Near the end of LinuxWorld 2005, I made the acquaintance of one of the controversial Microsoft booth babes. Microsoft's Mark Yambot made the introduction as I went up to him to greet him. Her name was Chrissy, and she stood out because she was the first booth babe I encountered on the first day of LinuxWorld, handing out the green flyers that promised a shot at an Xbox. She was also the smiling-est among their trio.
Later, as they were handing out free Starbucks coffee -- Yukon Blend, so they said, to match their "Yukon" database -- I chatted her up a bit. I asked her if anyone had started an argument with her over the past three days. "No," she said with a mock pout, "they wouldn't dare." Then I asked her what she did when she wasn't in these events. "I'm always doing this", she said, "because there are always these events. Most times, I'm modelling at the race car track."
At that point, I got called away. In the rush of successive events, I never managed to continue our conversation. Which was a shame because I had all these questions about her radically different world. Questions like: how did you get started in this? Is there a modelling school that you have to go through? Are the hours long? What do you plan to do after modelling? It's very rare that geeks like me catch a glimpse of the world of models like Chrissy.
Oh, to be sure, it might have looked like I was trying to get her number, but I like to think I'm beyond that for a very good reason. Believe it or not as you will, but all I was trying to do was to get to know another person, to catch any interesting stories she might have had to tell.
More importantly, at that moment, she wasn't Microsoft Booth Babe #1 anymore. She had a name, and it was Chrissy. Probably not a person I would hang out with (or who would want to hang out with me), but an interesting person nonetheless.
I have to hand it to Chrissy and her partners. She was there the entire three days handing out those flyers and posing with guys for the Microsoft gimmick. It was an event she most likely didn't care about personally. But she stuck through it like a real trouper, and very cheerfully, too.
I'm wondering how many other people see it this way.
Chrissy and her teammates were dressed in signature Microsoft shirts and plain blue jeans. To be sure, their clothes, tight as suman, accented their figures, but other than that there was nothing provocative about their gear. In fact, nothing that a young woman on a shopping trip wouldn't wear. Yes, they were pleasant to look at; very pretty, in fact, and admittedly, a little distracting. But could I honestly accuse them of hawking Microsoft wares through sex? No, no, no.
Not that there wasn't any such manner of selling in this event. Microsoft itself was a perpetrator, having contracted Martha Daniels, the Trust condom endorser, in all her revealing big-boobed glory on the first day. But that was only on the first day, thankfully not repeated on the second and the third. That was just cheesy.
And it wasn't just Microsoft. Red Hat also had a gigantic poster of a nearly naked Carmen Electra with the invitation to FSCK ME. That was equally cheesy. In the future, I hope exhibitors can be a little more circumspect in their choice of gimmicks and display material.
If Chrissy and the other models were pushing Microsoft wares through sex, it was all happening in the minds of the people who think that way. That happens when you objectify a person instead of seeing that person as a person. One group will drool at the luscious specimen of humanity before them; another group will deride them as a tawdry gimmick. I confess that I was in the first party at the start, and that was why I made it a point to get to talk to one of them before the conference ended.
That way, in the future, I'll be party to neither.