Traveling Spinal Circus Hits San Francisco

Categories: Business

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Joe Eskenazi
Hooray! The spinal circus is in town!
​In the very same AT&T Parking Lot that was last year graced by the trailers of the acrobats, clowns, and ringmaster of Circus Vargas -- the latter, Ted McRae, ended up staying alone in the lot for days after his RV broke down -- Big Top tents have once again been pitched. But this is no cotton candy and trapeze crowd. Instead it's the traveling spinal circus, if you will.

With the North American Spine Society meeting this week in Moscone Center, it's no wonder the big trucks from Medtronic have set up camp in Mission Bay. The surgical technology company's big rigs, on the outside, look like the trucks you'd use to, say, jettison groceries on the Bay Bridge. But the trucks unfold to form a small complex of tents and trailers containing a mock operating room -- complete with "sawbones" human dummies -- a conference room, power generators, and even a lavatory (a technician overseeing the site was particularly thrilled about that last one).

After the spinal convention lets out, doctors make their way down toward the ballpark and try out the new gadgets in Meditronic's faux OR. It's a business model that keeps the two drivers and technician who chatted with SF Weekly on the road more often than Kerouac or Willie Nelson combined.

SpineBigTop 005.jpg
Joe Eskenazi
Seen here from afar, the setup comes equipped with a faux operating room, a conference room, generators, and restrooms.
​Before heading to San Francisco, one of the trucks was in Kalamazoo, Mich. The other was in Chattanooga, Tenn. (apparently, the drivers were competing to see who could spend more time in the more ridiculously named city). The big rigs are based out of Memphis and the technician told us he's been in 45 cities so far this year, following around conventions, expos, or just setting up shop in hospital parking lots.

Next week, he says, he and the drivers are headed down to New Orleans. It wasn't the time for a pun, but it was apt: It sounds like this kind of work is backbreaking.

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