Recently one of the musical instrument industry’s “elder statesmen” Ed Rider started a Facebook Group called “Old Reps Never Die” (they just go out of commission). Some of the posts brought back memories from the many years I spent roaming around the country, foraging for sales, and making friends along the way, including Ed. I remember distinctly traveling with him in the Carolinas selling Marshall amps and pulling up to a hotel in what may have been the hardest rainstorm in memory. Pulling into the parking lot in Ed’s van, we realized the rain was not letting up, so we made a mad dash to the entrance, looking like drenched rats when checking in. We had a lot of laughs and good times on that trip, and it’s a pleasure to call Ed a friend and a fellow cancer survivor.
Stick to the Four Lanes, Son
One of my first road trips in 1987 as the Ensoniq rep took me from Roanoke, Virginia, over to a meeting scheduled in Beckley, West Virginia. Looking at the map it appeared that cutting across the mountains on a small squiggly road would save some time; little did I know this was a very hilly area with many switchbacks, and I ended up getting stuck behind logging trucks that were driving what appeared to be 10-15 mph. I ended up hours behind schedule and very frazzled. Later, I called a veteran sales buddy who admonished me with words I never forgot – “stick to the four-lanes, son” he said, meaning the Interstate Highways were usually a much better choice, even if it looked longer on the map.
Where There’s a Will There’s a Way
While at Sonic Foundry circa 1998, we had the opportunity to present some “lite” versions of our products to the mighty America Online (they were still huge at the time and selling software titles). Windshear was preventing eastbound flights out of Madison’s Dane County Airport, and I needed desperately to get back to AOL’s corporate headquarters in Virginia by the next morning. Hundreds of angry customers packed the relatively small check-in area, so when my turn arrived, I politely asked a harried employee if there was any possible way to catch a flight out of town. She pondered the question for a moment, then said I could get the last flight out to the west to Minneapolis, then layover for a late trip back to Philadelphia. The problem was that my car was parked at the Allentown Airport. Long story getting longer, I got to Philly and took a cab to Allentown, fetching my car. I stopped by my house to catch a quick shower, then sped like a demon overnight to make my appointment at AOL. While we didn’t get the sale, I learned an important lesson in tenacity that night – “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Weather or Not, You Have to Get Home
I’ve spent nights sleeping at airports due to bad weather and canceled flights, once at O’Hare, and two years ago at LAX (this was the painful trip home with bruised ribs after being hit at NAMM by a pickup truck). There have been long delays on the highways, and I’ve seen more than my share of horrific wrecks and mangled bodies. I remember one time traveling in western Pennsylvania on Route 80, with snow so hard it became a “whiteout.” The best I could do was get as close as safely possible behind an 18-wheeler, and follow those taillights, albeit at a very slow pace. I have memories of those days deadheading it home from Ohio when we lived for a year down in Frederick, Maryland, and the great feeling of finally pulling into the driveway. All of this has me thinking about upcoming trips to Brooklyn (traffic like you wouldn’t believe), and a June journey this year from NAMM in Anaheim and InfoComm in Las Vegas… in a rental car. Hoping this time history does not repeat itself…
Joe Lamond says
Love these stories Doug, priceless. The idea that no one ever really ever leaves this business reminds me of the old rep joke, two grizzled reps standing in the aisles at NAMM…
rep 1: ‘Did you her about old Fred, he died…
rep 2: Oh no, I didn’t, what did he have? (Meaning how did it happen)
rep 1: He had Shure for Florida, George and the Carolinas…
OK, it sounds better when I tell it… But I will say, in my early days in retail, the reps were our lifeline to the outside world and taught me most of what I needed to know about the business, I will be forever in their debt. See you at the NAMM Show!
Leslie Butts says
Been there been stranded as well…Whiteout trips in Salt Lake and Denver…hoping that semi in front of me I was following was actually on the road! Road life can be fun…interesting…exceedingly frustrating..but hey…it’s what we do right?
Joe Zinni says
Great stories Doug! Hope you’re doing well and looking forward to catching up soon.