Are We Having Fun Yet?: Faking it Till You Make it at Speciality Expos

February 2, 2011


Relationships require compromise: alternating who does the dishes, who picks the movie and who gets dragged to things they have no interest in. With the Washington Auto Show in town this week and gun, home and boat expos ahead, it’s time to prepare. Coerced by a friend, parent or partner into attending one of these events? Our guide will help you blend in, be polite and stay awake.

Washington Auto Show (Through Sunday)
What to Expect: Vehicles of various levels of awesomeness, many of which mere mortals cannot afford. “Concept cars” are another major draw: These are prototypes that exist either to show off features that may someday be used in real life or to show off how many times the guys in R&D have seen “Tron.” There are also celebrities, among them eco-warrior Captain Planet, who’ll be exhorting the attendees at a giant celebration of fossil fuel to “check out amazing green cars and technologies!”
What to Wear: No one cares. They’ll be looking at the cars.
How to Have Fun: Before you go, watch an episode or two of “Top Gear” on BBC America. Memorize everything Jeremy Clarkson says and then yell it at random intervals. Go up to every GM display and shout “I OWN YOU” at those working there.
Things to Say: “When will they stop trying to make gull-wing doors happen?”
Actions to Avoid: Wearing your swimsuit and attempting to lie provocatively on the cars.

» Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW; $5-$12; 202-237-7200, Washingtonautoshow.com (Mt. Vernon)

U.S. Sailboat Show (Oct. 6-10)
U.S. Powerboat Show (Oct. 13-16)
What to Expect: Since the poor economy led to the cancellation of the 2011 D.C. show, we’re guessing you’ll mostly find salesmen desperate to obtain your money here. Also, many, many boats, all in the water. There are also seminars; boating accessories; information about vacations and charter boats; and uniformed midshipmen (Naval Academy students) to admire.
What to Wear: Since you’ll be climbing onto and out of boats, skip high heels and short skirts unless you’d like to be the star of your own show. Also avoid black-soled shoes, so you don’t scuff the decks. We’re not sure they have a “you break it, you buy it” policy, but finding out could be costly.
How to Have Fun: Since pets aren’t allowed in the show proper, walk around Annapolis and count the number of dogs wearing life jackets; compare it to the number of kids wearing life jackets. Pick out the fanciest boat and attempt to convince onlookers that it’s named after you. This is especially amusing if the boat is named something like “Pretty Pink Princess Glamour-Puss.”
Words to Use: This is about the only time you can use “poop deck” in a non-joking way, so have at it.
Actions to Avoid: Proclaiming that you’re “king of the world,” even ironically.

» City Dock, Annapolis, Md.; $17; 410-268-8828, Usboat.com.

The Nation’s Gun Show (Feb. 11-13)
What to Expect: Acres and acres and acres of guns, some of which are cute (Tiny guns! Pink guns!) and some of which Rambo would check out and go, “No, man, that’s a little too much firepower for me.” Also look for ammunition, safety gear, knives and historical firearm memorabilia.
What to Wear: Any garment with an American flag, a bald eagle or military insignia on it will be just fine.
How to Have Fun: Bring a friend and make bets on the over/under on “Don’t Tread on Me” emblems for sale. Ask questions. Most vendors are knowledgeable, friendly and more than willing to expand your knowledge beyond “So, this goes ‘bang,’ right?”
Words to Use: Antonin Scalia, constitutional originalism.
Actions to Avoid: Anything that suggests you think guns are toys.

» Dulles Expo and Conference Center, 4368 Chantilly Shopping Center, Chantilly, Va.; $6-$18; 540-953-0016, Thenationsgunshow.com.

Washington Home And Garden Show (March 11-13)
What to Expect: It’s as if HGTV came to life, drank three cans of Red Bull and exploded. “Vignettes” — staged settings that show off merchandise in its natural habitat — are the big attraction. On the convention floor, vendors will try to seduce you with brochures, candy and free pens. Last year’s event hosted such exhibitors as “Radiator Covers by SMK” and “Gutter Helmet Systems.”
What to Wear: Full beekeeper regalia is guaranteed to impress.
How to Have Fun: Ask whether every plant is edible. Ask whether every plant is carnivorous. Ask whether Bath Fitter heralds the end of civilization as we know it.
Words to Use: Heirloom, pergola, sconce.
Actions to Avoid: Making puns on the word “hoe.”

» Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW; $12; 703-823-7960; Washingtonhomeandgardenshow.com. (Mt. Vernon Square)

Photo by Mark Gail/The Washington Post

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Kristen Page-Kirby | February 2, 2011