20,068 / 50,000
As we entered the room, it was already crowded. I'd seen it much worse, and the lines did not appear to be too bad for Chris and the rest who had to endure the herding, but it was already pretty packed.
On the left of us, immediately as we entered, was one pathway with the guidelines and waist-high curtains, for the people who had were getting their badges on site for the entire weekend. The line weaved back and forth from just about where we stood, and nearly to the other wall on the far left of the ballroom, and back again, at least a dozen times. That entire section was filled to the very end almost, but it was a loose packing, as most of those people were still trying to catch up with the bulk of the line. If no one else entered, and they all went as far as they could before encountering people, it would probably be about half full.
At the end of the weaving, winding path which reached behind us and into the ballroom beyond where the door let people in, were a number of booths, guiding the groups of people into smaller categories by name, and how long they were picking up badges for, either for the entire weekend, or specific days. Everything at that end seemed to be going smoothly.
The path for that started a few feet ahead of where the door way let us in, and there was a wide pathway cleared between that side of the room, and an identical setup in the other half, allowing people to move from the right side of the ballroom over to the left, as needed.
There was a row of booths matching those at the opposite end of the ballroom for people who got their badges via an online service. They were organised by just last name though, and not by days, probably expecting lighter traffic.
From what I could see, that assumption wasn't shaping up to be the reality. The line was already packed almost back to tne entrance of the roped off paths, and was a tight packing, as opposed to the other grouping beside me. The on site people were well-staffed, and it seemed to be moving at a brisk pace, while there was only a few people for the online registrants, and a few booths weren't even manned. The backup and sluggishness of the line was going to cause problems, if this kept up.
I smacked Chris' shoulder with the back of my hand to get his attention, and pointed at the long, slow moving line. "Good thing you pre-regged directly with the conventnion. I'd hate to be stuck in that line this year."
He just gave a nod. "This year. It always seems to go back and forth which line drags behind and causes everything to backup. Looks like this year it's the Ticketserver registrants."
A ball of people was clumping right in between the two masses of circling people, as they were all trying to figure out which line they were supposed to go in. Almost none of them were looking at the big placcard set up behind them, and I just sighed. No matter how well it was marked, every year it seemed like no one could figure out where to go.
I moved towards the ball, with Chris at my heels. We looked the sign over, and started pointing people in the right direction. For a moment, the ball of people dissipated. We both knew it would coalesce once more, and sooner rather than later, but it would at least clear things up for the moment, and make things easier for everyone else.
Chris and I remained there for a few more minutes, helping people out, until someone working for the convention staff came over, and took over for us.
The online registrants who went straight through the conventnion's website looked like they had a a line that weaved around the on-site people, and somehow kept seperate in the same area. That's where Chris started going through the lines, and I gave him a pat on the back.
"Good luck, may our paths cross again in the near future!" U waved as if he was leaving for a long trip. Which wasn't that far from the truth, really.
I walked past the line, and squeezed through the people trying to get to the Ticketserver line, making my way past the almost empty walkway between the two mazes. There were a few people in the lane, moving from one side to the other like I was, and a few walking along the curtained pathways, talking to friends. Otherwise, it was clear, and I got over to the far side without even having to utter an excuse me to anyone.
Along these walls were a bunch of tables, piled high with stuff.
To the right as I came out on the other side of the two mazes, were boxes, some opened, but most closed and waiting for their brethren to be emptied out before a knife sliced them open and revealed their innards. I glanced inside the few nearest me that had already been cut into, and could see the guides for the convention that everyone got a copy of, if they so wanted. And I couldn't see why one wouldn't, really.
One of them was absolutley essential. It was small, made of something not unlike newsprint, and contained the entire shcedule of events for the weekend, broken up into the various tracks of interest for people to follow, including who was there for each panel, and what it was about. It also contained invaluable information about the area, with maps around the hotels, highlighting a few points of nearby interest, as well as hotels of the lobby and conference areas of the hotels, making it so much easier to get around. It was one thing to tell people that such and such an event was in the Continental Ballroom at the Hilton, it was another to actually show them where it is, instead of praying you find it in time.
