The first thing to know about my DragonCon this year is that after having not flown for some years (because I always got sick after flying and not always after driving or riding a train) I was flying to DragonCon, courtesy of the convention and thank you VERY much. I needed that. I carefully looked up current travel regulations online, reading and re-reading the TSA and airline guidelines several times (both to remember them better and because of my vision problems.) I packed very carefully, checking to be sure that everything that shoudln't be in carry-on was in the checked bag. Over and over. I checked my pockets, my purse, to be sure that I hadn't forgotten anything in either that should not be there. Over and over. I was going to be, I was sure, the Practically Perfect Senior Citizen Traveler.
You see where this is going? Of course you do. As a result of all that checking and re-checking and being careful...or in spite of it...I ended up at the Delta counter at the airport Thursday about noon, 60 miles from home and having been dropped off by a friend....without my driver's license. Thus no government-issued photo ID. There was a frantic time at the counter, pawing through everything for something I knew--when it wasn't in its place right next to the credit card--had to be 60 miles away. There was a frantic phone call home, where the person at home was unable to find the driver's license in the only place I could think of its being, on my desk. Nor was it on the kitchen table, where I had been carefully taking things out of hte purse that would not make TSA happy. My husband found the driver's license (which had been on my desk, had become involved with other papers there, and had eventually ended up on the floor in the midst of scattered papers) too late to drive it down to the airport before I boarded my flight.
An adventure, we explained to our son when he was very small, is when things go wrong and you have to figure out what to do about it. This qualified as an adventure sustained over the next five days. Because although the Austin end of things quickly decides that I was going to be allowed to fly to Atlanta (albeit with a thorough patdown and check of everything in my carry-on, including two half-knit socks and their related balls of yarn) I knew that Atlanta's airport would be much busier--and potentially less helpful--on the way back on Labor Day. (By the way, the ID I did have--both the voter's registration card and my Medicare card, along with the credit card--were, I was told, next best fo the photo ID.)
So off I went on my flight, having calmed down in the waiting area (with the aid of a really good brisket sandwich from the Salt Lick outlet at the airport followed by knitting on the socks.) I was met by the lovely DragonCon folks at the Atlanta airport, then whisked to my hotel, the Westin.
The Westin, of course, expected to have not just my credit card but my driver's license (or other government-issued photo ID) on file, but I didn't have it. Having already spilled my travel woes to my DragonCon minder, she backed me up on the ID thing, and I was shortly installed in my room. Er...make that suite. I had been upgraded. (Talk about stupidity being rewarded!) Whew! Time for shower and change and dash to other hotel to check in, get my badge, and get going. I ran into people I knew, of course, on the run to/from the badge-picking-up place, as well as all the happy incoming DragonCon attendees I didn't know. Bill Fawcett and Jody Lynn Nye walked back to the Westin with me (showing me a Sekrit Route along the way that I would never have found on my own!) and Jody came up to my palatial suite with me before heading off for a party I was too wiped out to attend. For someone who spends most of her time in a very small quiet town, writing and riding a bike and walking around the land, the combination of my own stupidity, the noise and crowding, had worn me down. Early to bed.
Friday I had actual programming, but also wanted to make an early start--zipped over to the Hyatt to start relearning the layout of rooms (I'd been away from DragonCon for a few years while supporting LoneStarCon) and ran into (almost literally) Lee Martindale, who was on her way to find breakfast. We ended up in the food court where we ate and talked and talked and ate for longer, I suspect, than either of us planned. Then it was off to do writers' track programming, and the day alternated between that and the vast (VAST) dealers' room in America's Mall (with the worst teeny-tiny escalators to move people up and down into and out of the vast spaces...I never did see everything) and a signing at Larry Smith's big three-table booth. I tried to spot booths to visit later, but I'm sure I missed some great stuff. I don't remember if it was Friday or Saturday that I visited The Armory to see the displays (changes each year and is one of the delights of DragonCon for those of us who are not weapon-averse. One of its strengths, IMO, is that it includes tools-that-can-be-weapons--very useful for writers whose characters may need to use them. Got good advice and a bit of hands-on with a few of those.)
