Several weeks ago, my guy Mark, who is in charge of events at the Salvation Army, sent me an email to confirm the January 2nd show. He asked if I wanted to move it to a different date because the Salvation Army would be closed on January 1 and there was no one to set up the show.
I blindly volunteered to come in on January 1 and set up the show myself. Mark said that was okay but asked me to think about it knowing what a beast it is to set up 67 tables, 100 chairs, and place wall signs all in three rooms.
Well, I had already been promoting the January 2nd date for months and felt I did not have a choice.
I was not up too late on New Year's Eve but it was tough to fall asleep due to all the knuckleheads in my neighborhood lighting off fireworks into the wee hours of the morning. I ended up getting a much later start than I wanted. I threw some clothes into a backpack, in case I wanted to spend the night in Milwaukee. I did not bring any of my cards because:
(1) I was not sure if there were any tables available for me, due to the massive influx dealers.
(2) it would have been a real hassle to deal with the cards if I was to spend the night. I am never comfortable leaving cards in my car over night. I am always worried about thieves. So if I brought the cards, I would have had to unload them into the hotel room.
(3) Lastly, it has become too difficult to manage both my tables and the show.
As a result, I hit the road for Milwaukee at about 11:45 a.m. on New Year's Day with no cards in my car. I had heard reports about snow. Thankfully, the roads were clear when I started out. However, I was greeted by snow and blustery winds when I hit the Wisconsin border.
Around Kenosha, I took a peak in my rearview mirror just in time to watch an SUV spin out and slam into the center median. Boy was I spooked. I thought about pulling over but the roads were so messy, I was afraid I would spin out at the exit. So I stayed in the slow lane.
It wasn't long before I had to move to the left lane to avoid another spin out that I could see in my lane up ahead. Luckily, I did not spin out when I switched lanes. I was also able to get back into the slow lane once I passed the carnage. Man, was I nervous. Then I observed an accident in the southbound lanes involving two trucks and some cars. Southbound traffic was at a standstill for miles.
I was on pins and needles. The roads were bad. It was tough to even see the road and I was never sure that I was actually in a lane. Then you get the morons who haul ass or the morons who tailgate. I had to deal with both of those types. I just held my breath until I hit Ryan Road.
Thankfully the Ryan Road exit had been plowed and I was able to get away from some numbnut practically on my bumper. Didn't he see all the spin outs?
So the exit was plowed but Ryan Road itself was a mess. I kind of slid into the far left lane and slowly drove east toward Howell. A few MadMax types blew by me but I was not speeding up because I was not getting much traction. I almost slid into the intersection at Howell.
Somehow I made it to the Salvation Army in one piece. Mark left me a key and I was able to get into the building. It was kind of spooky being in that place all by myself. I found the light switch in the gym and just stared at the vast space not really sure how to begin setting it up for the show.
I walked into the Fellowship Hall, the smaller room next to the gym, turned on the lights, then walked into the Hallway by the Chapel, turned on the lights and observed five or six carts filled with tables. I grabbed the nearest cart and tried to roll it into the gym. My back went out. Ugh!
I had to walk it off then was able to roll the carts of tables into the gym. Unfortunately, the gym was blocked by netting used for batting cages. I sent Mark a text asking for instructions to take down the netting. The instructions never came so I figured it out. I found a large ladder and forced my shaky diabetic legs up the rings, near the top, and reached for one of three hooks holding the netting to the wall, about 14 feet up. Back went out again. I climbed down and walked it off again.
Somehow I was able to get the three hooks unlocked and was able to get the netting and myself, safely to the ground. Then Mr. Shaky Diabetic Legs and Achy Back was able to roll the carts of tables into the gym.
My first inclination in the gym was to ditch the carts and shoot some baskets but I figured that would kill all of my arm strength and I would not have anything left to set up the tables. I was really feeling old and out of shape.
I set to the task of pulling the tables off the carts, pulling out the legs and flipping them over and placing them in rows. I wanted to set up the room the same way Mark usually does it. I know that distancing the tables six-feet from one another was required. I also remembered that Mark places these large plastic dividers, I think of them as hockey boards. I remember when I was a kid in the 1970's, we used them to outline our floor hockey games at the local YMCA.
