Robert Frost died in 1963, and since then his works may be among the most mangled, manipulated, and misquoted in all of popular culture, abused by a collection of hacks and half-wits armed with writing implements and terminal cases of self-delusion, as well as shameless dependencies on alliteration. I pledge my name to that order of literary butchers in the hope they will welcome me with open arms because, after this, I’m pretty sure his family never will.

There are few events in the floor covering industry that stoke the creative fires like the Surfaces Trade Show and Exhibition. Watching the masses pour through the doors and prowl the aisles of the Sands Expo and Convention Center brings to mind a Roman bazaar costumed by Brooks Brothers, a marketplace with the potential to descend into madness, save for the hard-wired Centurions walking the perimeter.

The lack of intimacy afforded at a show this size has its benefits for someone whose profession is grounded in observation. The volume of information that can be harvested by open ears during a simple stroll through the main hall is overwhelming. That some of it may not be fit for the National Enquirer, much less the pages of FCI, is beside the point. Establishing an understanding of the environment, then building a platform from which to launch all manner of coverage, be it in FCI Online’s Virtual Trade Show, on the printed page of the follow-up issue, or in casual conversation down the road, is essential to giving those unable to attend a true sampling of what they are missing.

But there is also the danger of information overload, of producing the meaningless drivel of the over-informed. Thirty thousand voices, all speaking at once, can do that; the focus becomes lost in the shuffle.

That is when the tighter, leaner events come into play, helping to counter the large-scale chaos. The Floor Covering Installation Contractors Association convention in New Orleans, March 27-31, as well as the National Wood Flooring Association gathering in Palm Springs, Calif., April 25-28, are the type of events that provide a look at another side of the industry. The human agenda tends to override the corporate animal in the smaller halls and seminars, and puts a new spin on the struggle to stay competitive in a continually evolving business culture.

There doesn’t appear to be a simple path to understanding in the floor covering industry. I’ve heard from the legions steeped in an “Us vs. Them” mentality, and I’ve dined with those who believe the only answer for industry growth is every segment working together. But I don’t often see them in a room together.

And that may make all the difference.