It turns out that if you don't have a photo ID, and the people you're dealing with don't know you, some things become less available. For instance: DragonCon has a lovely guest lounge for its guests, and I've enjoyed using it, meeting new people there, listening to other professions' trade talk, etc. But...this time they wanted a photo-ID as well as a convention badge. No exceptions, said the instructions in the booklet. I might (given who I know and who knows me) have been able to make it in anyway, but as self-punishment I decided not to try. This gave me more time out in the open, more time to observe costumes and overhear discussions (yes, writers are notorious for listening to people...writing good dialogue requires developing awareness of how people really do talk, then figuring out how to write it so it reads like natural speech, but minus nearly all the ums, uhs, and most of the other verbal tics.)
Saturday involved a quick trek back to my hotel for a shower and change between an early afternoon and later-afternoon panel, so I'd be dressed for the banquet and award ceremony. Weather got involved--as I was changing, rain storms were moving in (and I had a great view of that) and I was rewarded for good packing (though not good documentation) because I had my umbrella along, one that collapses quite small. So I went back out from the Westin to the Hyatt with my strong but compact umbrella and it did NOT turn inside out like some I saw on the way. Lee Martindale did a splendid job of moderating the Politics in SF panel, in spite of the hitch that meant there was no ramp for her power chair to get up to the dais. We panelists came down (tables and all) to the floor level and worked the panel from there. Then it was time for the banquet (well, almost time) and by the time that was over, I was ready for bed. Negotiating the Saturday night crowds in the hotel and on the street was...interesting, but successful.
Sunday was my autographing session, shared with Todd McCaffrey, who has definitley inherited his mother's charm as well as a lot of her talent. Then I had a reading, which went well, I thought. I chatted with a woman who had come to the reading about bobbin lace (among other things, but bobbin lace is something I know nothing about and a new craft to learn about is like the scent of a fox to the foxhounds.) Then back to my rooms, and packing, preparing for checkout and the trip home the next day.
Monday I faced the crowded halls of the Atlanta airport (and they were crowded) and the understandable annoyance of officialdom at someone who left her driver's license at home. By then I'd realized that I did have a government-issued photo ID of sorts: an Austin Metro Senior Citizen Discount card. It had my picture on it--a tiny picture, but it was clearly me. Same glasses frames, same hairdo. It led to rolled eyes (O LORD, these old women!) and a supervisor looking at me, at the rest of the lines, at the Medicare card again, at the Metro card again, and then deciding that their life would be easier if they let this old lady in her sock feet unlike any other sock feet they'd seen (handknit socks of a striking mottled blue and ribbing down the arch) through. So in time I was through the long, long lines, the scanners, the checkers, etc. and in plenty of time for my flight. I ate a light lunch (half of a regular lunch--when did chicken quesadillas get that big???) and settled into my seat for the flight home, knitting part of the time and writing a little the rest. My throat got sorer and sorer, so by landing I knew I was sick and getting sicker.
My luggage arrived safely. Friends picked me up at the airport, and I picked up the car at their house, starting on home to get there before full dark. I stopped once to pick up supper at the drive through of a Whataburger (I wouldn't contaminate anyone's interior) in the hope that enough salt on a plain burger and fries would dispel the sore throat, but it was not to be. I didn't even want all of it. I came home, unpacked the dirty clothes, announced return home in at least one online venue and fell into bed.
A lot of good stuff is missing--other writers I got to hang out with at the banquet (Mike Resnick and his wife among them) and elsewhere on panels, but my brain is still not clear. There was a guy in the dealer's room who carved wonderful designs on horn. A dealer in bronze stuff that I've always liked. Books I bought from Larry Smith and read happily (well, except one mystery--I read it all through wishing I had the writer in a writing class), some really tasty meals, fans I had good conversations with...I wish I could write a better con report, but it's been hazed over by the con-crud and the passage of time. I've always had a great time at DragonCon, and this was no exception.
Better Late Than Never? You Decide
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