AI After Dark

Dearest Rachel –

One of the places they suggested at the volunteer desk last night that I could serve at is outside certain panel rooms, checking people for IDs. After all, while AnimeIowa has traditionally billed itself as a family friendly convention, there are plenty of subjects (and anime) that aren’t meant for children.

As it so happens, Friday night starts out spoken for. By the time I show up at the bridge to volunteer (because the volunteer booth is closed by 9 pm), they have folks monitoring programming rooms one and two, and room three isn’t supposed to have anything requiring ID until 10:30.

So I poke my head into each of these rooms. One is discussing Osamu Tezuka’s Animerama film company, and the movies they put together back in the 70s that were decidedly racy for their day. I think I’d just seen this on YouTube, discussed by either the Nostalgia Critic or SaberSpark, so this was nothing particularly new.

The other room had a panel you would’ve remembered from 2019 wherein a group of four or five friends would be doing a dramatic reading of a game (actually, a visual novel) called Fate/Stay Night… while getting progressively drunk. I’m pretty sure the drunk part is why it’s for 18 and over, rather than the subject material – although, that may have had its moments, too. I can’t remember exactly, but I’m not sure I want to go through this a second time. It’s one thing to watch something like this when there’s someone beside you to snark back and forth with, it’s entirely different when you’re on your own.

So I head out to see if anything might be open as far as somewhere or something to eat. It would seem that, despite the buildup on the riverwalk, Coralville is making no effort to be a ‘city that never sleeps.’ All the restaurants are closed as of either 9 or 9:30, leaving me with pretty much no options. I’m also starting to wish I’d brought my other, walking shoes.

Of course, it’s a little late for regrets now.

I make my way back to the hotel, and people appear to be lining up for the next panel. Time to go to work. As people filter out from the webcomic panel, I check with the arriving panelists as to how much setup time they’ll need before I let the audience in. According to them, it looks like we can open the doors at 10:20, ten minutes before the panel is supposed to begin.

I let the crowd outside know, and the response is mildly happy; they’ll let us in ten minutes early? Sure, that’s cool. We can live with another ten, fifteen minutes until then.

Once we open the doors, it’s about fifteen minutes of playing “Papers, Please:” each state puts the driver’s birthdate in a different place, and I have to keep adjusting where on the card I’m supposed to be looking. At least, I don’t get anyone trying to show a fake card (although there are a few photocopied ID cards). I actually do have to send a few people away for not having photo ID with birthdates on it. As a general rule, though, they’re cooperative about the situation, heading off to get what they need and coming back, ID in hand.

What’s truly discouraging about the process is the fact that every single one of these kids (and yes, I think I’m entitled to call each and every one of them ‘kids’ at this point – you’ll see why in a moment) is younger than I am. Not a single ID dates from the sixties, and I could count those from the seventies on one hand – and when the room is approaching standing room only status, that’s saying something.

Of course, maybe it’s because someone my age doesn’t consider the risqué and racy to be ‘forbidden fruit,’ having enjoyed it in real life, so the 2D world doesn’t necessarily hold the same appeal.

Yeah, I keep telling myself that.

But I sit around for the full hour that it goes, wondering about the raucous laughter that spills out from time to time – and yet, guessing that most of what’s going on is nothing that I haven’t either seen or heard before. Am I really that jaded, even by such an otherwise titillating topic?

Maybe. And once again, it might be why there’s no one my age that’s into all this.

Eventually, everyone pours out of the room, and I grab my stuff and blend into the crowd without really involving myself with them. To be honest, while I wish things were still going on, I’m glad that the panels are wrapping up. Midnight is edging close to my limit, after all.

On the other hand, once I get my time card stamped yet again, I head up to the recharge room, only to find – to my disappointment – that it’s been shut down. A fellow in a security vest agrees that it’s kind of a shame, but “that’s the world we’re living in, now.”

I don’t think you would have liked that much, honey.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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