Adventure at Jacob Javits     28 November, 2007, 06:38 pm
In addition to arts & crafts festivals and flower shows, we also exhibit at selected professional meetings for librarians and teachers. One of our favorites is the National Council of Teachers of English, or NCTE, headquartered in Illinois. Their November convention rotates annually to different locations across the United States. Over the past 14 years we have exhibited with NCTE at various convention centers in San Diego, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and Atlanta – to name a few. It was a mix of excitement and trepidation when I learned that the 2007 convention would be in the Big Apple, at the storied Jacob Javits Convention Center. This would be an adventure.

Anyone who knows convention centers has heard of Javits, the massive I. M. Pei-designed structure that stretches for eight Manhattan blocks along the Hudson River at one end of the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s said that this place was once so tough that you had slip someone $50 to even get to the loading dock. Those days are thankfully gone, but the workers still can make it plenty rough on a Ford van full of Literary Calligraphy from Bedford County, Virginia.

I timed my arrival at Javits for about 11 a.m., after the biggest trucks were in but before the lunch shutdown. Once I circled the building and found the freight entrance on 12th Avenue. I was told that I should park on the street and, “Go talk to the guard.” Park on the street? In New York City? My heart fluttered but I followed instructions and actually did find a space, after several more block-circling exercises in mind-numbing traffic.

I have about given up fretting about the material handling charges charged by the Teamsters in a union hall like Javits. There are other unions involved including carpeting and electricians that I try to steer clear of. There’s no avoiding the freight charges at the dock, and I was assigned a Teamster who ushered my 700 pounds of art and display through the bustling hall. Once we arrived at my space, it was full of empty crates from a large publisher’s display, so that we had to find a fork lift truck to clear the booth before we could even unload. When clear, I quickly put down my carpets and instructed my guy to place my cartons on the carpet. I returned to the van, ready to unload the rest of the freight. When we finished, I drove the empty van to find a nearby parking space that ended up costing $60/per day.

There the van sat for the next four days during the show that ended on a Sunday. We couldn’t get out of the hall until Monday morning to avoid paying overtime on Sunday, so I arrived at 8:15 am, ready to load my freight that I had packed up the day before. The hall seemed crowded with guys (and a few women) waiting around for something to do. The loading process now reversed itself, and I stayed at the van while two Teamsters brought my freight. When the next-to-the-last load arrived, one of the guys informed me, “If you want those carpets, you’ll have to get them yourself. We’re not allowed to handle carpets.”

Sighing, I quickly dragged the carpets across the hall, loaded them, and set out to join the grid-locked traffic entering the Lincoln Tunnel to New Jersey and points west. Now that’s what I call an adventure.

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