Over the weekend, I attended the giant annual clusterfuck in Downtown Atlanta that makes me hate people. To clarify, I don’t really hate people. In fact, I tend to generally abhor the lack of people for more than 24 hours. Then again, I don’t really particularly like people, either, especially in large group situations that provide opportunity for you to be stepped on, run into, elbowed, tripped by the giant suitcase of a tourist who has no idea how to be a tourist in a city.
Every Labour Day weekend, when our friends are relaxing on a beach or getting drunk at outdoor BBQ’s, I’m on the verge of sheer mental and physical exhaustion trying to attend DragonCon. This is also the same weekend that the area is jammed with visitors from other Southeastern colleges in town for a football game (props to the folks from Tennessee for not being jerks like the people I met from NC State, and the nice people of Clemson and Auburn for not repeatedly sexually harassing me like the people from LSU two years ago.), as well as an LGBT convention and people trying to get to the Braves game. It is the one weekend of the year people *actually* use the subway system, and wonder why it sucks so badly compared to, you know, everywhere else.
On top of that, there’s the frustration of realising I live in a “city” that needs five separate hotels to host a convention, and you have to walk five miles a day and stand in hour-long lines just to attend this thing with 30,000 people that doesn’t allow you to ever sit down, find food, relax, or not get run over without effort. I’m surprised there’s not a booth that says “Free Oxygen: Line Begins Here”. Oh, and I forgot to mention: every year, it’s 90 degrees with a humidity level between 80 and 90%, and people wear wigs and costumes everywhere. Most establishments may have their AC on, but it is hotter in the room than outside. Even if you are healthy, the physical toll this takes on you is draining. Many people end up getting sick for a few days after convention. For someone on heart medication and dealing with vertigo and slight agoraphobia, it’s kind of a personalized version of hell. I don’t remember the last time I hated people so much I started to purposely bump into them and not apologise, because they were in my freaking space. But that’s what happens when you’re chest-bumped by some guy twice your size who runs into you and then keeps going. I can only imagine it’s some form of “The Hunger Games” devised by the people who run DragonCon, for their own amusement. “I estimate 1200 people want to go to this session! Let’s put 600 chairs in the room, make people line up outside and stand there for two hours,and see what happens from our air-conditioned offices.”
Here’s the thing: I don’t do lines. I make reservations and get on lists that allow me to skip lines. I show up 30 minutes late to anything just to ensure everyone else is already there. If I have to wait for anything, I’m probably going to leave. I’ve moved dinner reservations to a new location because I’m not interested in waiting 35 minutes to eat somewhere in a city with 5,000 restaurants. I’ve passed up on Black Friday sales to avoid standing in line for half an hour with an overly heavy object, just to find out I could have had the same thing delivered to my house by clicking a button on the internet. Living in New York, I kind of became a master at using my unobtrusive stature and “Ooops, I think I’m lost and confused face” to cut in front of people in line. I will plow through crowds of people to grab the last seats on the subway. The Guy I Am Currently Dating seems to feel guilty about this behaviour, or point out that people are staring at us. I don’t, not even slightly, and if staring killed people, I’d have been dead a long time ago.
You can take the girl out the Northeast, but you can’t take the Yankee out of the girl.
This isn’t how DragonCon works. You will spend more time in line to see something than actually seeing the thing. You will walk around between hotels in the 90 degree heat more than you will actually spend time in the hotel. Yes, there are huge parties, but you will stand around not getting served by an understaffed bar or wandering back and forth and back and forth looking for food, until you realise you’ve spent two hours doing so.
It really is pretty much a giant NYE party for geeks.
It’s probably worth it if you’re the sort of person who’s super into what DragonCon has to offer, are a big enough fan of anything to stand in line for an hour or two to hear some people talk for an hour, and you’re staying in a hotel that offers you air conditioning and a bed to rest on. Instead, we opt for the “hour commute on the overcrowded, overheated subway with nowhere to sit” to top off our day.
I think, honestly, I just don’t care about anything DragonCon has to offer enough to balance out the hassle, inconvenience, and physical exhaustion caused by being there. I walked and stood and was put in more vertigo-inducing situations in three days than in an entire year of slow rehabilitation. I go there because The Guy I Am Currently Dating likes it. But, he’s healthier than I am and has greater endurance and tolerance for people, despite being over a decade older than I am.
In fairness, it’s not just DragonCon that elicits this reaction from me. Two years ago, I helped plan a NYE party at a venue that didn’t have adequate seating or staff. It took an hour to get a drink, to the point where I went behind the bar to inform them I was one of the event organizers, and my party had yet to be served, so I was willing to start working the bar myself. People left long before midnight because there was nowhere to sit. If we hadn’t managed to get bar stools, I’d have left my own event. Waiting in overcrowded, understaffed venues that want to maximize profit while providing minimal amenities and service is the opposite of fun for me.
