at: 6:55 PM ET

by James Connolly, Computerworld features editor

(IDG) -- I'm no longer a road warrior. I'm roadkill.

The vacant stares I see on every face make me wonder: Did these people just witness death? Are they members of a bizarre cult drawn from the catacombs by the Leonid meteor shower?

Or are they just Comdexians who stayed a day too long? I also wonder: Do I look that bad?
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By midday yesterday, the few chairs to be found at the convention center cradled attendees who were nodding off to sleep. Are they weary from walking show floors or from the Vegas nightlife?

Monday's irritation at the lines for everything had given way to resignation and the realization that you can never get anywhere on time. Right now, I'm not sure whether the line I'm on will yield me a shriveled hot dog and soda ($5.50) or a cab.

It's time to check out the exhibits at the Hilton. No problem, the hotel is right next door. Of course, next door or down the block in Vegas is measured in miles. I wonder if it's worth the half-hour round-trip walk.

The noise still permeates the show floors, and I'm not sure which of a half-dozen nearby booths is producing the throbbing bass that pounds my brain. The booth hucksters haven't calmed down, either, and they continue their shrill mantra: "Biggest ... best ... integrated ... lowest cost ... fastest." But nobody's really listening, nobody's filling out little white cards to win a T-shirt.

A booth flunky hands out pamphlets that nobody will read. I see her mouthing the huckster's words even before he can form them: "Cost of ownership .... SCSI .... ODBC ... real-time." I can't tell what this guy is selling.

The funny hats, buttons and loot bags are gone. Wearing a software box on your head might have seemed sporty on Monday, but now it just looks stupid.

Now, the attendees just roam. They're not really checking out those neat multimedia notebooks. They're actually watching the DVD demo movie the notebooks are playing.

Communicating is no easier. Modems still lose connections in midstream, and nobody can get a cellular phone signal to the outside world. We're all packing thousands of dollars worth of technology, and we are all trapped. E.T. had an easier time phoning home.

The technology arguments have ceased, too. Instead, I found myself debating with a co-worker about whether the number of street people handing out soft-porn calling cards and pamphlets for strip joints and brothels had grown or shrunk.

By yesterday, I was sick of the clink-clunk-ca-ching of coins spitting from slot machines and women covering little of what nature gave them. And I actually began to wonder whether that was really Elvis that I saw.

Maybe Vegas ain't a place for a poor old country boy from New England.

The most-asked question yesterday: "So, when do you get to go home?" The most happy answer: "Tonight." The most pathetic follow-up: "Tonight? You're so lucky, I'm here through Thursday."

My Hush Puppies bark at the mere thought of hauling over to the Sands, as I aim to go there just because I haven't seen what's there yet. My notebook PC, already about eight pounds before the show, gained weight this week. One shoulder is three inches lower than it was on Sunday.

Comdex Day Four? I don't think so. I'd rather spend six hours today crammed in to a flying aluminum can with a couple of hundred other weary show-goers. I just pity my seatmate if he says to me: "Oh, you were at Comdex? Let me tell you about the solution my company offers."

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