Let me start by saying, I use the word geek and nerd interchangeably all of the time, so don’t get confused and think that I’m splitting hairs here. Also, I am not a new nerd, but I am still a baby when it comes to conventions. I have been attending Dragon*Con in downtown Atlanta for only 4 years and only recently started venturing out to Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC and Spooky Empire in Orlando, FL. All that being said, this is a fragmented recount of my very first Con experience, at Dragon*Con, and the conversation I overheard, and participated in, while waiting in one of the billions (yes, billions) of lines that I would find myself in.
My first Con experience was a test run. My husband and I knew all about San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con, and PAX East but we figured we should start a bit smaller before trying to make our way to one of these monstrosities of fandom (this was a wise decision, by the way). Dragon*Con is held in Atlanta, GA every year over Labor Day weekend – which makes it very easy to plan for. Being “seat of our pants” kind of people, we didn’t plan for it at all. In fact, we decided to go at the last minute on a Friday evening. The extent of our plans were to wake up early, drive to Atlanta and see what was what. Turns out, the waking up and driving was going to be the easiest part.
We arrived in Atlanta and parked in a parking garage. We had done research before hand (because we’re nerds) on where to go and how to get there. As we exited the garage, the crush of people in and out of costume was almost overwhelming. What kept me from freaking out being surrounded by so many people (again, nerd: kinda comes with social awkwardness) was looking across the street and seeing a gaggle (is that what they’re called in large groups?) of football fans. Immediately it occurred to the D*C fans on our side of the street that those people didn’t belong in our group, and it clearly dawned on the football fans (a murder, maybe?) that we didn’t belong in their group either. The laughter that ensued between the streets was epic and each side eyeballed the other in curiosity.
The Do Not Walk light turned to Walk, and we all made our way to the next street corner and marched on towards our fanfare. As we made it downhill to the registration hotel we were directed by lines painted on the sidewalk (ours, was red, in case you were curious) on where to go if you hadn’t registered for your badges. We followed our ‘yellow brick road’ through the hotel doors and into a massive hall, in the center of which was a maze of ropes, herding nerds like cattle to stalls with the letters of the alphabet on them. As we shuffled further into the center of the maze we couldn’t help but make small talk with the other herded nerds (yeah, we were kinda like sheep) around us. It’s kind of what you do, and while I was no longer feeling socially awkward, I was getting very hot and claustrophobic, so talking helped a lot.
There were plenty of tattoos, costumes, stretched ears, music, shirts and games to talk about with your herding buddy. As we pressed forward one inch at a time, I overheard two guys talking about car dice. Here, is what that conversation sounded like:
Guy 1: Yeah, I mean, I have 6 sided dice hanging from my rear mirror.
Guy 2: Oh yeah, me too, but this guy (pointing to his friend) has a 20 sided dice.
Guy 1: Oh, wow, yeah, that’s a little nerdy.
Guy 2: Right.
At this point, I turned and looked at my husband, who had zoned out staring at the chandeliers (for real, if you’ve never been in a con line, you’ll find anything to keep you going). I chuckled to myself and leaned forward to talk with these two herded nerds (i’m becoming fond of this term, “herded nerds”) and politely said:
Me: We’re standing in a giant corral waiting to purchase passes to Dragon*Con, standing next to a grown man dressed as a storm trooper (yeah, that’s fucking awesome, by the way). 6 sided or 20 sided, we’re all here because we’re geeks.
These guys were so gracious about it that they nodded and laughed and went on talking about something else entirely different. As I leaned back I bumped into the man standing in front of me. He let out a chuckle and put his hand up for a high-five. As I tilted my head in question and began to raise my hand he said:
Guy 3: Nerds don’t let other nerds split hairs.
We high-fived and continued our shuffle towards the kiosk for our day passes.
THIS was the moment that I felt at home and four years later, I’m still letting myself get Nerd Herded… rounded up, pushed into a small room with too many (awesome) people, shuffling through a maze to get badges for access to all things nerdy and geeky. The only thing missing is the cattle-prod… but there’s always Frolicon for that.
* Interesting(?) side note: I know that as nerds, the one thing we do really really well is split hairs amongst our fandom – but, in line at a con, it just doesn’t make sense. Wait until you’re on the floor. I myself have been overheard walking by Anime fans and saying, “These are not the nerds we are looking for.” So, there’s that.
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