Now I don’t blame my fellow humans. At least, not the ones who crowded the South Concourse of the Orange County Convention Center. No, the fault lies with the convention organizers, who severely underestimated the amount of space they’d need, the number of people who would attend, and how popular some events would be. Nearly every problem I faced yesterday could have been handled with some basic, good old-fashioned theme park crowd control and half again as much room as they had. A thousand people shouldn’t walk out of a packed panel smack into the line of people waiting to get into the next panel. Nor was it a good idea to put two sure-to-be-packed panels — one featuring the cast of Torchwood, the other the cast of The Walking Dead — practically back to back in the same space. A bunch of us spent nearly twenty minutes jammed shoulder-to-shoulder and not moving, thanks to the assumption we were in line and not trying to leave. I saw one girl sobbing, overcome with claustrophobia or anxiety, and one convention center worker who couldn’t even manage to clear a path to get to her job. They’re lucky no one was hurt, and it all could have been avoided by having even a modicum of forethought when it came to crowd control.
Not that I’m going to totally absolve the other con-goers. I don’t want to try to tell anyone how to get their geek on at one of these things, but if you know it’s going to be crowded, the stilts and the six-foot long weapons and the costumes you can’t see out of might not be the best ideas. I would have loved nothing better than to have had my lightsaber out and ready all day, but even two and a half feet of plastic was going to be a problem in the crowd. The giant Harley Quinn sledgehammers and anime swords? Well, plus 10 for style, but minus a few hundred for practicality. It didn’t help matters that any time someone wanted some of the better costumes to pose for a picture, it felt like they chose an intersection in the dealers’ room, bringing traffic to a dead stop in four directions in an already slow-moving room. And God help you if you accidentally walked in front of a camera. There was a large open space right outside this area that many of the better costumes would camp out in to allow for more unfettered picture-taking; it would have been nice if more people had taken the same courtesy.
Oh, and if you’re going to funnel six lanes of traffic into your parking lot, you might want to do it through more than three toll booths. Just saying.
Lest this sound like my day at Megacon was six hours of unmitigated misery, it really wasn’t. Apart from my wardrobe-inspired composure, I expected it to be busy and crowded, and to be honest, it lent everything a kind of manic energy, and more than a bit of “we’re all in this together” courtesy. I didn’t encounter any real, deliberate assholes, and everyone seemed to be taking things in stride. The Torchwood panel was fantastic, with John Barrowman, Eve Myles and Gareth David-Lloyd clearly enjoying not only each other’s company but the massed adoration from the crowd; these were three actors who clearly appreciated both the show they worked together on and what its done for them. There were some dazzling costumes, even the ones that managed to get in the way, and those wearing them had the patience of Job while being stopped every five feet for a picture. Even I in my meager, store-bought Jedi costume got stopped a few times for photos. If the logistics could have been better, the enthusiasm and camaraderie couldn’t have been. This was a love fest, by geeks, for geeks, and we all let that flag fly.
Just next year, maybe fly a smaller one while you’re walking around, okay?