Sunday, August 16, 2009

GenCon -- Day Zero

The greatest thing about GenCon is the stories.

This is my third GenCon, though the second I'm blogging (though not, thank goodness, attempting to live-blog). The stories, generally, come after the con -- once you've had a chance to digest the experiences and filter out the general noise of the convention into the few memorable moments that'll crystallize into the stories you'll tell for years.

This con didn't take long for the first great story. More on this later.

Generally, the day before GenCon begins is the travel day, and this GenCon was no exception. The difference with this GenCon is that, among our usual group, only myself and Chip were planning to attend. This basically threw our general plan -- to rent a large vehicle and spend the Wednesday before con travelling cross-country -- completely out the window.

In what most folks who know me would consider a significant increase of my typical sense of responsibility, I nominated myself to be trip planner for this GenCon. (Admittedly, that it was only planning for me and one other person made it much less intimidating.) In February, I bought the GenCon badge, as well as a companion badge for Chip. In March, I made the hotel reservations. In April, when event tickets went on sale, I nabbed my tickets as well as some for Chip. Finally, in June, I got the plane tickets.

On the whole, I thought I did OK. The hotel seemed a bit pricey ($179 per night), but for the location (right across the street from the convention center), it seemed like the cost would be worth it. The flight seemed reasonable -- round trip tickets non-stop from Minneapolis to Indy for $220 each. I budgeted, I saved, and when GenCon rolled around, I was ready to roll.

The day started as a series of events that reminded me of an old children's book, "What Good Luck, What Bad Luck". It's basically told in a series that juxtaposes 'good luck' events with 'bad luck' events. For instance, "What good luck! You found a plane! What bad luck! The plane is about to crash! What good luck! You found a parachute! What bad luck! The parachute doesn't work! What good luck! You see a haystack below you! What bad luck! There's a pitchfork in the haystack! What good luck! You missed the pitchfork! What bad luck! You missed the haystack!"

I woke up before my alarm went off at 6:15 this morning, and went to work, having switched shifts with a sympathetic co-worker. I then forgot that I was working before the office was officially open, and locked myself out of the office for nearly half an hour when I went down to the cafeteria for breakfast. I handled the customer issues that came my way, but locked a password in the process, delaying the resolution of that issue.

I got off work at 4, ran the last couple of errands I needed to run, then met Chip and got a lift to the airport. Chip, who hasn't flown since before 9/11, had no trouble getting through security. I, who've flown a few times, bumbled through the checkpoint like Inspector Clouseau. Then, we sat for an hour waiting to board the plane.

The flight itself was fine, but when we landed, I called the hotel to ask if they had a shuttle. They did not, but the lady at the hotel who answered my call told me about a supposed public transit option called the Green Line, that allegedly ran every twenty minutes on the hour. The problem with the Green Line is that, like Bigfoot, it doesn't really seem to exist, despite numerous people giving me anecdotal evidence that it does. One guy waiting for his own bus mentioned that the Green Line usually arrives right before his own bus. One of the shuttle drivers even pointed us to the place where the Green Line bus pulls in.

Chip and I waited for an hour -- or in other words, about as long as the flight from Minneapolis to Indianapolis took -- before finally getting tired of the wait and deciding to take a cab to the hotel.

As I'd mentioned, I'd made the hotel arrangements through the GenCon VIG reservation service. When we arrived and got into the room, well...

Senior tells a story of a GenCon a few years back when he and his friends were apparently booked into a suite, only to find that someone else already apparently had the room. Turned out that the front desk gave Senior the wrong room keys. That's a good story.

Ours is a bit better. We got into the suite, walked around in a daze at the nearly obnoxious degree of luxury in the suite (there's a player piano, for crying out loud!), and continued to giggle at one another until well past 1am. I'm still convinced that someone from the hotel is going to come up and ask us to change rooms.

As long as it lasts, though, this $500 for the VIG badge? Money well freakin' spent.

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