It looked like a Goth/Heavy Metal Sludge Fest, so much black as a wardrobe choice you’d think folks were auditioning for “Survivor: The Mortician Edition”.
There were literally thousands of these pierced, tattooed zombies in a line that stretched from the entrance of the Sheraton Hotel around the ENTIRE CITY BLOCK and back again to the hotel’s entrance. ( I bet you couldn’t find one stick of roll-on deodorant between them.)
After having braved a four-hour-line-wait in Hotlanta’s 94 degree afternoon heat, these poor souls had at least another 3 hours ahead of them once inside – wandering through a curtained maze, before they reached the object of their desire – the highly valued Dragon*con ID Card. Without that, no admittance to any of the events.
For those who aren’t “in-the-know”, Dragon*con is the annual Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention for genre buffs rife with all manner of alternative everything: Sci-Fi & Fantasy Literature and Writers, Famous Comic Book and Fantasy Artists, Famous (and not so much) Film & TV Celebrities, Metal/Leather Wardrobe-Costumes & Accessories, All Forms of Digital Media, Gaming, True Science, Faux Science, No Science, Costume Parade, Dances, Contests – you name it, it’s all there.
Not as big as Comic Con (the largest annual comic book and entertainment arts convention) held in San Diego, Dragon*Con is anything but the red-headed step child. Certainly the largest gathering of its kind in the southeast and mid-Atlantic regions, this year’s attendance was pushing the 60,000 mark. All of them squeezed into 5 hotel venues in the middle of downtown Atlanta.
But, just how did poor Ward Cleaver-esque Valet Boy – virtually retirement ready – end up with this hodge-podge of 20 something zombie-loving social misfits, you might ask?
Well, it was a combination of bribes and kidnapping by married couple Leatherwing and SubRosa (The Oglesbys) that drew him out of his comfort zone in Andy Griffith Country to Atlanta’s sweltering metropolis. I mean, what else did VB have on his plate for the long Labor Day Weekend? Not a darn thing. So, why not?
Dragon*Con is not the sort of thing that Valet Boy ever would have chosen to do for entertainment. In fact, when the badgering and bribing began, he asked the couple, “What will there be for me to do? I mean, I guess I could just hang by the pool while you guys are geeking out.” Of course, they proffered the brochures and pictures of the gorgeous female celebs that would be in attendance. I think I replied, “Now, if those were large mouth bass, I could get a helluva lot more excited by the prospect”.
Obviously, Valet Boy relented. I packed my bag, climbed into their Blazer and off we tootled down I-85. We checked into our room, got the “freshening up” and distribution of materials out-of-the-way then headed to the Big City.
Hot! Very hot. Stiflingly so. Valet Boy was not getting a good feeling about his decision. Our GPS was not a lot of help guiding us to the Sheraton for registration. So, we took the nickel tour of downtown. It was hot…Have I mentioned how hot it was? (Back home it was a balmy 79 degrees-Grrrrrr) Just as we were beginning to feel like Moses in the Wilderness, we saw the hotel…
Then we saw the line – seemingly stretching to infinity. We drove around the block twice to make sure that our eyes were not playing tricks on us.
“There’s 50 million people in line.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. There can’t be more than 10 million.”
Mr. Leatherwing pulled to the curb, rolled the window down and asked an innocuous enough looking 400 lb. cherubic vampire if this was the registration line for Dragon*con. No, we were told. This line was only for those who had pre-registered. Hopelessness settled over our little group like barbed-wire gravy. Valet Boy had NOT pre-registered. I could only imagine the perfidious future in store for me.
A bit more driving in circles and we finally found a parking deck that was only charging $10. Cheap! We deplaned and began hunting for the writing group that Leatherwing and SubRosa belong too. (Helmed by Philip K. Dick Award Winner – and really nice guy – Bruce Bethke.) That took about 30 seconds. We looked up and there they were, all waiting to cross the street and fling themselves into the waiting hordes.
My friends had pre-registered for the convention as any smart person would. Unfortunately, so had the 10,000 people in that mercilessly pungent line. A logistical nightmare. The first big problem unforeseen by the convention planners. Luckily, as it turned out for Valet Boy, he had not pre-registered. That line was only about 50 people long and was moving at a comparatively brisk pace.
Fees paid & documents in hand, Valet Boy was doubting his Labor Day decision. While my friends took their rightful place in the line-from-Hell, I went off with Bruce and the writer’s group in search of dinner.
And I never saw my friends alive again!
Actually, they returned to the hotel shortly after 1 AM. Their registration experience had consumed approximately 7 non-refundable hours of their lives. This trip was smacking of one gigantic clusterfrack. And the convention had not even officially opened yet.
Oh, those Con Organizers would certainly get a piece of VB’s little mind.
NEXT TIME: “You Know You’re a Geek When…” As Valet Boy becomes baptized by immersion into the Geek Gene Pool.
Thanks for reading!