Conned: Episode 0

SDCC boundThree accounts.  Three computers.  If I thought it would improve my chances to heft some of the house’s scattered PCs — outdated, abandoned, or consumed by spiderwebs — down to my room, I might have risked electric shock and wolf spider bites to heave the towers into my room.  But I had three accounts, thus only three computers.

The other members of my party were working across the street at Katie’s new house, knocking down trees and feeding the sap-soaked limbs into the chipper, giving Mother Nature the ol’ Fargo-special (as I call it).  Thus, the task of procuring tickets to the  Comicon fell to me.

Now, we’ve attended comic book conventions in the past here in Baltimore and DC.  These are typically low-key affairs, occupying a single floor at the Baltimore convention center, which — to quote the Hulk — is puny in comparison to its counterparts in DC and Boston.  Still it manages to stock the panels with some pretty awesome writers and artists: Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Don Rosa, and Neil Adams to name a few that I’ve seen (Batman and Uncle Scrooge fanatic that I am).

Conventions have become a part of my life since high school, and though the cons can prove — as Sean once observed — a ‘sea of unwashed bodies drooling over illustrated spandex’, the enthusiasm, excitement, and energy of a comic convention greatly outweighs its faults. Dasad too has harped before during our ‘adventures’ how awkward and unsettling the more . . . devoted geeks can be to the non-nerd, much like a Tokyo cosmolite touring a midwestern Walmart for the first time.  Or vice versa.  But as I tell my family, no one attends a comic book convention expecting ‘normal.’  Despite all the subgenre hierarchy, the capes, the elf-ears, the trolling, the steampunk fan fiction, or even the zombie-cowboy porn, no geek can be accused of being bland.  For many of us, our individuality represents our sole saving grace:

“Yeah Martha, the boy never bathes!  Lately, he’s become obsessed with this animated movie with half-naked girls and tentacles . . . Yeah, he’s pretty messed up, but I tell you . . . it’s a stone’s throw from boring ’round here.”

Now if geekdom is a religion, the local comic convention is comparable to Sunday service; it’s small, quaint and typically stocked with the same acolytes devotees everywhere.  Traveling to the San Diego Comicon (SDCC) is equivalent to booking a ticket to Mecca, the Holy Land: sacred ground.  All my friends and colleagues dream of visiting the Con at least once.  A fellow English teacher asked me last week whether Stephan Moffat was attending, half-drooling with hope for a potential autograph.   Besides the cosplay, the artists and writers of our favorite series, the gaming competitions, the Con offers chances to meet movie stars, witness the latest trailers, sidle with sci-fi/fantasy’s greatest heroes, and generally shed our more conservative guises without threat of public backlash or hazing.  Moreover, we can discuss our hobby without enduring the typical rolling of eyes or insufferable sighs.  Add to the inherent thrill, the influx of actors and trailers, and it makes being a geek feel . . . well, cool.

Admittedly, I have never attempted to visit the SDCC before.  The process seems rather elaborate and complicated for new visitors.  Basically, conventioneers who attended the previous year may participate in pre-registration, claiming tickets months in advance.  A few months later first timers may compete for tickets in open registration.  Now if you’ve attended the Con or attempted to buy tickets, you are aware of this process; however, for those who have never attempted this gauntlet before– such as my Mom who I proudly attest reads my blog regularly; love ya, Mom! — you might have better luck buying tickets to a U2 concert.

First, all interested parties must sign up with a membership ID for the Con.  This can be accomplished months in advance, but a week before Open Registration, the website readying for the rush closes all new memberships.  I warned my brothers months in advance, and while Kevin and Rodney obtained IDs,  Shannon and Ryan– ever the procrastinators — lost all chance of gaining tickets.  Individual buyers may purchase multiple passes, but only for Con attendees with IDs.

