in an Exhibition
It takes me two days to find out the inscription CERF on the entrance posters. The word that strikes the eye is "conference" and if the fair includes a conference I would look at this respectfully but without enthusiasm.
However, in spite of the festive opening, adorned with personalities (who hope that Romania will turn overnight form a country where computers are forbidden into a technology paradise), the stands are scarce. People don't come in great numbers, there are no "big" names and the merchandise rarely shocks through novelty or cutting edge technology. Things being that way,
I try to behave like an average visitor, to look at things not like an exhibitor with label on the chest pocket but more likely as the person I really am: a fan of the good machines, great soft wares and even greater games. That's how I start my tour. Last year, two friends of mine wanted to buy printers.
They wandered around the stands of last year's CERF with frustration mixed with fury. While they were passing by the exhibitors, they would get a standard answer: "Listen, you come to us after the CERF and we give you any offer you want." That would gradually puzzle them more and more. Didn't those people come there to sell?
AThe same friends would search also a briefcase then. A briefcase? Of course, they wanted one for carrying laptops. The clerk's answer astonished them: "But these are luxury objects... You know, it's like Shalimar among cosmetics." In other words, "you don't have enough money for my stuff." It's true that our country is not yet the land where the unknown millionaire comes hiding his credit cards in ragged jeans but does it matter so much?
I was telling them a year ago how slow one could learn the art of selling and that of advertising your products is even more difficult to learn. Indeed, among the much poorer ranges of this year's CERF I see the priceless "laptop" bags. I go closer, for I have my cards in the breast pocket. "Which one would you like?" the clerk asks me politely. "Each one is different, show me the one you would like." He explains me how they are made, he shows me those made of leather and those of imitation. "If you have not decided, you may come again tomorrow." Yeah, I might be optimistic once in a while for a change.
But not for long, as two steps further I stare at a stand with stocking devices. Before opening my mouth to ask about the price of a virgin CD, somebody else anticipates me and I am ready to hear the answer. "How much are the blanks?" "Oh, you know, we only sell in large quantities." "How large?" "Well, a hundred, two hundred..." "Very well, how much is it if I take a hundred?" At that moment, the boss breaks in: "What do you want?" "Well, can you give me the offer with the blanks you're selling?" "Listen, we only sell in very large quantities." And so on, God, how difficult it is to spend your money...
Nearby, a young man with a stick in his hand makes a demonstration for a group of five or six men over the age of fifty who are looking at him with the bored expression of those who had long enough missed the idea. "So, the satellite image..." I catch a few words. "A board is on display here", "inundation can be arranged". He nods to the colleague who shifts the images. I burst into laughing and leave. In the end, he was not presenting a bad product but the marketing, oh, dear!
I look for children. This is certainly a much more beautiful place for them than for me. Dozens of stations display games for them. These are not always the newest and you can count on the fingers of your hands those connected to the Internet. I hide myself behind the supporters' groups, trying to catch something of the gamestick pleasures. It's silence here, the players are as silent as the people in the rest of the show are noisy. To speak truly, I was expecting to hear encouraging phrases: "Go on, hit it now." or something like that but the kids must have learned for a long time how difficult it is to feel somebody else's blow in your back. It seems curious to me that I see only reflex games, of course, the monitors' value must be proved but one could try to do it with a "Mist" or something like that once in a while. Anyway, that's a matter of taste. The car race with killing people seems to me rather of a bad taste. Boys with angelic faces drive crazily cars that splash the passers by in bloody heaps. Hmm.
People eat, read and ask. Rumors float in the air. The "cannon" market has sensibly decreased. Those who had to set up larger networks are fewer and nobody thinks to replace one so fast. The individual consumers' market has grown and one or two of the dealers should think of convincing them that it would be better not to buy the child's PC from a supermarket, especially because it might be more profitable not to do so.
The evening is cold outside, large groups of visitors leave with bags full of leaflets. The great buildings of a dictator's dream stay sheltering those computers once forbidden out of the fear of their mechanical precision. Computers are holding today the key to our dreams but not yet everybody's dreams.