Ordinary is Good

If we've learned anything in the past couple of years, it must be that both optimism and pessimism mimic diseases. They spread insidiously throughout the body politic, and if left unchecked, both can prove dangerous to our way of life. Of course, few seek to balance optimism. But during economic times such as this, it becomes important to find the counterweights.

For example, one of the major contributions of the recent WASTECON show held in Baltimore in mid-October is that it helps tip the emotional scales in the right direction. It wasn't that the show was extraordinary, in fact, it was its ordinary self — well-organized, well-attended and meeting the needs of its primary audience: municipal solid waste leaders.

As odd as this may sound, in this case being ordinary is what proves to be extraordinary. While the final attendance numbers are not tallied, show management did confess that the first day exceeded expectations, and by my and many others' observations, the second day was even better.

More importantly, the general feeling on the show floor was optimistic, admittedly based on lowered expectations. No one knew what to expect, considering that business is flat in many quarters. Few would have been surprised if attendance was low. Fortunately, the opposite for this show appears to be true, and it comes at a good time for all of us.

Consumer confidence is low and uncertainty is high, which is why we need to remind ourselves that we exist in a relatively recession-proof industry. Nothing makes that clearer than the never-ending flow of discarded materials at the curb.

Yes, the waste stream is affected by a downturn in construction and consumer purchasing, which will lead to pricing issues. But as WASTECON's attendance reminds us, even during these times, ordinary reality trumps glamorous optimism or numbing pessimism every time.

On a personal note: I would like to congratulate Rita Ugianskis, WasteExpo's show director, for receiving the Expo Group Show Manager of the Year award, which recognizes the “unsung heroes” of the tradeshow industry.

I also would like to congratulate the Waste Age editorial staff for winning the Folio: Editorial Excellence Award for best “Science and Technology” magazine in the United States. This is one of the highest honors bestowed in the magazine publishing industry, and this year we find ourselves in good company. Winners in other categories include Industry Week, Car & Driver, Business 2.0, Builder, Engineering News Record, PC Magazine, and our sister publication, Fleet Owner.

Folio:'s Editorial Excellence Award is the seventh national or state award presented to Waste Age in 2001.

The author is the editorial director of Waste Age Publications.