Then, there’s Open Registration, for which I had prepared the multiple computers and accounts.  The con folks open the floodgates to hopeful attendees at 11 am (if I remember correctly), but you had to log into a waiting room sometime before ticket sales open.  The waiting room opened at 10, at which time I stood ready and eager to purchase tickets, aware that the whole process was totally pointless and . . . well, this about sums it up:

This accurately sums up my frustration.

This accurately sums up my frustration, and interestingly enough most of our vacations in Florida.

Ticket sales began at eleven.  The screen goes blank and a message bar announces useful advice and information: “Ticket sales have begun!  Good luck!”  “Saturday ticket sales closed, but many other exciting days available such as Friday and Sunday!”  “Friday is filling.”  “Friday ticket sales closed.”  And so on.  For some reason I imagine the computer speaking these lines like GladOS in Portal.  While the message bar announces slowly that all my efforts and preparation are for naught, I am pacing like a maniac, ignoring phone calls, family and even *gasp* my books to help pass the time.

Around 11:30, Dad calls asking me to buy food for the guys working on Katie’s new house.  I considered arguing with my father that my Saturday is centered around a comic convention across the country, but thought better of it.  My efforts at home-building are poor at best, and if by playing gopher and buying lunch, I can help everyone, then so be it.  Still I could not abandon the digital line entirely so I recruited Bree to watch the three computer screens.  Since I have a way with people and offered to buy her lunch, she readily agreed.  And after several minutes of explaining (I did not know what would happen in reality myself), I left to pick-up pizza and soda, calling Bree every five minutes or so for an update.

This did not ingratiate me to my sister at all: “Jeez, Murph, I know how to order tickets!  I bought tickets to One Direction last year!”

“Yeah,” I agreed hesitantly, “but One Direction sucks!  This is important!”

Like I said, I have a way with people.

If you happened to be visiting Western Maryland that day, you may have spotted a blur of red, weaving through traffic and hurling curses at wayward pedestrians and the occasional cat.  I called Bree every five minutes or so too, just in case; such was my fervor that I was forced to buy an extra order of chili fries as a peace offering.  Yet after depositing the pizzas with my brothers and fries with my sister, the screen had not changed.  The message box reported only Sunday’s tickets remained.

Eventually, the message box counted down the dwindling days one by one, until none were left.  I waited in line little over an hour with nothing, no tickets, no trip to show for it.

Afterwards, as I explained the process to a disappointed Rodney and Kevin, Dad poked his head into room with a smug smile.

“So you wasted all morning and did not get any tickets at all?”

“No,” I sighed.

“Well, why didn’t you ask me?” he said matter-of-factly.  “I can get tickets.”

“Really?  How?  Each ticket is locked with your Member ID, I don’t think you can scalp . . .”

“Give me an hour,” he smiled, picking up his phone.  “I know a guy . . .”

Dad says stuff like this every so often, speaking with the confidence of an Italian mobster.  I envision some back-alley deal, my father hooded, his face flushed and sweating while his hands pass a suitcase stocked with unmarked bills to a pox-marked kid dressed as Sailor Moon.  I’m torn between apprehension and amusement.

“Dad,” I said, “It’s cool.  I’ll just try again next year.  Maybe Kev can . . . ”

After a few minutes with his cell locked to his ear, he pulled phone from ear lobe and slapped the device onto the table with the force of a football after a victory touchdown.

“Done,” he said.  “You’ll have your tickets in two weeks.”

“How . . ?” This was all I managed to stammer.  A variety of hurdles passed across my mind, but Dad simply waved them aside with nothing more than a smile.

“I told you guys,” he smirked deviously, “I know a guy…  Now go fold laundry before I forget who I just talked to.”

Despite the sudden and bittersweet hostage situation in which I’ve suddenly found myself, my legs stumbled up the stairs to fold the family unmentionables.  My mind hardly registered which basket I threw a cotton camisole or leopard skin undies (Ryan still does his laundry at the house); thoughts of Torchwood cosplay drifted absently through my mind.  The future was suddenly full of possibilities.

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