Friday, February 17, 2006

Run Away. Run.

So there I was, standing in line last Saturday to get into Wondercon, and it seemed as if half of San Francisco was there with me. I was already trying to slink into the background and be invisible due to an accidental attempt to get into the Moscone Convention Center through a door on the wrong side of the building, which ended with multiple security guards running towards me as if I had a bomb in my hands: Don’t do it! Don’t do it! Go around the building and find the other door, they shouted, and I looked at them, embarrassed and wondered if I’d have to spend the entire day being looked at suspiciously as the person who’d tried to sneak in for free when there was a block and a half-worth of potential paying customers on the other side of the building all forming a good and orderly line instead.

There were other reasons for me to try and slink into the background, admittedly, most of which could be considered the other people in line. I’m not really talking about the people who went out of their way to dress up in some amazing and outlandish outfits, here, although there were more than a few of those, ranging from multiple Nightcrawlers (You could choose from the classic Dave Cockrum version to the movie version to the new outfit that he’s wearing today, if you wanted your pick of little blue elves with oddly-erect blue plastic tales) to manga characters that I couldn’t recognize but apparently followed some unspoken manga dress code that decided that any woman’s outfit must (a) be latex and (b) not contain enough skirt to appropriately cover her ass completely. In some interesting decision-making process from the organizers of Wondercon, it seemed as if almost all of the volunteers helping out at the event were dressed as Imperial Stormtroopers, from the various Star Wars movies. You could see them before you even got into the building: Overweight Biker Scouts marching up and down the line, checking to see that no-one’s getting unruly. Short stormtroopers chatting to each other, using headset intercoms just like the movies so that you heard the crackle before a flanged voice said things like, “Yeah, this costume makes it impossible for me to bend down or anythin’. I’m dying in here,” just to ruin the effect. At the front of the line, a Darth Vader stood, silently, his hand raised over those entering the building, like the nerd Pope giving everyone a blessing.

But it wasn’t really those people who were making me want to hide away from anyone I knew who might be passing and see me in line, as weird as it was to see someone dressed as Hal Jordan look angrily at someone dressed as John Stewart, as if he’d stolen his idea. It was other fans. Namely, the fans immediately behind me.

I have no problem with evesdropping, normally. I think that being nosy has a fine and distinguished history, and it’s one that I’ll proudly follow if I find myself with nothing else to do and surrounded by people who just happen to be talking too loudly anyway. I mean, come on. It’s as if they want you to listen to what they’re saying, right? The three people behind me when I was in the Wondercon line were no exception. Their voices were raised as if they’d decided that they were the lives and souls of the party, if by “party” you meant “unusually long line that we’ve all been waiting in for the last 30 minutes to get into the building,” as they passed comment on everyone around them. They weren’t being snarky as such, because that suggests that there was some kind of humor behind their comments; instead, the comments kind of bounced around the areas of “Look at him, he’s a fat geek dick” and “She’s hot.” Which was somewhat unexpected, as it became obvious that the threesome behind me consisted of two men, and the brand new girlfriend of one of the men. So brand new, in fact, that it sounded as if they were still at the second date period of their relationship, or thereabouts. Two other things also became very clear very quickly: The man was taking this woman to Wondercon to try and convince her how cool he was, and the woman had less than no interest in comics, comic culture or anything remotely geeky.

Their conversations went like this. The man on the “date” would point someone out in the line dressed up as some comic character, and explain to his date who that character was in way too much detail. The woman would feign interest (although her convincingness faded the longer he went on). The second man would make some cheap shot at the person dressed up, along the lines of either (a) having gotten the details of the costume wrong, (b) being physically unlike the character, or if all else failed, (c) saying that choosing that particular character was “gay”. The first man would then respond in kind, and there would follow some weird laughter that sounded not unlike pigs squealing during an asthma attack.

This kind of thing went on for, say, twenty minutes, before the woman made some kind of comment about how she didn’t know that her date was “so into comic books,” with the obvious implication that she was not impressed. The man grunted in surprise and then gave the following reply: “Baby, at least I’m not a fuckin’ geek like these guys. Look around you! I’m the best option you got here!”

Surprisingly, this did not send her running away from everyone in tears, sobbing as she realized how hopeless her situation was if that were true.

I stood there, listening to all of this, and fighting the urge to turn around and explain to the man that, despite what he may think, if you wait half an hour in a line surrounded by elves and people dressed up as clones from the Empire to get into a convention where they sell comic books, then, yes, you really are a fuckin’ geek. I also fought the urge to tell the woman that, really, her date for the day couldn’t be the best option she had, because I’m sure that that was statistically impossible given the number of people in line around her. Instead, I stood there silently, wondering why it’s the first urge of every comic nerd to make themselves feel better by putting everyone else down.

And then, my train of thought was interrupted by a man dressed as Captain America trying to shake my hand.

“Hi, I’m Captain America,” he boomed, “Ultimate Avengers! Premiering today!”

Fuckin’ geek.