This morning as I came down the hotel elevator for breakfast, it stopped at a floor and in came a young guy carrying two stuffed bags and sporting a HIMSS 2015 badge.
“You ready to walk another 10 miles today?” the fella asked. “My feet are in pain. I told my boss no offense, but I’m not wearing shoes today.” Sure enough, the guy had his work slacks on with sneakers.
Ah, the life of a HIMSS attendee in Chicago.
The logistics of the show are impressive. Having done some prior work in event planning — on a much smaller scale than HIMSS, for the record — I know what a hellish week organizers are going through. Their role ranges from VIP handler to problem solver, to zookeeper.
If you’ve never been to McCormick Place — the huge conference center at which HIMSS 2015 takes place — it is a sprawling complex with four convention halls. Its buildings rise in a no-man’s land south of downtown Chicago that you can’t easily escape once you’ve arrived, unless you want to compete for a shuttle bus with few thousand of your colleagues or brave a taxi ride.
Watching the cabs come and go outside McCormick resembles the scene at O’Hare Airport a short distance away, except McCormick has a longer taxi line. And if you’re a cabbie, you’d better have strong skin to withstand the verbal assault thrown at you from the traffic directors who make sure the cars keep moving and the pedestrians have a clear crosswalk. One of the crossing guards — and “guard” is truly the appropriate word — was smoking a cigar while barking out orders from the side of his mouth like NBA coaching great Red Auerbach.
And then there are the feet — the feet of 43,129 attendees that are throbbing because of all the steps they take. For those who track their walking with wellness devices or pedometers, HIMSS is more like Mecca. For those of us — like me and the attendee in the hotel elevator — who are more concerned with comfort rather than calisthenics, there is no relief coming until we sit on a plane flying home.
I’m sure Alexis Normand, the healthcare development director at Withings, would disagree. Normand told my colleague, Shaun Sutner, that before he flew to HIMSS 2015, he ran a marathon in France. You won’t be surprised to hear his company produces wellness watches.
I should have taken the offer of a trip on the “HIMSS trolley” in the exhibit hall, a large, souped-up golf cart that rolled people from one end of the exhibit hall to the other. I laughed to myself the first time I saw the trolley; my feet and I are not laughing now.