Wednesday morning at WorldCon

Copied from notes handwritten at 11 am on Wednesday August 17, 2011:
The convention hall is large, like a cavern. There is twice as much open air above us as any of the dealer’s room booths use. The booths themselves are like the stalls at an arts festival or a farmer’s market. Each small space has it’s own focus and flavor. I wander through them and wonder how far the contents of each booth has traveled. I wonder how hard the booth runners worked, propelled by their dreams.

If I close my eyes, I hear the steady rumble of the air handling system. It blows cool, and creates the illusion of a breeze. Above that, bangs and clatters echo as people continue to set up and organize their spaces. Sometimes I can hear the sounds of voices. They blend into a pleasant babble, like a stream. Occasionally a cluster of voices breaks into comprehensibility. Usually this is because someone is angry or frustrated. Booth set up always exposes tools forgotten or problems not previously considered. There is a frission of stress in the air, because the doors will open to the public in an hour. Not everything is ready and no one knows yet if the sales will be enough to cover the pile of bills necessary to transport merchandise and set up the booth. Most of the arguements are simple sparkings of stress, not actual emergencies.

We are not immune to any of these stresses. WE had the emergencies of the wobbly tables, these thumbtacks won’t work, and the forgotten camera cable. We set up the table and display the merchandise. As per our usual pattern we have already rearranged things twice. Each convention space is different and our merchandise changes over time. We always have to shuffle things around. Then I make notes about how we could run things differently and what supplies would be more useful to us.

At huge shows like GenCon, the convention center rolls out carpet and pipe and drape to help define spaces. We have only what we brought, the tables, and some tape lines on the concrete floor. Creating a congenial space is a challenge, yet so many booths succeed. Bare tables turn into book shops, jewelry stores, and craft stalls. Each space acquires its own feel. Witht the booths set up, the shopkeepers have some time to visit. We begin to know our neighbors and the booth starts to feel like part of a small town market rather than a foreign and sterile place. Five days from now, when it all gets torn apart, I will be sad. This market in this configuration will never exist again. I must do my best to savor it while it is here.