I never went anywhere over the weekend without that thick booklet rolled up inside one of my pockets. I often would kill time once I'd reached an event looking over the booklet to figure out where, if anywhere, I needed to travel to next and plot out how best to get there.
For all the plotting I did, it usually amounted to being carried along by the river of people, like a leaf. It was very common to see people flipping through those booklets, tucked away in a corner somewhere, and their fingers turning dark from all the ink coming off from the heavy usage of the indispensible resource.
The other booklet was more concerned with giving detailed information on the whos, as opposed to the whats, and wheres, and whens. They were more of a standard magazine shape, and printed on regular paper with a thick cardstock cover, and usually including a some sort of colour illustration.
Inside was detailed information on every guest attending the UniCon that weekend, giving in depth biographies for them all, at least as much information as they could dig up, and was reasonably important to who they were. Naturally, the bigger the star, the longer the entry, as well. The smaller people, such as those comicbook creators that worked for themselves, and maybe only did a few issues of their little independent book a year, only had a short paragraph explaining who they were. If the person was starring on a current hit tv show, or one from the past, they were given nearly a page, sometimes even more if they had a lengthy and illustrious career.
For the most part, the longer entries were for the Star Trek people, since they'd always been one of the biggest draws to any convention. Trekkers were the kings of geekdom, and came to these things in droves. I don't deny being a fan, but I was never that much into it. But they were the big names every single person ther would know, especially the stars of any of the shows, often having the biggest careers worthy of note as well, so they took up quite a bit of space. The Buffy people also had their large followings too, and were well on their way to rivaling the Trekkers for biggest fandom, at least as far as UniCon was concerned.
There was also copious amounts of photos, to help associate names with faces, especially for someone who may have just been "Third Centauri from the left" in a random episode of Babylon 5.
The first two tables alongside the wall in front of me were stacked with both of these booklets, the larger of the two having bigger piles, towering higher than the newsprint book, as it was simpled stapled together, and didn't stack as well as the squarebound guide, being able to sit flat atop the table, and itself, whereas the other started rolling at the edge.
The various stacks were all of different heights already, as people came by and grabbed the first thing their hands landed upon, and people were even taking them out of the boxes, if they felt like it, or there was a crowd gathered in front of the rest of the books that were actually set out.
I reached past a few people who had decided the best place to talk was right in front of the table with the newsprinted booklets, and grabbed one for myself, and then moved over and grabbed the second book.
The rest of the tables were covered in various promotional items, such as posters, fliers, pamphlets, buttons, for various people and things being represented and plugged by stars and groups at the convention. Any means of getting the word out, getting people buzzing about something, that could be imagined was on those tables. Posters were by far the most common sort, followed by little round buttons. I took my time and looked over the offerings, but saw nothing that really grabbed my interest enough to try and carry handfuls of junk around until I got back to the room, let alone pack away for my trip home. There were a few shows I liked, and a movie I wanted to see, but the promo material wasn't anything great, so I left it all behind, and moved on past the already cluttered and messy tables from everyone grabbing and digging through the freebies.
I'd made it to the far rear of the ballroom, near the booths that were behind one of the red-curtained trails, the set behind the entryway. I could see people still pouring in through the door on my left, and to my right was a wide set of stairs leading up to some doors, with a few security guards guiding the trickle of traffic, mostly the few folks who wanted to slip into the convention areas, despite there being not much going on.
There were a few people in costume here as well, although still nowhere near the numbers they would be. Most of the folks I could see were in pretty simple costumes. No superheroes here, mostly people in cowboy era type outfits, and a few with fairy wings. Anything that could be done by just putting a hat on, or strapping something on, was the majority out there.
I scanned the crowd for Chris as I topped the stairs, but couldn't pick him out of the mass of humanity crammed in there. I ducked through the wooden doorways and into one of the lower hallways of the Hyatt. I oriented myself with the maps, seeing this was the lowest floor, and exactly where I wanted to be.
Working my way through the halls, I eventually exited into the main lobby area of this floor, where the elevators may one day eventually arrive, if they weren't too busy on uppoer floors, and the went into the media room to pick up my press badge.