I'm going to miss the ACS Rubber Division meeting in Nashville Oct. 14-16. Miss it because I'm not going, and miss it in a nostalgic way.
By my rough estimate, 68 of the biannual conventions occurred during my career with this publication. I was absent from no more than a handful over the years. Even with those, I had a close connection, since I assigned and edited coverage by reporters, and ate the candy and helped myself to the free pens they got at the exhibitions.
Now that I reside in the semi-awake world of semi-retirement (I do love a nap), the task of covering the big show is taken up by my successor and his staff. They will do a fine job, as the managing editor did at the division's spring meeting in Louisville, Ky.
As a journalist, the division meeting offers a great opportunity to rub shoulders with an interesting cross-section of the rubber industry: technical people, sales and marketing personnel, scientists escaped from their labs. That access to news makers, or merely industry participants with strong opinions, is priceless.
One couldn't cover the meeting without learning something new. Often a lot new. It always has been a venue to announce breakthroughs, expansions, partnerships or just new twists to existing products.
I always viewed the Rubber Division meetings as a teaching tool for rookie staff members. Rather than just ride the phone for stories, it gave reporters face time with industry folks, which is invaluable. Networking before that became a cliche.
Everything changes over time, though, and the Rubber Division and its meetings weren't immune to that fact. The rubber industry struggled through recession, retrenchment, ownership changes and rebirth as a smaller entity as far as personnel and players are concerned. Its primary technical association reflects that.
The days of a mostly volunteer-run Rubber Division are long past. The perpetual arguments over where, or if, to hold a spring meeting, and what city gets the big expo have been resolved. Now the professional staff that runs the organization constantly tries to innovate to keep the group meaningful.
Old timers often complained to me about things lost with changes in the industry and the Rubber Division. To paraphrase a Greek philosopher, “the only constant is change.” To quote me, “Change happens, don't sweat it, move on.”
I attended the International Tire Exhibition & Conference show in Akron a few weeks ago. I had forgotten how a technical meeting/trade show has such an air of vibrancy, of intellectual challenge, of opportunity for person-to-person contact. I had fun. Just as I would if I wandered down to Nashville.
Aw, hell. Maybe I will.
Noga is a contributing editor for RPN and its former editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.