I did not know they were so heavy! They were stacked up in the hallway between the gym and the Fellowship Hall. It was tough to unstack them then drag them into the gym. They also fit together like puzzle pieces -- very heavy puzzle pieces. It took me a while to put them together but I felt sweet victory when the task was completed.
I then slowly built the rows of tables in the gym. I then had to figure out how I wanted to seat each dealer in the room then place name-plates on each table. Making sure each table was spaced out from each other by six feet. It took a long while to get all the tables in the gym set just right. Then I went about the huge task of placing a chair behind all the tables.
I was delirious and in much pain when the gym set up was completed. Somehow Mr. Shaky Diabetic Legs and Achy Back found some reserves and pushed the remaining carts of tables into the Fellowship Hall.
I had some old photos of the gym set up to use as a guide but had nothing to guide me for the Fellowship Hall. I also observed that there was a divider in the room that had not been there last month. Behind the divider was the remnants of the Salvation Army's Christmas gift distribution.
I knew that Mark wanted the room to have one-way traffic, so I figured I would need four aisle to make the one-way traffic work. As I went about setting up the tables, I realized there was only space for three aisles. I spent a lot of time rearranging the tables but every way I went only gave three aisles. So I set up three rows of tables and three aisles. I was actually pleased with how it looked in the end. The room was much tighter than the gym due to space limitations. Social distancing would, and turned out to be, very difficult in the Fellowship Hall. Thankfully, nobody complained.
Up went all the chairs in the Fellowship Hall then Mr. Shaky Diabetic Legs and Achy Back was able to finish setting up the back hallway with the remaining tables. I actually felt pretty good at this point. I was sort of charged up and had a second wind which was spent placing signs all over the building, directing people for one-way traffic and from the gym to the Fellowship Hall and into the back hallway.
All in all I was able to blow through set up, it only took me five hours. I was in desperate need of a couch but none was to be had. I shut off all the lights, locked up then removed all the snow that covered my car. I really wanted to go home and get my cards but the roads were horrible. I slid out of the Salvation Army parking lot, slid onto Centennial Drive, then slid onto Howell and back to Ryan. It was a scary drive. I thought there was a hotel on Ryan by the highway but could not find one. I would like to thank the guy tailgaiting me on Ryan while my car slid from lane to lane. Thanks buddy! You're a credit to humanity!!
I turned around at the highway and headed back to Howell. I approached Howell very slowly to avoid sliding into the intersection and getting killed. I asked Siri for directions to the nearest hotel and she directed me to a Marriott on Drexel, just down the road. The hotel had a vacancy and I got a room with a king bed for a hundred bucks.
The Marriott parking lot was a mess and I had trouble getting into a parking space. I sort of figured I would not be able to pull out of the space in the morning but was too tired to put much thought into it.
My room was swanky! It had a full kitchen! The cabinets were stocked with pots and pans. If I would have known, I would have bought some groceries instead of settling for a sandwich at Panera. I had my choice between two different TV trays to use while I sat on the couch, ate and watched TV. I opted to use both trays. I then watched the Bucks beat up the Bulls.
Morning came with a thud. I thought about sleeping in, figuring the card show was set up and name plates were on all the tables. Did I really even need to go? That king-size bed was so comfortable and it was a rare opportunity for me to sleep without fighting my golden retriever for space. I think I hit the snooze three times before I pulled myself out of that comfy bed.
It was pitch black out when I left the hotel around 6:45 a.m. My car was covered in ice and it took awhile the scrape it off. The parking lot was still a mess but I was able to get my car out. I was pleasantly surprised when I got back onto Howell and it was well plowed. I hit Mickey D's then the Sal and was greeted by early bird dealers Roger and Steve. They both sell wax. Are all wax dealers early birds?
So normally I am running around rearranging tables and placing name plates while dealers are breathing down my neck. It was so nice to not have to do anything but eat my egg mcmuffin.
