I don’t like crowds.
Scratch that. It makes it sound like I’m a hermit who hates the thought of being around other human beings. Let’s try that again.
Something inside of me doesn’t respond well to being in the midst of lots of bodies.
A little better?
It took me some time to realize this fact. After all, at various times in my life I’ve had to stand in front of crowds at conferences/conventions, educating and entertaining, or mingle and attempt to be charming and well-informed as I schmoozed with strangers.
I managed to do this without much drama. After it was all over, I’d generally be okay. Exhausted, passed out on my hotel bed, but not in any sort of dire straights.
As the years have passed, I’ve begun to realize that in crowded situations that didn’t require me to be “on”, I was far less okay. Sometimes, I found myself breathing funny, pressure pushing in on my chest, suddenly feeling like I wanted to cry and find a quiet place to hide.
A few times, I did just that.
This weekend, when my sister offered me her ticket to MegaCon, oddly enough, I hesitated. So much wonderful geekery would be waiting for me. And this year, being the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: TNG, I knew that there would be some extra awesomeness in store.
And still, I hesitated.
Friday night, I spent the evening listening to Sir Patrick Stewart discuss Shakespeare in a tiny theater where I sat mere feet away from him. It was awesome (I’ll share details in another post). Invigorated from an excellent evening out, I decided I would take my sister’s ticket and go enjoy the geekery.
In my car Saturday afternoon, sitting blocks from the convention center, I stared at the long line of traffic ahead of me waiting to park. I knew there would be a wait. I had commitments in the morning and couldn’t head over until noon, so I expected parking to take a little while.
After about a half hour of sitting, I felt that pressure in my chest. I was by myself in the car. I had no one to distract me.
I started to think about how long I might be waiting in traffic. How I could still pull out of the line and go home.
No. I’d probably pull away and discover I was five minutes from being there. Keep going. This isn’t a big deal.
Another twenty minutes passed.
Maybe I should go home. If it takes this long to park, how long will it take me to get in the building? I left the kid home with the husband. What if he is having a bad afternoon and by time I park, I get a call that he needs me?
No. He’s fine. I’m fine. Shut up brain. Let’s keep waiting.
Twenty more minutes passed.
If it’s this hard to get in to park, how hard is it to get out? What if the little man has an emergency and I can’t get out of the parking lot? What happens if I’m trapped?
I tweeted about the need for a churro-wrapped valium. I’m pretty sure there were spelling errors in the tweet.
Another twenty minutes.
After a few deep breaths and another ten minutes, I was directed into a parking garage, found a spot immediately on the first level, and hopped out of my car.
I walked up the road, looking at all the people wandering up ahead on International Drive. [For the non-locals, International Drive is ALWAYS busy. It's a touristy part of town, and the Convention Center had a Home and Garden Show going on at the same time as MegaCon. Lots o' people.]
“To Megacon, m’lady?”
Feeling the much needed breeze and listening to Thor tell me how he had other plans for his future, but the pedicab was Odin’s idea, and you really don’t cross Dad when he wants you to continue the family business, did much to ease my already jumpy nerves. I happily paid the five dollar fee (and then some – when I’m jumpy, I’m an especially generous tipper) when he dropped me at the convention center entrance, wished him the best with family therapy, and headed inside to meet my brother-in-law, who had been kind enough to acquire my entry bracelet for me.
[nb. After reading this post, my sister pointed out that it would be awesome if Thor had dropped me off and yelled, "ANOTHER!" as he sped off to pick up a new fare. I would agree with her assessment.]
As I made my way in, I saw costumed people scattered here and there and thought, “Oh, this is fun!”
Then, as I made it closer to the actual MegaCon entrance, I saw the sea of people.
I walked in with my brother-in-law. We stepped on to the main floor, booths of merchandise everywhere.
And so very many people.
My brother-in-law offered to stick with me, but knowing that my goal was to snap photos of people and maybe spot Wil Wheaton, while his probably had something to do with acquiring Batman-related goods, I gave him a nod and headed off on my own.
Very quickly I found myself surrounded.
I’ve made a huge mistake.
I walked away from the rows of merchandise out to an open area, where people stood in groups, sat in circles on the ground, or wandered about, checking out each other’s costumes.
I paused when I heard music and found myself watching a TARDIS and StormTrooper in a Hawaiian shirt doing the Harlem Shake. Characters from all sorts of fandoms stood around laughing, while some joined in.
I wandered some more, pausing here and there to snap photos of random people. I found that while I was enjoying myself, my anxiety kept me from taking as many photos as I would have liked. I worried about being in the way. I worried about upsetting someone. And I definitely didn’t feel like asking someone if they could look my way.
