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Philcon 2011 - a peek behind the scenes

It was my plan to get to the convention hotel much earlier than strictly necessary today, just in case something came up before the people with actual responsibilities got there. I lazed around this morning, and then dawdled a little, and even got an oil change on the way. I still arrived promptly -- and so of course had nothing to do for many hours. In fact, the only thing I was needed for today was to pick up SJ Tucker, the music guest of honor, from the airport tonight.

In volunteering for the task, and talking to people about it, I chose not to mention that this was only the third time I've been to the Philadelphia airport. The first time, I was headed for northeast Philly and missed (yes, really). The second time, I chose to fly from Philly instead of Newark, because between flight prices and parking costs it saved me more than $100. And both times I was on 95 the whole time. Also, before today I believe I'd only driven across the Ben Franklin Bridge once, although I rode back and forth often as a passenger while growing up. Today I crossed it three times.

I'm not from around here. I'm just good at faking it.

Anyway, the flight was scheduled to land at 11:30. I got to the airport right at 11, and apparently so did the plane. I collected s00j and her luggage without incident, and delivered her to her cellist in the hotel lobby a few minutes before midnight. Please God, may everything tomorrow go even half so smoothly.

I enjoyed watching things start to rev up over the course of the afternoon and evening. When I arrived at 2:30, the lobby was full of ordinary people, and the only person I recognized was Filthy Pierre. He goes to all[1] the conventions, and he brings a set of plastic literature racks, which hold flyers from other conventions and related events. He also writes the convention listings column for one of the SF magazines. I don't know how long he's been doing these things, but he's clearly an institution.

By 6, the con-chair was at the hotel desk, resolving the first round of here's-what's-different-than-expected[2]. The visible staff had doubled. The crowd of ordinary people had thinned out to just a few, and some faces that looked a little familiar had trickled in.

At 9:30, things had been set in motion. The truck from the storage unit was being unloaded into the art show space. Rooms were being set up, signs were starting to go up, and everything began to feel familiar. Hugh paused for a moment in the lobby, and in less than five minutes there were half a dozen people gathered around chatting. I was trying to soak up so much, to get a feel of what was going on and how it all works, and also to try to connect the names I'd heard before and the faces I was seeing, just by whatever piece of the convention they talked about first.

And at midnight, all that activity had stopped and the participants dispersed. The only convention person left in the lobby was the hotel liaison, and he disappeared as well once he knew s00j was checked in uneventfully.

And so did I, to wind down a little, and now to sleep. I'm excited about the weekend, even though I know I may not end up seeing much of the advertised attractions. I've always preferred to be backstage, back-of-house, doing the things that keep things running. I like learning process, both the way things work and the ways they don't. And also figuring out where I can effectively insert myself and make them work better. And I love hearing stories from before my time. Fandom seems to be especially full of that kind of oral history. It's valuable for people getting involved to listen to, even the dissatisfied cranks complaining that back in THEIR day things were different. Where something came from can predict a great deal about where it goes next.


[1] Obviously not ALL the conventions. Even on the eastern seaboard alone, some of them conflict. But whole bunches, anyway.

[2] Not problems. Problems are things that affect the guest experience, or the bottom line, or something else with long-term consequences. Things that are different than expected but can be adjusted to easily are not problems. But they do require the adjustments.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 18th, 2011 01:00 pm (UTC)
I like nuts-and-bolts.
Nov. 21st, 2011 10:56 pm (UTC)
Sigh. "No" was a perfectly acceptable answer to the airport ride request, silly. I was ready to pay for a shuttle for her.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 01:33 am (UTC)
Oh, I was happy to do it and not worried. I just didn't want anyone ELSE to worry. :-) It was very much an honor to be able to help out Team s00j this weekend. Delightful people.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC)
Indeed they are, and I'm thankful for your help..though I confess you gave me a scare when you asked about their hotel room. I thought you were saying one more thing had gone wrong, and I was poised to call Dennis and get the scoop.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )