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Thunderstorms, Trade Shows, and One Snappy Dresser

John Van Horn

The IPI show was its usual grand expanse. See the picture nearby. My favorite part is meeting people to whom I have spoken but have never met in person. A case in point -- Mike Fine of Tulsa.
A few months ago, I had been given a tip that his off-airport operation is one of the classiest around. I was told he had just about every amenity and a great parking structure -- all that in a secondary market airport like Tulsa. I called Mike, and we set an appointment for me to come and visit. Therein lies the tale.
I left L.A. at 7 a.m., scheduled to arrive about 3:30 p.m. in Tulsa after a plane change in St. Louis. I would spend a couple of hours with Mike, stay overnight and return for meetings the next day. No problem. And, in fact, there were no problems -- until the plane left St. Louis for Tulsa. The weather was beginning to close in, but heck, I thought, the pilots knew what they were doing.
About 20 minutes outside Tulsa, I noticed the plane had begun to circle. A few minutes later, the pilot came on and said there was a thundercell over the airport, and we would have to wait a few minutes before we could land. Minutes turned into an hour and a half, and in the meantime, the weather was getting worse and worse. It was dark, and thunderheads were all around us. The circles became figure-eights around 60,000-foot-high cloud masses. We were getting a bit nervous.
Finally, the pilot told us we were going to land. With a collective sigh of relief, the plane sat down at 6 p.m. One minor problem: We were in Oklahoma City. We were told that rather than clearing, the weather was worse in Tulsa. I didn't see myself driving the 100 miles in Tornado Alley, so it was overnight in Oklahoma City and then back to L.A.
At the IPI show, Mike came by the booth and apologized. I couldn't figure out why he thought it was his problem, unless he somehow controlled the weather gods. However, I quickly discovered that that was his way. He is a very nice guy. And from what I could see, a successful one.
Don't worry, Mike. I'll make it to Tulsa before long -- maybe in the fall, AFTER thunderstorm season.

My travels in July took me to Baltimore and DC. For those who haven't heard, we are joining with the Dutch organizers of Intertraffic North America and taking the show to Baltimore in late September 2005. Check out the article in this month's PT. We hope to make the biennial event the largest and most complete in North America. (Note, the proofreader didn't make a mistake -- the word biannual means twice a year and biennial means every other year. Look it up.)
While in DC, my chauffeur and Conference Coordinator Dawn Newman and I dropped in on an old friend, Jim Milioti, VP and COO at PMI. Jim and I have known each other longer than either of us likes to admit, and it's always fun to chat for a few minutes. He told me that he reads PT religiously, particularly, he says, my takeoff on Raymond Chandler and, "you know, that article written by the dog."
Jim and I argued a bit about just how well senior managers in large parking operations can keep an eye on "all those locations." I said it's really impossible, made more difficult by the fact that good people are so hard to find in the industry. When you do find them, they are promoted, and the individual locations become training grounds for new staff.
"Not so," he responded. When he was VP at Kinney, Jim said, he would often travel to many of the individual garages around the country. "If you are experienced and know what to look for, you can quickly size up a garage with a short visit and then send in the auditors to confirm your suspicions." I believe he did it then, and still does.
You can be certain that when a parking executive who looks like he just stepped out of GQ -- he dresses spotlessly every day, he told me -- drops by a location, everything had better be in order.

Article Abstract from August, 2004




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