I'm afraid of CES

The giant Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is an annual pilgrimage for those of us covering the tech world. At least, it used to be, for this tech writer.

Early in January each year, thousands of tech writers converge in the desert for a grueling but exciting week at the CES. It comes right after the holiday season, so those making the trek to Las Vegas are often exhausted from the end of year festivities when they jump into the madness that is CES. It's a fantastic week of seemingly endless demos of new tech, while jostling with colleagues and seldom seen friends for floor space at press events.

Image: Sarah Tew/CBS Interactive

It's a wonderful time and I enjoyed every year I attended. It was the one week I looked forward to each year and an absolute blast. Given how much I like going to CES, many are asking why I haven't been in a few years. The answer is simple — I am afraid of the CES.

To put this fear in perspective, I attended the CES every year without fail for quite a few years. The show in January 2008 was like those before it, I had a wonderful time seeing friends and colleagues while walking miles each day in Las Vegas. I ran all over town and up and down exhibition aisles so long you couldn't see one end from the other.

I was in Vegas for a week at that show and when I finally headed back home I was exhausted as usual.

I arrived back home and settled in for a brief rest before I intended to finish up CES stories in the hopper. In spite of my good intentions, writing those stories wasn't going to happen. The day after returning from the CES I had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes referred to as a mini-stroke. It's the same condition Kara Swisher, then of All Things Digital and now of Re/code, suffered a couple of years ago, and that recently caused Houston Texans former coach Gary Kubiak to collapse on the field during a football game.

I wrote about what having this stroke was like at the time and I won't rehash it here. I had a fast and complete recovery so it's a story with a happy ending, except for the CES.

The specialists who treated my TIA felt confident that my grueling, exhausting week at the CES played a major role in triggering my stroke. There was no way to prove that but it made sense that in a physically weakened state bad things can happen.

I haven't had any problems since the TIA in 2008, but once you've had one you are more likely to have another than those who haven't. That's the reality I live with.

I went back to the CES once after the TIA, you could say it was a getting back on the horse sort of thing. I was terrified the whole time and didn't enjoy it at all as I kept looking over my shoulder, so to speak.

That's the reason I haven't been back to the CES regularly, even though I desperately want to do so. Each year I duly register for my press pass and check out travel arrangements to go. I come so close to pushing the reserve button for those arrangements but pull back at the last second.

All you folks regularly asking me why I'm not going to the CES, now you know. I'm a chicken.

The fear that a fun week at CES might trigger another stroke just won't go away, and it keeps me from making the trip. I'll bet the CES officials wonder who this person in Houston is who keeps getting a press pass each year and then doesn't show up. I suspect I'll keep doing it every year, just in case. I do promise myself that one year I'm going back to the CES and have a good time like the old days. Just not this year.


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