Strictly Unofficial

Just walk in like you own the place. It always works for me.

Pick a Doctor, any Doctor; I’m sure each of them has said something like this to a companion or two

Dearest Rachel –

It’s a weird experience, arriving at the convention nearly a full day before everything starts. Just about everything is open to walk through, and nobody is particularly concerned about whether you’re registered or not, because (unlike Anime Central, where most of us would receive our badges in the mail long beforehand) nobody actually is.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First things first, I guess, since you never had to deal with staying at this hotel as opposed to the Marriott (now the Hyatt, it would seem). Granted, we did stay at a Choice Hotel opposite 1st Avenue – but only the one time, and you made that much more sure to check back for cancellations in subsequent years, so we wouldn’t have to walk so far to get to the convention (although in fairness, I think they were running a shuttle bus service that particular year, so we would take that more often than not).

And a good thing, too, as walking that far in this heat would have been a trial, even though we were that much younger and more durable in those days. It’s nice to not have to deal with a cold, wet rain, but ninety cloudless degrees has its own set of hazards, too.

You can’t even see the Hyatt from the hotel…
…although there is this little footpath that leads down toward the Riverwalk area…
…which eventually gets you onto the 9th Street approach; the Hyatt (at the end of the street on the right) looks awfully far away from this perspective, doesn’t it? Not that the Drury Inn & Suites (in the distance on the left) isn’t some distance away itself.

But it isn’t as if there’s anything to do at the hotel I’m staying at; at least, not until half past five. It seems that, as well as a continental breakfast, they provide dinner here as well. If only we had known sooner! It would have saved us the trouble of having to bring all manner of snacks and drinks like we always did.

Although, if this is what they have on offer for every evening, I may look elsewhere for sustenance after all.

Then again, those were more for the purpose of facilitating that much more social interaction than as mere nourishment and hunger abatement, weren’t they? Besides, even when we did go out to eat at one of the restaurants in the area, you seemed to regret leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the convention crowd; the one thing that ameliorated that was the fact that would usually do so with one or more of the fanfiction writers that we had met up with here. And that’s not about to happen this year – and who knows about any subsequent year?

Anyway, enough about food and eating for the time being. You’re probably more curious about what there was to do at the convention site.

And the honest truth is, not a whole lot. I basically made a circuit of the hall, panel rooms and all, trying to see if anyone needed help with anything. Strictly on an unofficial basis, however; after last year, I didn’t really see any benefit to ‘putting in hours.’ I think a lot of the volunteers are working for swag (or badges or accommodations), and I don’t really need any of that. Besides, it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver; if I officially volunteer, I’m committed to a certain amount of time, whereas at the moment, any assistance I give is more than what’s asked of me.

Additionally – as the fellows I chatted with who were setting up the cameras and video in the main programming room informed me – that seems to be the ethos of the convention, which they found to be a refreshing change of pace. Apparently, the two of them have worked scores of cons over the past fifteen years, and they’re usually told “oh yeah, you’ll have plenty of volunteers helping you out,” only to find a couple of unskilled people at best. Here, they’d actually had help putting up chairs and curtains, and their preparations were nearly complete by mid-afternoon, wit plenty of time to spare for details like taping over cords to avoid trip hazards and the like. Long story short (I know, too late for that), they were pretty well settled, and in no need of further assistance

Not that I wasn’t able to do anything. The tabletop game room had a collection of bins filled with various board games that needed to be removed from the table where they were sitting in order for the room’s program leader (who was resting from having brought everything in from outside – indeed, she had been ordered to not do anything for the next half hour, due to the effects of heat and over-exertion) to begin the next phase of the setup. So I brought those down to the floor, as gently as I could without hurting myself (I certainly won’t deny that those bins were heavy – no wonder she’d been so ordered!)

I also helped a group of guys wheel down a rack of books from a rental truck into the dealers’ room – at which point, I proceeded to wander through the entirety of the place whilst it was being set up.

Although in fairness, there wasn’t much that was set up at this point.
It’s still weird to be wandering about the place without credentials, and not being challenged about it.

As with the other rooms, I would ask one person or another if they needed any help; I won’t say that I was rebuffed as such, but generally the response tended to be along the lines of ‘thanks, but we’re good.’ I wonder if there might be a little concern about letting some stranger handle merchandise, in which case I can understand their reticence. Still, why pass up help when it’s offered? Many hands make light work and all that.


Anyway, I did head back after ‘dinner’ to see if I could render myself ‘official’ after all – not so much as a volunteer, but as an attendee (the pre-registration pick-up was to begin at six, after the food was served back at the hotel). After standing in line in the registration room, I got to the desk, only to be informed that sponsors would be serviced at a different location. Well, it wasn’t as if I had anything better to do…

The girl manning the sponsor booth looked familiar, although I couldn’t tell you her name if my life depended on it. Of course, that’s another thing about the AI staff; they are faithful, year after year. The semi-recognition was mutual, in fact; when I mentioned how I still wasn’t used to remembering to take care of registration, she asked me, “Isn’t your wife supposed to be here with you?”

I’m not sure how to answer that, honey. In a way, the answer to that is a resounding ‘yes,’ you’re supposed to be here. Heck, you were supposed to be by my side for the next couple of decades through all manner of life events. But of course, that’s not how things go. I think I said something along the lines of ‘I wish,’ and she responded with some sympathetic noises in turn.

I’m never sure if people figure it out, or assume that my reaction (especially since it isn’t as if I burst into tears at the question or something) suggests that we simply broke up and divorced in the intervening time since they last saw me. Ironically, had that happened, you’d probably be the one attending the conventions, and I’d be staying home (I’d also most likely still be working, as the inheritance was from your family, and you would have had every right to take it all back). I feel like I have to make it clear; “Accidents happen,” I told her, along with the parting acknowledgement that she couldn’t take my payment at the moment, so I would be back as early as I could tomorrow morning.

So, that’s been my afternoon, honey. Hope yours was better – what am I saying, I know it was better. Anyway, keep an eye out for me, and wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

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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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