( Big ass boring convention report )
Even though I'd paid for a table, I changed my mind about it, unfortunately too late to get a refund.
My SO wasn't going to be there, so I'd have to man the table alone. Yarf!, which had been my neighbors at CCI for the past 7 years, wasn't going to be there. Anthrocon was the weekend before CCI, so sales would be abysmal. Gasoline is up to $2.70 a gallon, so I'd end up spending over $100 in gas. There was a Padres game every night of the Convention, making traffic and parking an even greater nightmare than ever before. And I'd have to take a day off from work without pay.
Since I wasn't going to use my table, I offered it to the folks at Califur.
Friday, I got up at about 5 am to get ready for the trip down there. I hit the ATM for some cash, then dashed through Jack In The Box for a couple Jumbo Jacks, then headed for the Oceanside Transit Center. I got there at about 6:15, and the lot was already about half full. I'd just missed the 6:06 Coaster, so I waited for the 6:44. I met a few other people who were also going to the con. Many jokes were made about my looking like a security guard or conductor (I was dressed in black slacks, a white button-down shirt, and my trademark Captain's cap), especially when people came up to me asking for information. Since I used to take the Coaster all the time, I was able to answer their questions with ease, which set my new travel companions to giggling.
The train was getting pretty full by the time we got to Solana Beach station. Virtually every seat was occupied on the lower level of the train. But at the next stop, Sorrento Valley, about 3/4 the passengers left. It's funny that the busiest station is also the smallest and has the worst transit connections.
We arrived at the Santa Fe Depot at about 7:45. The station is a relic from the days when people used to do most of their traveling by train. All the other stations on the line, even the Amtrak stops, are fairly simple concrete sidings, most with overhangs to keep the passengers dry and a few vending machines or lunch carts (Oceanside is the exception, with a Burger King as part of the bus/train complex). Santa Fe Depot is an honest to goodness train station, with rows of benches and kiosks and whatnot. It appears that large sections of the building have been shut off from the public, probably because train travel is so uncommon today.
The shuttle busses to the convention center didn't start until 8:00, and wasn't supposed to reach the train station until 5 minutes later, so I had a bit of a wait. I thought about crossing the street to the trolly station and looking around, but I didn't want to take a chance on missing the bus. At that time of the morning, they only ran every 20 minutes. It was a good thing I didn't, because the driver showed up at almost exactly 8:00. As they have for several years now, the Con had contracted a bunch of charter busses, the kind with the nice, cushy seating. They always have the TVs turned off on the busses; I've always thought they should be running advertising from local businesses. The route schedule said it would be 15 minutes from the train station to the convention center, but it only took about 5 minutes. The bus dropped me off way down in front of hall F. At first I was a bit annoyed, because my table was up at hall B, but I discovered that the dealer reg was in hall E, so it saved me quite a walk.
Got my dealer badge, and asked the person behind the counter if alohawolf had picked up the second badge, and was told yes. Good, that means he must have gotten here before me! So I made my way down to hall B to wait for the dealer setup to begin and to meet up with the Califurs.
I waited there for about 30 minutes until they began letting dealer into the main hall and never did see anyone. So I headed over to the table and hung out there until just before they started letting the public in. Still nobody.
I headed to one end of the convention hall, hall A, and started walking up and down the aisles, checking out what everybody had. I slowly made my way up through the hall until about 11:30 I got back to the Small Press area. My table was still empty. I sat down for a while, drank a bottle of water and ate some of the granola bars I'd brought. Still nobody, so I headed out again, continuing my way along the convention hall.
As I started getting into hall C, I started running into the Big Booths, the gigantic spectacles of DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and the like. The small booths began to thin out, and I started getting into the movie studios and gaming companies and whatnot. They took up the vast majority of the convention hall. It's not really a "comic" convention anymore. The booths actually selling comics make up less than 1/4 of the floor now. 1/8 if you don't count the "Golden Age" booths just selling back issues.
The crowds were thickest in this portion of the hall, so I gave up on trying to see anything further, and just headed down to Artists Alley. I worked my way though the tables, but didn't see anyone I recognized. The Alley seemed a lot smaller than last year.
I was getting tired of the crowds, and I figured I'd bought everything I was looking for, so I decided to head home. I made my way back to the shuttle bus stop and waited. And waited. And waited. I missed the 12:45 Coaster, and the next one wouldn't leave until 2:15. Great. It was very hot and humid, and I was hot, sweaty and tired. The bus finally arrived and I piled onboard. Fortunately it was well air conditioned. After a few minutes, we started out, and then I learned why it took 5 minutes to get from the train station when it was supposed to take 15; they had the schedule backwards. So after waiting a good 20 minutes for the bus, it took about 15 minutes to get to the station. I could have walked the 1/2 mile in less time. Along the way, the bus stopped and who should get onboard but Mitch Beiro. Since nobody had shown up at the table, I offered him the space.
Got to the station, and sure enough, the Coaster was long gone. But there was an Amtrak waiting there. I checked at the window, and learned it would be boarding in less than 5 minutes, so I bought a ticket. It was $13, instead of the $5.25 that the Coaster cost. But the Amtrak is faster, has a higher priority, has only 1 stop between Oceanside and San Diego (vs 6 for the Coaster), offers a dining car, and has nicer seating. So I went to stand in the boarding line. It was nice to see other people taking the train for obviously long trips. After a few minutes, they started boarding, and I hopped on the dining car. I snagged a $3 hot dog (still a bargain compared to the convention center food), then made my way further along the train apparently to the first class section. Nice, airline type seats that fold back and have leg rests, a tray in the seat in front of you and curtains on the windows. It took about half an hour to get to Oceanside. I was in my car driving home before the Coaster even left San Diego.
I got a call the next day that alohawolf had car trouble the day before so he wasn't able to make it. Some of the other Califur folks apparently used the table on Saturday, and were thinking of purchasing a table for next year, so the furry presence in the Small Press area won't be completely lost.
I'd still like to know whether the person at the registration booth was just an idiot and couldn't look up the badges right, or if someone else had taken the second badge.
Total miles walked: 4.8