There will be no hugs and kisses in Las Vegas between the 10th and 14th of March this year. Even handshaking will not be allowed, writes Leon Louw.
Strange but true for the place known as Sin City, where French kisses are usually dished out more lavishly than peppermints in large exhibition halls. The reason: fears of a flu-like virus called COVID-19 or the coronavirus, which, at the time of writing, decimated global markets.
At a time when posts about pandemics on Twitter and Facebook spread quicker than the actual virus itself, and the doomsday clock keeps ticking, Plant Equipment & Hire will join more than 130 000 equipment enthusiasts at the 2020 Conexpo-Con/Agg in Trump Land to bring our readers as much news and information of what is happening in the global equipment market as possible, even if it does mean a few days without sleep.
President Trump has dismissed COVID-19 in the same way as he has teenage ecowarrior Gretha Thunberg and her ‘perennial prophets of doom’. And it appears that attendees to 2020 Conexpo-Con/Agg agree with Trump. They are descending on Vegas in bigger numbers than ever, despite a ban on the shaking of hands and of course, elaborate kissing.
Fear of the Coronavirus has resulted in there being more hand-sanitiser stations on the show floor this year than models in skimpy OEM bikinis, a story worth a front cover on its own.
According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), more than 4 000 new registrations for ConExpo-Con/Agg and IFPE were made in the last week of February with just days to go before the opening of the show on the 10th of March. Advance registration is said to be well ahead of the 2017 show and AEM is holding to its projected attendance of more 130 000 people to interact with more than 2500 exhibitors. “Registrations are on track to make ConExpo-Con/Agg & IFPE 2020 one of the largest in show history,” Dana Wuesthoff, ConExpo-Con/Agg show director, told Plant Equipment & Hire.
While South Africa grapples with all sorts of challenges (thankfully up to now the coronavirus is not one of them) the Plant Equipment & Hire team will be wandering the aisles of one of the biggest shows on earth, breathing in the energy of bustling Vegas (and hopefully nothing else) between hordes of mega equipment and thousands of people – if anything, a welcome break from watching amateurish showmanship in parliament, red overalls and EFF berets.
If we sat at a Roulette table and I had to put all my chips on wearing a mask and watching the Can-Can in Vegas; or listening to an ever-expanding Floyd Shivambu in red overalls bursting at the seams trying to lecture our finance minister about the economy, I’ll put all my money on the former anyday.
Hopefully, whatever virus international visitors carry with them to Vegas, stays in Vegas, and we don’t bring it back with us to South Africa and if we do, that our President keeps his cool. President Ramaphosa was dealt a dead man’s hand three years ago, and he can hardly afford something like coronavirus to add to his woes. Afterall, COVID-19, a dividing Ace, a threatening Joker who changes berets as the wind blows, an ailing but dangerous former king, an overweight, looting red diamond and a highly intelligent queen of hearts is just about a royal flush that would make even the best poker face think twice before he folds.
As the plane takes off, I think of South Africa, and of poker faces, and of Vegas, while Elvis Presley’s famous song reverberates in my ears over and over:
How I wish that there were more
Than the twenty-four hours in the day
Even if there were forty more
I wouldn’t sleep a minute away
Oh, there’s black jack and poker and the roulette wheel
A fortune won and lost on every deal
All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel
Viva Las Vegas! Viva Las Vegas!
The article was written before we left for Las Vegas on 9 March 2020. At the time there were no COVID-19 cases reported in South Africa, Floyd Shivambu’s red overall was still two sizes too small (he has yet to change it for a pair of orange ones), and ex-president Zuma just returned from a trip to Cuba for treatment of an unknown illness. Strange days indeed.