Upon thinking about my first Dragoncon experience, I wanted to set down a list of important lessons learned. They are in no particular order, but some are more important than others.
1. It is invaluable to go your first time with someone who has been many, many times. Sarah not only knows how to navigate the hamster tubes that connect the conference hotels, she also knows the back stairs to the back doors to get out the back way when 40,000 people are trying to go up 6 elevators in the Marriott.
2. Dragoncon before 9:00 pm is very different from Dragoncon after 9:00 pm. Do not take children to Dragoncon after 9:00 pm. We did not.
3. Batman and Spiderman can come in all shapes and sizes. If the first thing you notice when you see a person in costume is body size/shape, you need to tweak how you look at things. I had to tweak how I looked at things.
4. Good costumes take at least a year to design and execute. Poor costumes are thrown together in the car on the way downtown. If you want respect of the conference goers, do a good costume. It is appropriate to ask to photograph someone who has obviously gone to great lengths on his or her costume.
5. Do not expect to learn all the language specific to Dragoncon during your first experience. This is homework in preparation for next year.
6. Do not touch handrails. If you forget and touch a handrail, do NOT touch your mouth. Here is our encounter at the top of the escalator: Sarah: “Did you touch the handrail?” Me: (Lying) “No.” Sarah: (No words, just a cocked eyebrow). Me: “Ok, yes.” Sarah: “Did you touch your mouth?” Me: “Yes.”
Sarah: (Squirting Purell liberally on both hands) “You just shared the germs of 50,000 people.”
7. MARTA is God’s gift to Dragoncon goers.
8. Three-gallon jugs of Cheese Balls are essential to the experience. For what I believed to be a somewhat random product, I saw these on about every third luggage cart.
9. If you have preconceived notions about people who go to conventions like Dragoncon, toss them out the window. Before I went I pointed out to a colleague that I didn’t feel like I’d fit with that particular crowd. She looked at me for a minute and said, “Who do you think goes? It’s a whole collection of people who don’t fit.” That one statement changed my outlook and greatly improved my experience.
10. If you go early enough, there is no line for the free zombie makeovers. Have a free zombie makeover….