Two years ago this week, just as I was leaving the Messe Munchen exhibition centre in Munich, Germany, my son Fred took the photo below.
As it was designed purely for social media purposes, it was staged, posed and very intentionally branded. With the passage of time, it has also become poignant.
Moments before this photo was taken, I had pondered if the 2019 show might have been my last Bauma. I have been writing about construction and demolition equipment since the late 1980s and I have lost count of the number of Bauma shows I have attended. It is definitely seven, but it could be nine.
One thing have learned in all those visits to Munich is that Bauma is a young man’s game. A decent exercise regime for a man of my advancing years requires me to walk 10,000 steps per day. On the opening day of Bauma 2019, my Apple Watch reported that I had racked up 40,000 steps by 2.30 in the afternoon.
So when I said that Bauma 2019 might have been my last, I was questioning my own ability to undertake such a mammoth show when Old Father Time had heaped another three years onto shoulders already stooped with age. I had no idea that, just two years later, I would be questioning whether Bauma itself would be returning in 2022.
So much has changed in the 730-odd days since Bauma 2019 closed its doors. A visit to Bauma means international travel, something hat has been all but impossible for the past year. In 2019, I was crammed – together with many others – into taxis, beer halls, coaches, restaurants and trains. I shook hands a lot. I was hugged on several occasions. People coughed and sneezed in close proximity to one another without causing concern or consternation. I did not encounter a single bottle of hand sanitizer, gave no thought to what vaccines my fellow show attendees may or may not have received, and the only face-masks I recall seeing were part of a carnival-style parade through the showground.
I encountered one or two electric-powered machines at the show too, and semi dismissed them as a novelty. Two years later and just about every equipment manufacturer worth its salt now has either an electric machine in its range or a clearly defined alternative fuel strategy with which to compete in the post-diesel world.
The greatest change, however, is the fact that this was (and hopefully will continue to be) a physical event; the unspoken pleasure of which we have all been starved for the past year or more. As you read this, I am starting a week in which I will attend three major machine launches, each of them without leaving my office. Bizarrely, this now feels entirely normal while my visit to a site last week to see Europe’s first LiuGong 995F DM demolition excavator felt strangely alien. I was greeted on site by three people I have met previously. One of them I consider a friend. And yet we all stood apart while trying to figure out how to greet each other without the handshake we have all grown up with.
Oddly enough, that morning on site felt like a treat; like a post-diet return to the local Indian restaurant that you have frequented each week for years.
It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, of course. And while the enormity and severity of the COVID-19 crisis is there for all to see, those of a “glass half full” persuasion will point to the fact that the pandemic and the resulting lockdown has also had a positive impact in certain areas.
It has made us all aware of just how important and necessary human interaction is. It has given us an opportunity to re-evaluate our work/life balance and to adopt new ways of working remotely. I have spent more valuable time with my family; I have lost weight; I have walked the dogs more regularly. I don’t know about you, but my carbon footprint has reduced to virtually zero as I have embraced remote working and LiveStreaming.
For all this, I know I am polishing a turd; attempting to place a positive spin upon an almost entirely negative situation. And while it now feels highly unlikely that I will ever return entirely to my previous method of working, the lifting of lockdown restrictions – however cautious – feels like a blessed relief.
So while there remains a Coronavirus-shaped question mark over Bauma 2022, I have already booked my accommodation for the duration of the show. Assuming the show goes ahead, I will be there I will be tired, aching and I will be footsore. I will look miserable. But trust me, I’ll be deeply grateful.