VCON (Vancouver’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention) is the very first convention I ever attended. For twenty three years, it’s held a very special place in my heart
And I’m never going there again.
VCON is a great convention. It really is. It’s a small, friendly con that’s usually held every October and if you’re in the area while it’s on, I highly recommend that you go check it out.
The reason that I’m choosing not to go back has nothing to do with the quality of the convention or its people. It’s because the con is simply not what I thought it was. I’ll explain.
Like other cons, the social heart of VCON is the hospitality room. A place where you can sit down, eat hot food, sugary junk and during the evening/night hours, have a beer or three.
Hospitality is where I hang out with my geeky brothers and sisters. We stand around in our Star Wars tshirts, drinking cider and odd flavoured ale and argue about bad movies. We discuss which celebrities would make the worst Doctor Who. We make the same dumb jokes every year and we love it.
Last Friday night, I cleaned myself up in my hotel room, grabbed my con badge and excitedly walked to hospitality. But while entering, I was met with something I’ve never encountered before. A nice volunteer was standing at the door, asking me for photo I.D. to prove that I was over eighteen and thereby, of legal drinking age.
“Seriously?” I asked. “I’m… I’m forty two years old. You honestly think that I might be under eighteen?”
The volunteer proceeded to do her job and she insisted that I show photo I.D. Photo I.D. that I simply had not brought to the convention.
“You’re kidding, right? I mean, come on.” I said to the volunteer who looked exasperated and let me in.
As I sipped my cider with my friends, I complained about the rule of carding absolutely everyone, no matter how old they looked. Everyone there, argued that the rule must be obeyed.
I started to rethink the situation and came to the realization that I was an ass to the poor volunteer at the door. She had been told to do a job and (going by her facial expression and the fact that she let me in) I made her feel stupid for doing that job. I had accidentally shamed her into breaking the main rule that she’d been told to enforce. I would have apologized, but by the time I’d realized this, it was later in the night and she was no longer standing at the door. At any rate, she was right and I was wrong. I still thought that the rule was a stupid one, but should never have reacted as though it was all the volunteer’s idea. What I should have done, was respect her decision and realize that I should have my freakin’ I.D. with me at all times, anyways.
The next night, I’d decided to respect the stupid rule. Not enough to stop calling it stupid, just enough to stay out of hospitality. I hated the idea of missing two of the three VCON party nights, but that’s what I get for not having photo I.D. with me.
On Saturday night, I found myself looking for my wife, Danielle. In my quest to find her, I poked my head into the open doorway of hospitality and quickly scanned the room like I was The Terminator and she was Sarah Connor.
“I’ll need to see some I.D.” Said the volunteer standing next to me.
“Oh, I’m not drinking. I’m just looking for Danielle.” I responded.
Using her hands to gesture to the room, she replied with authority, “You need to show me I.D. or you can’t be in this room.”
Even though this was a different lady than the previous night, I had no trouble transferring my guilt from the way I’d treated the first volunteer. I decided that THIS time, I would be respectful and politely follow the rules.
“I understand. It’s no problem. I’ll just leave.” I said with a friendly smile. Besides, I’d already surmised that Danielle was not there.
As I was walking away, I overheard the volunteer say to someone else, “Well, that was rude.”
Now hang on a second. Rude? Last night, I would have agreed with a comment like that, but this time? Rude? Really? This cannot stand. I turned around and spoke to the volunteer.
“I’m sorry?” I asked with one ear tilted toward her to show that I was completely ready to hear her next words, clearly.
“You also don’t have a con badge.” Was her response.
Crap. I had forgotten my con badge back up in my hotel room. I’m usually so good about making sure that I have it on me, too.
“Oh, it’s in my room. I’ll go get it now.” I said with another polite smile, as I turned and left.
By the time I’d reached my hotel room, I’d decided that I was done with VCON forever. Not in an angry way. Not in a “Fine! I’m taking my ball and going home!” way. I had simply realized that VCON wasn’t and isn’t what I’d always thought it was. Before I explain what I mean by that, let me lay down some points, to drive home how incredibly stupid, the stupid rule really is.
1. As I mentioned earlier, I’m forty two. It’d be great if I could pass for a teenager, but I can’t. Like… at all.
2. I’d been coming to this very small convention for twenty three years. We all know each other’s faces. Even though I don’t know Saturday’s volunteer, I’ve seen her face over the years. I’m sure she’s seen mine.
3. I’d mentioned that I wasn’t drinking and that I was merely looking for Danielle. Which brings me to point four…
4. Notice how I’d said to the lady “I’m just looking for Danielle” and not “I’m looking for my wife“? That’s because Danielle was the con chair. The leader. The boss. The head of the entire convention. In fact, she’d been the con chair for ten years. Now, I’m not expecting special treatment because my wife is the con chair, but if the guy who can no longer grow a head of hair is claiming to be old enough to drink and is the husband of the person running the entire convention, he’s *probably* not some teenager scamming you.
(Note: Danielle is not responsible for the creation and execution of the stupid rule.)
5. I was last year’s Author Guest of Honour (last weekend I tweeted “artist GoH” but it’s actually “author”). Again, I’m not expecting special treatment, but if you open up last year’s program book, there’s a photo of me in it.
6. I designed and drew VCON’s mascot (The Robotter) nine year’s ago. This means that if I’m a scamming kid who’s under eighteen, I would have been around eight years old when I created the thing that is on everyone’s VCON tshirts, tote bags and mugs. That’s pretty impressive for an eight year old.
Now that we can all see how incredibly stupid the stupid rule is, let’s cover exactly why I’m not going back.
Here is what I thought to be true…
VCON is my family. My home. It’s where I belong. Where I’m definitely part of the group. The people there have my back and I have theirs.
Here is what I learned…
VCON is a convention. A damn good one. However, it is not my family, my home or some special group where we’ve all got each other’s backs. They *will* kick any member out of the heart of it, if they can’t provide proper I.D.
Now, I know a lot of you are reading this, rolling your eyes at me and inwardly calling me whiny. And you’re right. I’m being exceptionally whiny. But at the risk of sounding overly dramatic… my heart is broken.
You see, VCON hasn’t done a single thing wrong. The stupid rule legally covers VCON’s back and keeps them safe from being fined or worse. The stupid rule is only really stupid amongst friends and family. Amidst a business, it actually makes perfect sense. VCON is not wrong for not being my family. I’m wrong for believing that’s what they were, for all these years.
The reason that I’m not going back there is because I’m hurt and embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that I could misunderstand what a convention was, so badly. A convention that was being run by my own wife. Most of all, it was embarrassing at the time. Humiliating even. I felt like I was in the cafeteria at high school and I’d sat down at the cool kids table with a big, dumb grin on my face, thinking that I was one of them. But then I was informed that I most certainly was *not* part of that group and I had better take my lunch tray and leave.
If this was the result of one overzealous volunteer, I wouldn’t care. But on Friday night, a handful of VCON regulars/concom argued with me for a long time about the importance of the stupid rule. That means that this is not one person’s opinion. This is not a mistake. This is not an anomaly. This is VCON. But as I’ve said, this is simply a convention being a convention. I’m the one who misunderstood.
So to sum up, I wish VCON all the best and I honestly hope you get a chance to check them out. I promise you’ll have a lot of fun, surrounded by good people.
Just bring your I.D.