Without tables of my own and cards to sell, I did not really know what to do with myself. A bunch of dealers needed extra chairs and found myself fetching chairs early on. Then there are the guys who were not happy with their location and wanted to switch out. So I had three guys move from the Fellowship Hall and into the back hallway.
I received a bunch of texts from guys informing that they were arriving late. Understandable with the weather. I found myself monitoring set up, making sure all the dealers showed up. I ended up with just one no-show -- Ryan Dragoon. No call, no text. Nothing. Ryan, you are welcome to attend the show in the future but I will not be giving you a table ever again.
In the weeks leading up to the show I was overrun with guys wanting to set up. My dealer waiting list has 30 or so guys now. The largest it has ever been. I felt bad that I could not get more of them into the show. Next month, I'll take someone off the waiting list and give them Ryan's tables.
A bunch of dealers were late but everybody showed up except for Ryan. I had three no-shows last month, it was nice to be down to just one.
When the doors officially opened to the public, the gym was filled with people at 9 a.m. By 10 a.m. the place was packed and it stayed that way all day! Huge turn out!!
I enjoyed walking around, shopping, chatting. I received more names for my waiting list. Oh my!
I think this was the first show I ever ran that ALL the dealers reported excellent sales. I think this was my first January show as well. I normally go on vacation in January. I think January vacations are out now and I will run the show each year. It was a phenomenal show!
Speaking of the parking lot, we had a few numbnuts block the driveway to the senior housing that is located behind the gym. WTF? Why would anyone do that? It is clearly a driveway. We could have had a real problem if a medical emergency arose at the senior housing and ambulances were not able to go up the driveway. Please don't block the driveway to the senior housing. I can't believe I even have to say that! Overflow parking is available at Target across the street. Please park in the Target lot if the Sal lot is full.
Then we had a theft at one of the dealer tables. Someone stole some 2020 Prizm basketball rookies which totally sucked.
We had a really big crowd and I guess with big crowds comes trouble. Some guys were getting chippy. This is a card show. It is supposed to be fun. Chill out! If I ever catch any thieves, I will make sure they are prosecuted. These guys will be calling for their mommies once I have them locked up. I have to go to jail to visit clients. It is a nasty place!
Then there were the handful of guys who wore their masks around their necks and gave me serious attitude when I asked them to cover their faces with their masks. Hey! We have a great thing going at the Salvation Army. The whole thing ends if people don't wear their masks. I really need some help with this. If you see anyone at the show with their mask down, please ask them to cover up.
Also, I want to mention that someone left an 11x14 autograph photo on a dealer's table. I have the photo. You can come pick it up at my office in Palatine or I can bring it to the Feb. 6 show. Shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Also, dealers, please do not place card tables or your carts in the aisles. Thank you!
Minor hiccups aside, it was a pretty great day. There was some money exchanged! Several dealers reported sales well into the thousands. Wow!
No sales for me. My cards were snugly at home with the golden retriever. But I did buy a bunch of stuff! See the pictures of my purchases below.
Thankfully, I did not have to take down the rooms. Mark and two helpers had it down in a tenth of the time it took me to put it up. Next month, I am going to come up the Friday before the show again. I won't have to set it up by myself but I will help out. It was nice to have it set up exactly how I want it. I will probably spend the night again but this time I am bringing some cards. I will have some tables. A bunch of guys were disappointed that I wasn't set up. I'll have cards next month for sure! Though, I think I will take some months off again from selling. It is so much easier on me to just manage the show and not worry about selling cards.
This show has really morphed into something I never imagined but I am adaptable and am just going with it. The next show is February 6. Dealer tables are sold out. You can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the very lengthy waiting list.
In the meantime, I am setting up again at my office in Palatine, Illinois, on January 17. My pop-up shop is really my best opportunity to sell cards these days. The Sal show is just too big now for me to sell. I really need to be a manager there now. I don't know when Gonzaga and Orland are coming back but until they do, I will sell cards monthly at my office.
Thank you to everybody who came out to the Salvation Army today. You folks are my motivation to bust my tail to put this thing on. I know I regularly complain but I do really enjoy it. I hope to see you next month!