We arrived at the hotel about 12:30, got checked in, got our stuff to the room, and then went out again to see what was up. The answer — nothing. We got to hear about difficulties in almost every department, since we hung out where the volunteers do; everyone was having problems. And there never seemed to be the huge influx of people showing up; even at 5-6 PM, it was busy but never overcrowded. Weird.
The biggest thing that happened to us on Friday was getting dissed by a hotel employee. Since MiLady is in a wheelchair for the duration of the Con, and since we’ve waited 20+ minutes in the past for an elevator with space for her, MiLady gets the combination for the service elevators. At one point during the evening, she punched in the combo — only to be told by some black-suited git with a gold name tag that no, we couldn’t use them, not now or at all during the weekend, because of insurance issues. He wouldn’t even let us get in. (MiLady checked later that evening with the Head of Con Security — it’s good to know people — and he said it was complete bishwah.)
On Saturday we wandered about and saw the sights. I noticed that the big deal readings for the weekend were from someplace called “Broad Universe” — which turned out to be a thing for women writers. Oh, for Pete’s Sake! Women Writers . . . like Women in Business or just about any “women’s” group I’ve run into . . . seems only to say, “We want special attention! We don’t want to compete on any non-exclusive playing field — so we’re going to set up our own group, and if you don’t think we’re Special, then it’s all your own prejudices!” Sheesh . . .
We went to the Art Show. Lots of great stuff — that MiLady hardly got to see, because people were always moving in front of her to stand directly between her and the art. One group of Manticoran officers (from the Honor Harrington universe) deliberately moved around her wheelchair to stand two feet from the artwork so she couldn’t see it. I wanted to say, “Great jobs on the uniforms, guys — but could you go back and read the books you’re emulating about graciousness and MANNERS?!?”
On Saturday night, I hung out with MiLady and StepDaughter while they started the Party Rounds. There was only one floor for parties this year (which says a TON about the number of people who aren’t coming to the Con like they used to), and really only two parties there — the Pirates and the Cultists. We spent some time in the 3rd floor smoking area, and heard others talking about what we were wondering — Doesn’t the Con seem teeny this year? The highest number we could find on a badge was 758 or something; everyone there agreed that the membership was incredibly small compared to the 1200 we had last year, or the 1600 we were used to seeing in the old hotel. We found a concomm member, who said that the Registration head was being very tight-lipped about the numbers this year. In the past they’ve been published in the Daily OryConnian. Hmm . . .
And one more elevator incident — we got chased down by a uniformed security officer on Saturday night, who asked if we had permission to use the service elevator, and when she found that we did (she actually looked disappointed), said, “Well, it’s all right for now, but you two (me and the StepDaughter; not just family, but Helpers for the Disabled Person under the ADA) will have to wait with the rest of them.” A couple of people, hearing about it later, actually told us we could sue. It’s not worth the effort, though. We only saw her the once, and she never used the elevator the next day when I was with her. Why? No need. The place was dead.
Yes, Sunday was dead as a doornail. A bunch of people seemingly left the hotel before we even got up; there were no elevator lines, and hardly anyone in the Con level corridors. We went to a couple of panels (and in one of them, the Feedback panel, someone asked about attendee numbers — and was told we were up to 1300. I never saw them). We went out to dinner, watched some TV (we tried to hook our laptop up to the TV to watch our own DVDs; although it worked easily last year, this year it just would not happen). Then we went to the final event of any OryCon, the Dead Duck (or whatever they’re calling it this year) party. This year was wonderful — the Toast Rounds were excellent (and not overbearing or taking over the whole room exclusively like in recent years), the people were wonderful, the pizza overflowing (they’d ordered the same amount as last year, but only half of it got eaten — another clue?), and when I left at 11:30 the place was swinging.
It wasn’t till I got up the next morning that I heard about the final indignity. Apparently the hotel got hold of the con chairman at midnight and shut down the Duck. They told him that there wasn’t supposed to be any alcohol in the suite we used as Hospitality, and that it all had to be removed — NOW. After how many years, they do this to us? We’ve held that party after every con, every year. THIS year, at midnight, it’s suddenly unacceptable? WTF?!?!?
THE PORTLAND DOWNTOWN MARRIOTT IS NOT WELCOMING TO PEOPLE TRYING TO SPEND MONEY THERE. I’m exceedingly glad that OryCon is moving; I plan on never spending another DIME on that hotel chain. They don’t want my business? They don’t want to trust me? FINE — they don’t need my money. (On Monday, when I asked if I could use a bellhop cart to pack out our stuff, I was actually told No. The git insisted on bring the cart up himself, putting our stuff on it himself, and wheeling it down to the car area himself. As if I was going to try and take it home! After over twenty years of weekend conventions, this is the first time I’ve ever had that happen. EVER. Frell you, Marriott!)
I’m waiting anxiously for the Regress report on this con, in part to see what the attendance numbers are (or if they’ll even be published, or if the “pre-reg but didn’t pick up badge” numbers are even reported). The only times this felt like a con to me were in the Party Wing smoking area or at the Dead Duck. I’m looking forward to next year, in a hotel that might treat us like the money-paying customers that we are; but if the next con goes like this one, it might be the flushing of an SF con going down the tubes that will be he loudest sound. I hope not, but it might.
[To those of you who have never been to an SF convention before — this was NOT a typical con. Usually they’re busy, fun, full of interesting people and wonderful events. I wish I could show you how wonderful they are, and how you’d really enjoy going. This one was not such a great example. Sorry. 8-(]