Monday, August 11, 2014

LineCon to Otakon: A Photo Diary of My Bad Choices

It was Thursday in Baltimore, and I got in line for Otakon at around 6:45 PM. I was hungry, but figured I'd wait an hour, get my ticket and then grab dinner. After half an hour of weird line etiquette, which snaked in inexplicable loops in front of the lobby entrance, the people behind me started getting particularly angry. They bailed to get food, while I brought out my phone. I thought it would be funny to catch what they missed.

The line eventually curved around the left side of the building, where we saw it eventually snaked again and brought everyone back in the opposite direction. I tried to see where it was going to turn around again...

...but I couldn't. That was because it didn't snake on the left side of the convention center. In fact, it didn't snake along the rear side, either. Both lines, going forward and reverse, ran the entire length of the crosswalk behind the convention center.

And then they kept going. The line only curved back around once it had entirely circled the building, which was funny since coming into Baltimore, I'd thought that part of this line had been people waiting for the light rail.

Some goofballs hung out beside the line begging for high fives. I give pounds, myself.

This was around 8:00 or so, waiting to reach the snake in the line, when things started to seriously slow. We were out there long enough to see it get dark.

It was while returning around the rear side of the convention center that the first diabetic had to leave to find food. That put my gripes into perspective, but also left me questioning Otakon's management. Word was not spreading well about what was going on.

That was also when we noticed the multiple floors of lines of people inside the convention center - we'd waited hours just to join them.

Here's one photo of a bunch of people in a dark first-floor line. I sat in the same spot for an hour, living out an embarrassing fallacy that, given how long I'd waited, I couldn't possibly leave now.

Tech nerds around me asserted that it had to be computer problems. We didn't have any official word. After spending about two hours in the dark first floor lines, we went upstairs and found....

This queue ran the entire length of the building, snaking umpteen times, but at least it got moving. It got us here:

Which fed into a funny, narrow alley-line running along the bathrooms, where most of the water fountains had been disabled. I found this very funny. The people around me did not.

We made it out of the alley-lines to find:

This fed into Otakon's traditional line setup. So it was almost over! We saw the tethers and guides leading thousands of people to the registration booths, where some very tired staff were yelling instructions for how to most quickly get our badges. This was around 11:00 PM, when it was revealed that the convention computers had crashed at least three times. That explained some of the waiting,

Thinking it silly that I'd photo-diaried my journey, I snapped the registration booth. I hoped the hotel bar would at least still be open. It was near midnight, but there had been a football game that night.

So, here's the funny thing. The girl in front of me registered, and the system crashed again. I waited behind her as crashes cascaded down the registration desk. An angry IT guy ran around talking to the staffers, and I waited another half hour until the convention center staff (not the con staff) said we had to leave.

The 1000+ people still waiting in line had to go. I could only turn to the staffer and her broken computer, and apologize for all the people who were probably going to yell at her soon.

Being nimble, some staffers handed out free t-shirts and herded everyone across a skybridge and into the Hilton hotel across the street. This was the Midnight Run.

We lined up along the entire second floor of the Hilton...

...and then snaked back around. I can only imagine how psyched the Hilton staff was with this.

Remaining Otakon staff turned an info desk into a registration desk. Just as I was about to try to get my badge for the second time, a very angry young woman cut in front of me. I let her go, and didn't photograph her. I just laughed, which I think annoyed her more than calling her on it would have. Oh well.

My doctor wouldn't be happy with me having done all this. My body certainly wasn't. I got into my hotel room at 1:00 on the dot, according to its desk clock. I lay my head down and pondered why the hell I'd stayed in line.

I love Otakon, but this kind of thing can't happen again. Preparation includes running high stress system checks. I dread what might go wrong when they switch cities in 2017. Otakon is blessed with phenomenally patient and considerate fans. It could have gotten much uglier than a few people cutting in line and banging on windows.


  1. Sorry if this shows up twice ...

    I can't even imagine. *smh* From now, when I hear "Iron Man", it's you I'll think of, not RDJ.

  2. OMG I wouldn't have the patience to stand in that line even if I were healthy... wow so disorganized.

  3. Aaaaargh.
    I hope (but doubt) that a good nights sleep (coma?) made you feel better.
    And I love you apologising to the staffer. They seem to have got an A+ on poor organisation, and no contigency plans. Not good.

  4. That is completely insane!! I've been in some hellacious lines before, but that wins. I'm sure both the con and the convention center's emails were flooded with complaints like you can't imagine.

  5. Wow. I probably wouldn't have gone insane. At least, I'm not the type to kick up a fuss, but I'd be silently fuming.

  6. Wow. That's awful. Seriously, seriously awful. Very impressed with your ability to laugh about it and then turn it into this.

  7. Well at least it turned into a good blog post :)

  8. Crap. Hope you had comfortable shoes on, and maybe a good book to read? It was smart of you to turn it into a piece of journalism.

    And yeah, serious FUBAR with the computers. And not just the computers -- at some point, you send a volunteer to print multiple copies of the registrations so you can do it on paper. That point is usually after the first computer crash. After the second crash, you tell everyone to switch to paper. It's slower but way more reliable.


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