You need escape & evasion training to operate efficiently in the hostile environment of a trade show. Clear-headedness and military discipline must be coupled with the stealth of a Ninja and the ability to become invisible, or capture will ensue. There’ll always be casualties though. My compatriot fell after forgetting his training.
A hundred times I’d repeated the drill: “The higher the skirt, the lower the intentions. Ignore the legs and watch for the vacant eyes, because they’re only there as honey traps.” But no, transfixed by some legs ending in six-inch stilletoes he hesitated for one fatal moment and within seconds he’d been dragged to the chocolate fountain. He was a dead man walking after that and I had to leave him behind, the silvery talk of his captors echoing in my ears as they sold him a new hearse.
The funeral trade is a business like any other and has a trade exhibition to prove it. The savvy attendee knows how to move vigilantly, to pass undetected and unhindered between the exhibitors’ stands. Hard tactical decisions need to be made and sometimes enduring an excruciatingly dull lecture from a management software developer might be a necessary evil to avoid being snared and radicalised by testosterone-fuelled sales reptiles from funeral pre-payment plan providers wanting to sign your company up.
There’s three types of exhibitor: the largely harmless “sit there with a tableful of leaflets” type – a thankless fate normally accorded to non-religious celebrants and insurance companies. Then there’s the space invaders – who assume if you’re stood within five metres of the edge of their stand then you’re fair game. The aforementioned pre-payment plan providers are the worst culprits, but coffin manufacturers and assorted others are not above such tactics.
And finally you have the big boys’ toys exhibitors, the vehicle coachbuilders, whose gleaming wares hold such magnetic allure to everyone present that having a couple of low-buttoned, high-hemmed hotties tottering round offering spoonfuls of molten chocolate seems an utterly superfluous measure. These shameless operators even have nail bars to distract the WAGs (who in small family businesses are often the book-keepers and finance managers too) while their men-folk are persuaded to blow the money saved for the tax bill on an automotive temptress provocatively sporting leather upholstery and an electrically operated coffin deck.
Coachbuilders are people who can make a Haines Manual read like the Kama Sutra:
“Discerning drivers of the E-Class Hearse will appreciate the electric, height-adjustable heated front seats, climate control and self-levelling suspension. The full size, lined under-deck is enhanced by subdued LED lighting, and dignified access is ensured by the provision of four doors together with the soft-close manual tailgate. And for that modern, contemporary look it comes in a range of fifty shades of grey.”
Pilato, the Italian coachbuilders, keep it bloke-friendly by simply draping scantily-clad females across their promotional material, but it’s Lindner - a Polish coffin manufacturing company, who’ve taken the concept right to the outer suburbs of soft pornography itself. They’re renowned for their own unique take on the Pirelli calendar, giving new meaning to the concept of coffins & bodies. Sadly Lindner don’t yet attend the UK trade show, but the hope lingers on…
Inevitably then, the purveyors of more mundane merchandise like memorial stones, embalming chemicals and coffin furnishings have to work hard at attracting attention from funeral directors dreamily ambling around like children in a gigantic sweet shop. But it’s the formal wear suppliers, having very portable stock, who are always guaranteed of doing a roaring trade during a show. I too have fallen for their wiles: “While I’m here I could just do with a new pair of striped trousers” before ending up walking away with a half a new wardrobe.
With new premises under construction, the bi-annual exhibition was a timely occurrence last year as there’s specific equipment I’m in the market for. Although she won’t see this I offer a public apology to the girl caressing her range of Italian marble ashes urns, mistakenly convinced that her slinky 34-24-34 statistics would be enough to distract me from a foxy, state-of-the-art, stainless steel embalming suite giving me the metallic come-on from the adjacent mortuary equipment stand.