Baxil (baxil) wrote,

First impressions

I've been at BayCon for about 24 hours now. This convention is like an old friend to me. I've been attending for a decade and a half, and I know it inside and out.

But this is the con's first year in the San Jose Santa Clara Convention Center, and that's meant adjusting to some changes.

My first clue was getting lost on the way to the new hotel, and driving for half an hour from San Jose to Mountain View and back -- making a complete circle around the place (at least a mile distant in all directions) before finally limping onto 101 and finding the Great America Parkway exit. And then, for bonus points, I drove into the Marriott instead of the Hyatt and didn't realize my mistake until after I called my fellow newsletter jackals wondering where they were. I suppose this is why my job title is "Navigator" in the newsletter staff box.

(Edited to add: And I didn't even get the name right until it was pointed out in comments. What idiot died and made me Navigator?)

The hotel itself? I love. I'd gotten to the point I could navigate the Doubletree blindfolded, and it always felt fairly spacious, but there's no comparison. The Hyatt's layout is linear, clean, and huge, even for a 2,000-person convention. The elevators are central (finally!), and you can get from programming space to rooms and/or parties without traversing half the hotel. Gaming is no longer a cramped closet in the back; they've got a sprawling lounge just off the main lobby. Newsletter is set up in event space instead of a hotel room, and we have more space than we know what to do with. Glorious!

The one big downside is that the party floor rooms no longer have balconies. Much less the Doubletree's incredible patio. Room parties have been cramped affairs. The League of Evil Geniuses party, on a farewell run after over a decade, was more "Squishing Room Only" than "Standing Room Only." And there was no dancing at all, except at two lightly attended con-planned balls in the event rooms.

The hotel is definitely prettier, but the human element this year has had some ugly moments. It's only Friday night, and already I've nearly walked into a fistfight (quickly and quietly handled by con security); endured 20 minutes of a screaming match between two loud drunks over differing plans for site departure; and some moron pulled a fire alarm.[1] [2] (Ten minutes later, after everyone had had just enough time to settle back in and start going to sleep again, a painfully loud voice crackled to life over the hotel intercom and apologized.[3])

I don't know if this is a new trend; a continuing trend that I'm only now observing; or just really rotten luck on my part as an observer. But it's definitely been a buzzkill. It's always been hard for me to feel at ease among any sort of large crowds; the convention atmosphere usually reassures me by virtue of being around My Kind Of People, but incidents like that leave me on edge, and after such an eventful Friday I'm not sure I'll be able to fully get into the con spirit. :-(

Though on the feeling-out-of-place scale, my complaint doesn't even crack the Top 10.

Which brings me to the most singularly awesome scheduling snafu in the con's history. Check it out: The Santa Clara Convention Center's so big we can't completely fill up their event space. And one of this weekend's other guests is ...

You can't make this stuff up.

The Northern California Charismatic Catholic Association.

Not just a church gathering. A charismatic church gathering. A charismatic Catholic church gathering. Charismatic Catholics? ... I think I broke nolly when I mentioned this to her.

So, yeah, we're sharing the building with a church group. Isn't it awesome?

I know, I know, the goal here is not to "freak the mundanes." I laugh with a little sympathetic wince. I blundered into their area of the convention center while exploring the con space, and I felt just as awkward wandering through their land of Sunday suits as they must have felt with a jackal-eared man in black passing through.[4]

Bad enough that they're using the same parking structure we are, and the same skyway over to event space. But what really makes it classic is that tonight, they were holding a concert-slash-worship-service over in their event space ... their door literally within line of sight of our Charity Casino, where brightly costumed heathens were engaging in convention-sanctioned dancing, drinking and gambling.

BayCon's booked this hotel through at least 2010. It's going to be an interesting few years.

[1] I know it was a false alarm because a sharply dressed hotel employee with an earpiece hustled over to our (convention staff) area and told us we didn't have to evacuate unless we wanted to flee the annoying klaxon. Someone had hit a fire button in one of the elevators.[^]
[2] I would just like to point out that I CALLED THIS. Five minutes after unloading my gear in our hotel room, I walked around the corner to check out the stairwell, opened the door, and did an immediate facepalm. Fire system pipes, valves, and wheels were all over the place. No chains, giant locks, or any other visible deterrent. I started offering $5 bets to any comers, with me betting that we would have at least one fire evacuation over the course of the weekend. I got no takers.[^]
[3] This is, one must admit, something of a BayCon tradition. There's a filk out there called "False Alarms At BayCon," about an infamous (2002?) incident where a half-hour cascade of erratically spaced apologies followed a single alarm. It stopped being funny about the third or fourth time the intercom crackled to life.[^]
[4] I will admit to a tiny twinge of regret that I wasn't wearing horns.[^]
Tags: conventions, footnotes of awesome
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