That’s what my wife said to me after we got home late Wednesday night after the convention had ended. And she was right. This was a totally different convention experience for each of us, but it was, at heart, exactly the same.
Two things happened last year that went on to shape the experiences of this year. One thing was my kids discovering the Dragon Con Puppetry Track thanks to my wife’s lifelong devotion to all things Fraggle Rock and Henson. Dragon Con had two of the original Fraggles there last year, and my wife took the kids, who had been growing up on her Fraggle Rock DVDs, to see them. They then stayed on for a few panels and shows, a few of which my son and daughter became a part of.
This, particularly that last bit, made my kids a wee bit Puppetry Track addicted. They ended up spending the remainder of the 2013 convention weekend primarily at Puppetry Track events. This led to my wife becoming Facebook friends with several of the puppeteers immediately after the convention and then continuing to correspond with them throughout the year. This in turn led to my wife becoming a volunteer on the Puppetry Track for 2014’s Dragon Con.
Back around the time that my wife was signing up for the Puppetry Track, I was investigating Dragon Con Security. They had been a little shorthanded in 2013 and I assumed that this might be the case again in 2014. I didn’t get very far with my inquiries before I was talking to another department head at Dragon Con. This leads us to the other thing that happened last year.
I’m not going to go over it all again. If you were paying attention to Dragon Con related news throughout 2013, you know what was going on. And since I already have quite a few blog entries discussing it, I don’t see the need for more. But these events led me on that Labor Day weekend last year to meeting a few people behind the scenes at the convention, people who I continued to correspond with on Facebook or via email after the 2013 convention was over. Long story short, I ended up volunteering in 2014 with Media Relations.
That’s not quite as… for lack of a better word right now… glamorous as the title might cause some to infer. The department head is really the only one who actually has any active role in doing media appearances or speaking/writing for or on behalf of Dragon Con in interviews or articles while the rest of the volunteers work on things like auditing news outlet and reporter information, compiling data on convention coverage, handing out press badges, and running the onsite interview room. In my case, my primary jobs were to help hand out the press badges on the Thursday before the convention and then essentially be large and menacing looking when needed.
That’s rather easy for me to do since I am a rather large guy and my naturally less than dashing looks tend to lend themselves well to being menacing in appearance. As it was, outside of traffic and crowd control during the parade, I pretty much just got to be on “Menace Standby” while working the door to the interview room or running from the interview area to the Walk of Fame and back again. There was a bit more to it than that, but it was mostly just dusting off my old private sector skills and working a little more of a customer service style than my present line of work has me doing when on duty.
These job description details were information that I was made aware of before the convention on paper. Or whatever phrase one might use for email. Somehow the phrase “on pixels” just doesn’t carry the same vibe to it. Anyhow… I was made aware of these responsibilities on paper, but having never done it before I was actually getting a little nervous before the convention.
The make a living job is what it is. There are ups and downs, good times and bad times, and there have been more downs recently than ups. Dragon Con is usually my escape from that kind of thing. Even when work is 110% firing on all cylinders great, Dragon Con was still a much anticipated vacation that recharged the batteries and allowed me to forget any day in and day out worries.
But this year I was actually getting nervous about going before con. I was worried that, once there, once I had to hit the ground running on day one and start working on a team doing something that, I had thought beforehand, did nothing that transitioned anything over from my skill sets or strong suits, I was going to screw something up. As it turned out, outside of being at the wrong interview room location for the first few minutes of Friday morning, everything was organized so well that there was really very little for me to screw up, and by the end of Friday’s shift I was basically on familiar ground with well over half of the job being in line with my long ago days of private sector customer service and the rest falling in line with the more public service aspects of my chosen profession.
My wife’s experiences with the Puppetry Track were much the same, just without the pre-convention nervousness. She worked her butt off during her assigned volunteer hours, and she had a couple of long days as well, but there was a lot of smiling while being polite and helpful. And while we both put in our required hours, plus a little bit more here and there as almost all Dragon Con volunteers end up happily doing, we both still had an absolute blast while doing it.
We also had time around the work end of it to actually attend and enjoy the convention. We got to see some old convention friends who have become closer friends over the years, we spent time with geek friends we’d made outside of Dragon Con who came into town for this year’s convention, and we got a dinner invite that surprised the hell out of me when I got it.
Plus we did the Dead Dog party afterwards. That was a blast with great food & music to boot, and I got to enjoy seeing my wife get almost hugged to death by an extremely happy woman. 🙂 Sorry, but while there’s an actual (very normal) story to that last bit, it’s one that will remain untold here for now.
But, yeah, we also spent a good chunk of our time working it. And I don’t say that as a bad thing. I point it out to emphasize what my wife said when we got home. This was a totally different Dragon Con for us, but it was absolutely the same as every other one we’ve attended. And there are two reasons for that.
The first is that we had fun. Even when working, we had fun. It was Dragon Con after all, and you would have to actively try almost impossibly hard to not have fun there in order for it to not be fun as the vibe and energy around the convention almost doesn’t allow one not to have fun. Plus, even when working, you see the convention. In my wife’s case, she got to see events at the Puppetry Track as well as having a front row seat for the daily pageantry of Dragon Con that one can’t help but to enjoy watching as it marches on by. In my case, I was in a position to see/hear one cool interview after the other whenever I wanted to, and I was able to chat with a few people, like members of the ESO crew, who do work I greatly enjoy.
The second (big) thing was that we had fun with the people we were with. A big thing with Dragon Con has, for us, always been about leaving Dragon Con with more friends and family than we came in with. We’ve always done it in the past, and this year was certainly no exception. It’s just that this year it was a hell of a lot easier to do it because we were working with the people we would leave as friends with. Much easier than hunting people down or randomly coming across them at con.
Jenn worked a track filled with really great, creative people. I worked on a team filled with the same. We both made new convention friends that we hope to keep as friends as the years go on. And in the end, above and beyond the autographs, panels, performances, celebrity sightings, convention swag, etc., that’s what Dragon Con has always been the most about in my family. So, yeah, this was a totally different Dragon Con for us in so many ways, but it was still exactly the same in every way that counts.