Now that I’ve had time to come down from the surreal cloud of excitement that I inhabited all weekend, I am reviewing my first ComicCon experience and some constructive criticism seems to be in order.
Working for the past four years in a customer service role at my local performing arts center has colored the lens through which I view any ticketed event for massive crowds. I realize I work with patrons at a theater that holds an audience of 2,000, not a huge convention center, but some of the basic principles I’ve learned still apply. So a review of our ComicCon experience on Saturday:
Getting into the parking garage was horrendous, but that is to be expected, so I’m really not complaining about that. It is an inevitable evil of driving to a convention right when the floor is opening and everyone is trying to get off the highway and into the parking garage at the exact same time. So that was our poor planning. We should have left our hotel much earlier, by at least an hour, even though we were a ten minute drive away.
As we were playing Chi-town style bumper cars, I gazed wistfully out the windshield at the steady stream of people walking single file down the sidewalk from the eL Blue Line into the convention hall. Suddenly our decision to stay near the convention to avoid the high cost of overnight parking downtown seemed foolish and I wished we had elected to stay with friends in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. We could have jumped the Red Line, hopped over onto the Blue and sped away to the convention, carefree and without the stress that noxious fumes and incessant honking seem to rapidly induce.
So, the parking situation – totally our lack of pre-planning.
The long lines to get into the convention however, not our fault. Based on the massive amounts of grumbling I heard from the people around me, I would say we were not alone in our annoyance. A couple of weeks ago, in an effort to plan ahead, we purchased our tickets on-line and as is becoming standard throughout the ticketing world, we were able to print out our tickets at home. These tickets included a scannable bar code. Very handy for smooth access of large quantities of people into an event in a small window of time. As an employee for a performing arts center, whoever first experienced this light bulb moment, deserves my utmost and undying adoration.
However, when we arrived at the convention center, the long, snaking line out around the building that we assumed was for people yet to buy their tickets, turned out to be the line for people who had already planned ahead and advance purchased their tickets. Meanwhile, walk-ups were quickly purchasing their tickets and heading into ComicCon. Um…did I miss something? Isn’t the purpose of advance purchase printable tickets with bar codes to reward those who plan ahead and allow the event organizers to quickly and easily move huge crowds into the event? The advance purchase line wasn’t of spring-break-at-Disneyland monumental proportions, but it was still an uneasy wait of 20 minutes spent checking my watch and praying I wouldn’t miss the start of James Marsters’ panel. I admit I’m still puzzled two days later by how the ticketing lines were organized. Granted, our theater typically doesn’t have the huge crowds of a convention, but we have handled four to six week engagements of blockbuster Broadway musicals, such as Wicked and The Lion King, and are able to quickly scan through a full house and into their seats by an army of vest-clad volunteers armed with a wonderful invention called a wireless ticket scanner. So food for thought to our friends at Chicago ComicCon – next time maybe have more than four booths to check in the advance ticket purchasers, set them up in teams of two, and give one the ticket scanner and another all the wrist bands. Place them strategically so that you have at least ten entry lines, and maybe the flow will be much smoother.
Just a thought from a lowly performing arts center employee.
On a completely unrelated tangent, this morning I threw on a gorgeous shimmery blue silk blouse covered in intricate flowers and dragons that I purchased at the Chinatown Night Market in Vancouver a couple of months ago. Instantly I was transported back to that moment in time, as the dying sun bathed the entire street in the intense orange glow of its last hurrah, enticing smells wafted over from the food vendors, my thirsty body craved a refreshing bubble tea, a live traditional Chinese mandolin provided a soundtrack for the organic mass of humanity haggling over teapots and cheap leather knock-offs, and I unwittingly provided the evening’s entertainment as an enthusiastic shopkeeper had me try on blouse after blouse designed for a petite Chinese woman in the search for the perfect fit on my 5’11’’ frame.
There is nothing like standing with your arms straight up, your hair mussed into flying tangles, your glasses teetering on the edge of your nose, and the current ill-fitting shirt bunched up on your bust as you frantically try to keep your tank top from riding up and your niece attempts to help you disentangle yourself. Yes, it was comedy hour in Chinatown. Let’s all watch the tall Anglo-Saxon trying on XL sizes that still have her wriggling into them like an acrobat! I couldn’t stop laughing, my niece probably thinks her auntie is bizarre, and the helpful Chinese lady kept diving into the dredges of these huge boxes, saying, “Try again, maybe XXL.” Her persistence and my ability to laugh at myself finally led to a beautiful find, which now I wear with pride and a ghost of a smile as I remember my 15 minutes of fame in Vancouver’s Chinatown.
These are the best souvenirs, the ones that act as keepers of your memories, a form of reminiscent time travel.