Westercon 67 – Travel Day

With WorldCon beyond my reach this year, I will only be able to attend two conventions.  Convolution, at the end of September, and Westercon, starting this week.  As usual, I will attend panels and take copious notes.

One difference with this convention is that I’ve brought Melissa with me.  She was delighted when I invited her along, and I think she’s been more excited about this convention than me.  This is her first, so I’m going to do my best to make sure she has a good time, and gets the greatest Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention experience.

The travel day was exceptionally light and easy.  Melissa was worried we would be late getting to the airport, so we wound up leaving a little earlier than I wanted.  We had to wait for a little while, but we had each other and our tablets to keep each other entertained.

The flight from Sacramento to Salt Lake City was uneventful.  Aside from some queasiness brought on from ascent and descent, there was no turbulence, and the landing was the smoothest I can remember.  As we were landing, I thought of the conversation Melissa and I had about our life insurance, and how inadequate it probably is.  I’m not the most confident of fliers, but this was a really easy flight.

Since Melissa was with me, I arranged for us to have a rental car for this week.  I normally just take the shuttle from the airport to the hotel, but I wanted to make sure that Melissa could escape if she got too bored with all of the geekery.  This led to a discovery about Salt Lake City that I will need to incorporate in one of my books.  I’ll get to that in a moment.

The route from the airport to the hotel was extremely easy.  In fact, getting around Salt Lake City seems like it would be very simple, under normal circumstances.  It is laid out in a grid, and there are adequate signs on all of the roads I’ve seen.  The street names themselves are confusing, since they not only use numbers, they repeat the same numbers for different streets.  At one point last night, I turned from one 300 street to another, and a little while later, was at an intersection that was 300 and 300.

Melissa and I arrived at the convention about a day early, but registration was open.  I saw a few familiar faces from other conventions floating through the hotel as we wandered into the registration room.  There were 3 volunteers in the room, looking a little bit bored.  We signed in, got our badges, and a little bit of swag.  They didn’t have their programs yet.

We had some time to kill, so we wandered around.  We went to dinner at a Brazilian steak place, where they come around periodically and bring different types of meat.  It was really expensive, but it was good, and we had a good time with it.

After dinner, Melissa and I went back to the registration room, hoping to get our programs.  I wanted to plan out our day.  The programs were still late.  As I’m writing this, it’s 20 minutes before opening ceremonies, and the programs still aren’t anywhere to be seen.  This is not a good sign, but I’m going to try and stay optimistic.

We were fed, and there wasn’t much more we could do with the convention, so we decided to buy some internet access and watch some Netflix.  I thought it would be great to put it on the television in our room via my laptop, but to do that, we needed an HDMI cable.  Well, we had a car, and the hotel staff gave us directions to a Walmart.

That’s when we discovered something interesting about Salt Lake City.  It is easy to navigate the place, but the lights seem to be timed strangely.  There was road construction going on near the store, and it was looking like we couldn’t go there.  Then it hit me: In Salt Lake City, no one cares if you’re trying to go somewhere.

That doesn’t sound that unusual.  Apathy is pervasive.  In practice, this particular brand of apathy struck me as unique.  As easy as it is to navigate, I found people stopping and blocking paths with indifference, both in their cars and walking around.  Even the road construction we encountered seemed to encapsulate the idea.  They simply blocked stuff off, and gave no detour or path as compensation.

Something else that struck me as strange about the place: it felt empty yesterday.  Melissa and I were walking through the downtown area, and there just didn’t seem to be many people around.  We were in the middle of an open mall area, and it felt like it was built up bigger than it needed to be.  Chicago, San Francisco, and Sacramento all have a little bit of a crowded feel around 5 PM, but not this place.

I’m hoping that the convention doesn’t feel the same way.  We will find out soon enough!