I went back and forth on this post, an open letter to Comic-Con International and any convention for that matter. I’m not one to dwell on the negative, and try to follow the Thumper way of blogging, not that he ever blogged, but I bet if he did (posting about Hunting Season updates) he’d have had the tagline “If you can’t blog something nice, don’t blog nothing at all”.
You see, San Diego Comic-Con, for anyone who has been living under a rock is HUGE. And by huge I mean that 130,000 plus people descend on the San Diego Convention Center for five days, and one of the goals for many an attendee is to get into Hall H.
There are usually about a dozen-ish reasons for this. Almost all of them being huge movie and television announcements and guests from studios.
So what’s the problem? Well only about 6,500 attendees can fit in Hall H, and while it’s great just to get in, it’s a completely different experience sitting at the back, versus sitting in say, row 5.
How does one get into a coveted spot like Row 5, where you can hear celebrities mutter things even their mics don’t pick up? By sleeping outside, sometimes for days.
How can one enjoy the rest of the convention though, if you’re spending all your time in line? You get wristbands, and you make line friends. What are line friends you ask? Line friends are the people who take shifts with you, so that a spot in line is saved, until the distribution of wristbands and into the morning of desired panels. San Diego Comic-Con even has listed protocols about the wristband distribution, including general information and times.
Now, with ALL of this context, you may still be wondering what the problem is. If there’s a working system, then why would there be a problem?
The problem lies in CSC, (Contemporary Services Corporation), aka the folks in yellow or blue jackets that direct lines and groups of people (including those that camp for Hall H). Or to be more fair, the problem lies in the information that they receive from CCI.
For example, this year, by far, the biggest and most anticipated Hall H panel was the Lucasfilm panel. I was lucky enough to be up close for that one, and to do so meant sleeping outside over night. However, that’s something I almost didn’t happen.
Wristbands, according to SDCC were to be handed out at 8:30 pm on Thursday night, for the Friday panels. A friend of ours had been camping out at the Next Day Line so that we could take shifts and be there for the Friday panels since 9:30 pm WEDNESDAY. That’s a lot of shifts and a lot of teamwork. So, to ensure that said team had wristbands we were all present with our group by 7:00 pm.
What happened at about 7:45 though was quite frustrating. A woman working for CSC walked up and down the front portion of the line loudly demanding that campers turn in those who were not present in the morning. No one budged, and she got belligerent demanding to know when people were in line, getting in their faces, and questioning those around us, shouting questions like: “Was he/she here this morning?”, “When did they get here” and follow up questions like “What do you mean you WEREN’T HERE THE WHOLE TIME?!?!”, when line friends tried to explain the purpose of shifts and bathroom breaks. She ended up pulling two of our friends out of the line and threatened to send them to the end along with anyone who questioned her, if they couldn’t prove that they’d been there all day. At this point I started filming her on my phone. Everyone repeatedly reminded the woman of the rules, and that we were all at our spot by the wristband distribution, and it wasn’t until we got a supervisor did things calm down.
While this may seem like no big deal, according to line friends on other nights, this was apparently commonplace. And though it can’t be found online at this point, the rules were changed after Thursday Night so that no more than five people could make up a party. That won’t really affect things much as people can just wait in pairs, and have four join each of them. There will always be ways of making the rules as beneficial as possible.
What exacerbated things though was the exit from Saturday’s Hall H panels. Typically the entire side of the hall is opened for those leaving, and only one small exit opens into the lobby and Section G for the extra bathrooms. At the end of Saturday’s Fox panel, I was one of several attendees to try and leave before the Warner Brothers Television panel (no offense to the CW, but I had a NDL for Supernatural to hop into). Apparently none of the CSC employees though understood that people wanted to leave the Hall entirely. Rather than letting us out the main exits all leaving were initially herded out the single lobby exit. Being pushed by others I tried explaining to one of the CSC members that I wanted to go out the main exit, only to be told that I couldn’t because I was in the wrong area to leave the building. Unable to turn because of the mass behind me I tried asking if I could cut away past where they were blocking to get to the outside, only to be told “No, that’s not what this exit is for.” At this point I lost my temper and shouted “I KNOW THAT’S NOT WHAT THIS EXIT IS FOR, I DON’T WANT THIS EXIT BUT THEY WOULDN’T LET ME TAKE THE OTHER EXIT”. I immediately apologized, seeing the shock on the man’s face. I felt horrible and muttered something about knowing that he was only doing his job.
Near him was a supervisor (discernible by the blue jacket). I went to her, I said I was very sorry for losing my temper with an employee, but as I explained to her she made it clear that she was just there to supervise the other CSC members, and had no clue what the Hall H exit protocols were. By this point several attendees had started moving past the blocked area to head to the exits, and all I could do was explain to this woman what went wrong when they wouldn’t let people out the correct doors.
Now, maybe I’m just whining, but I am making an effort to be more civilized on this blog than I was in person. The point here is that we’ve arrived at a place where the attendees are more knowledgeable and organized than the CSC employees, who aren’t all that well informed, which is CCI’s fault. Things could be a lot smoother if they planned things half as well as the nerd who go to comic-con.