In my wandering, I stumbled upon an area where I saw some very familiar names hanging above tables. Michael Dorn. Marina Sirtis. Levar Burton. Brent Spiner.
People stood in organized queues. It wasn’t packed. There was room to breathe.
And when I took another look, I noticed the people. The people whose names hung above them.
I wandered and weaved a bit, snapping a few more photos. And then, there, at the end of various Star Trek: TNG stars was Wil Wheaton. I snapped a photo and then looked at the line. It wasn’t awful looking.
Standing off to the side, I watched him and Patrick Stewart, who was the next table down, talk to people as they signed things for them. I looked out at the enormous crowd beyond the autograph area. I looked back at all the space in the area I stood.
When I made the choice to go to MegaCon, it was in part because I knew Wil Wheaton would be there, and I thought it would be cool to see him.
And I had accomplished that. I even managed to snap a photo moments before someone from the MegaCon staff let me know that this was a no photo area. (Ooops. I was good and didn’t take any after that.)
But then I thought about all that time I spent waiting to park. And that crushing feeling in my chest that I’d been ignoring as I wandered about the convention center.
After all that, why not say hi?
In real life, I don’t get all melty-fangirly about celebrities. I joke about it, but honestly, I’m not like that. I wouldn’t clam up and get starstruck if I ran into someone I was a fan of, but I also don’t like the idea of disturbing them. (Case in point, the night before I was walking next to – seriously, I could have elbowed him with little effort – Michael Dorn and Marina Sirtis. But I didn’t say a word to them, since I figured they were trying to enjoy their evening supporting Sir Patrick Stewart, not be approached by a random stranger.)
Had I spotted Mr. Wheaton wandering the Con floor, I probably wouldn’t have said hi. I would have wanted to let him enjoy wandering like anyone else.
So, figuring this was the only way I would actually say hello, I stepped into the line.
The time spent in line was fun. I discussed my three year old’s love of Doctor Who with other Whovians. Then I entertained the couple in front of me. I don’t know what I said, but apparently, I went into “on” mode, as there was much laughing the whole time we waited.
When it was finally my turn, I felt a bit silly, not having something with me to sign.* How would that have worked?
Can you sign the Star Trek: TNG theme song, one of the few things that kept my little one occupied as a very active toddler? No? Can you sign my iPad, where I’ve read all of your books? Rats. That doesn’t work. Can you sign my computer screen, where I’ve read your blog about your INFP-ness and your writing and numerous other things that make me stop and yell, “UGH, stop being in my brain!”? Yeah. Not so much.
I handed him one of the photographs provided at the table, a picture of him in a fez with a fake mustache.
He gave me a big smile. “Who is this for?”
“Me.” I paused, realizing that wasn’t entirely helpful. “I’m Amber.”
As he signed, I took a breath, and I’m not sure how it came out, but I told him, probably in an awkward run-on sentence, that he was nice enough to cheer me up on a comment on his blog recently, and I really just wanted to say thank you in person.
Instead of nodding politely and sending me on my way, he asked, “Oh? What were we talking about?”
So, I rambled some more, something about how he did a super great post on failure, and I was all “sad writer is sad” about a nasty review, and he was super kind about it and I probably used the word “super” an unacceptable number of times.
“Oh, yes, I remember that.”
And then I blurted once more. “And then you said you downloaded my book. And I died. The End.”**
That’s when his eyes widened, and rather loudly he responded, “OH! I HAVE YOU ON MY KINDLE!”
To which I’m fairly certain I yelled back, “I KNOW!”
[I am all class, ladies and gentlefolk.]
And then he proceeded to tell me exactly where in his Kindle queue I was. He told me what book he is finishing (which I only remember part of the title, so I’ll have to jog my memory on that), and I was either the next book, or the one right after.
I may have said something about being perfectly happy just being on the Kindle, and that this “queue reveal” had me a bit giddy. And then I let him know that I had downloaded his work, read it, and thought he really was a great writer and that he definitely needed to do more writing.
And he is. He told me a little bit about that, and some other nice stuff and I walked away with super warm fuzzies and pleased with the idea that sometimes, people ARE as nice (or even nicer) than they seem.
And sometimes, pushing past your comfort zone is totally worth it.
*it should be noted that I have never stood in line to talk to/get something signed by a celeb before; and yes, I was concerned about the etiquette involved. WHAT ARE THE RULES?!
**I may not have said “the end” out loud. I am certain I thought it.
So, for the three of you who didn’t look at this post and say “GAH. TLDR!” I reward you with a few more images from MegaCon. If you enjoyed the rambling, tune in when I tell you all about my Friday night listening to Patrick Stewart talk Shakespeare and how I found it is entirely possible to have a crush on a septuagenarian.