In a way, I really am The Misanthropic Extravert (a cool title for my autobiography!), and while getting sick has lessened my tolerance for rudeness and inconvenience, it’s always been a part of my personality. I am not happy when I am not comfortable. Some people think this is high-maintenance, and sadly, when I see others have more fun at events without me than with me being there because I am a high-maintenance individual, it makes me realise that person may not be my perfect friend/romantic partner/soulmate/travel buddy. (I think I thought at least four times in three days that The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I should just break up, because he didn’t seem to have any patience or understanding for how difficult the situation was for me, and that in return made me pretty angry. He did, however, have fun hanging out with other people when I wasn’t there. I don’t blame him, but it doesn’t necessarily make me feel positively about our level of compatibility.)
I just wanted to be chilling out on a balcony overlooking the ocean in Florida, drinking martinis and eating at places that aren’t standing-room only. I’d even have settled for a fun BBQ in someone’s backyard with 30 of my closest friends…not 30,000.
There’s another convention The Guy I Am Currently Dating helps run each October, and that one, I totally enjoy. We stay in a nice hotel, I go to stuff that interests me without standing in line, I help out when I feel like it or when it’s needed, and I meet interesting people that are actually interested in talking to you, not just being admired/posing for pictures, because it’s the one time of the year they feel comfortable around strangers. That convention is for video games, something I know nothing about and don’t really have much interest in; yet, many of the sessions are still interesting and I don’t have to stand outside for an hour to see if I really care enough to see it. It is 1/10th the size of DragonCon, but that, I can handle. It helps that you get to stay indoors most of the time and the average temperature has dropped from 90 to 80. Autumn is actually pleasant in Atlanta, even if it doesn’t arrive until Halloween.
I have been debating whether or not to try to travel to NYC this fall. Somehow, I think that compared to DragonCon, it’s going to seem like a breeze, provided I keep the walking to a reasonable minimum. I know I really shouldn’t be pushing myself to do more than a mile at a time, until that amount of effort becomes comfortable to my body. The heart medication makes it feel like I’m pulling a 300-pound weight along with me the entire time, and it’s horrible. I wish there were a way to get off the Atenolol, but considering my mother just had another stroke on Thursday, and can barely speak or walk at the age of 62, and her mother died at the age of 50, and my father’s health began a steady decline at 48…I understand why my doctors believe preventative measures can’t hurt. I just wonder if they’re really necessary, and if they’re really helping or hurting me. I can’t seem to manage my weight at all on this drug, or courtesy of some other condition that hasn’t been diagnosed.; despite being active to the point of exhaustion, the scale tells me I gained 3 pounds over the holiday weekend, and I certainly didn’t overeat.
It is all so frustrating. I feel too young and have a spirit that’s far too exuberant to be trapped inside a body that can’t manage to reflect that. I feel so frustrated that those in my life can’t, or don’t, understand. I used to be proud of my attractive figure, of my energy level, of having a personality that was always up for a fun adventure. It’s hard to be the same person on the inside, yet stuck inside a physical being that is someone and something else.
Doctors are idiots. I’ve been to 12 of them without any concrete diagnosis, and other than gaining 30 pounds in a year and having to take drugs that have some unpleasant side effects, nothing has happened. I’m living my life in a healthier way than ever before, yet I simply feel as if I’m wasting away, fading into the background of life.
The Guy I Am Currently Dating asked if he should buy my DragonCon badge for next year. I brought up a bunch of concerns. “What if I make other plans for Labour Day?” “What if I’m not living in Atlanta?”, “What if we’re not dating anymore?”. Yet, there’s always the unspoken hesitation to plan anything a year in advance, the one that stares back at me from the mirror and says “What if I’m just not here at all next September?” Sometimes, I still think of the future as fairly irrelevant, because I somehow just feel that “long-term” isn’t an issue or a problem for me. I no longer let it affect worries about my choices or my relationships. I know that all I have is now, and wasting time worrying over how a tomorrow that might never come plays out really robs me of today.
That’s why I wanted to try to make it to DragonCon this year, just in case I’m not around when it rolls around next year. I wanted people to be able to say, “Hey, remember when Alayna was here, and we did this, and it was fun?”
Sadly, I don’t think there will be too many memories like that. What I will remember is that after 3 days of exhausting myself, I spent a day in bed in my air conditioned apartment reading, and The Guy I Am Currently Dating had a fun time at DragonCon with his friends, while all of my friends were off doing things with their own families, friends, and loved ones.
It made me a little sad, really, to think “This is what the world will look like when I’m no longer in it. Life goes on without me.” I know it always does, but it’s a little like getting to see a glimpse of the future that doesn’t involve you.
I can’t help but feel like life wasn’t supposed to leave me behind so early on in the process.