Monday, March 2, 2009

Our WonderCon That Almost Wasn't (Part 2)

So the cargo van was packed and it was time to go......

Now if it was me and I had been that sick... we would have stayed... but then I'm the one with the chronic medical condition. I spend a lot of time on maintenance and prevention.... making sure things don't go wrong. That's why I'm "worst case scenario Amy"....

but it was Stuart who got sick. He's the optimist after all, unafraid of relapses, etc, etc, etc.... So we were on the road and on our way to WonderCon.

The Gods smile on innocents and optimists like Stuart. I know this because we had exceptional luck with traffic and weather and reached Santa Barbara in about 2 hours. With our late start and all the complications, every minute we could make up in travel time was a gift.

We took lots of breaks, and I spent a lot of time asking Stuart how he was feeling.

This distracted me from my usual concerns about the weight we were hauling in the cargo van. The word problem version goes something like this:
A (average pounds per box) x B (# of boxes each travelling at 60 miles an hour) + C (slamming into our backs if there's an accident) = D (smushed to death like roadkill).
These risks are part of the "non dollar cost" of getting books to a convention. More about that later....

So it's dark, but not horribly late, when we reach our overnight stop in the Bay Area. A hot meal, shower, and good night's sleep later and things seem... well... okay. At least we're here and Stuart continues to improve.
On Thursday morning, Stuart and his brother Steve drive the van into San Francisco. I take the BART and join them at the Moscone Center.

Above is a rare shot of the bare-bones of our booth. Stuart builds this. When you arrive at the booth, all you have is the skirted tables and chairs supplied with your space. Over the years, Stuart has experimented with various display materials. We bring the black grids we use, and the wooden folding bookcases, and these are the few "off the rack" items. The most effective displays for us are items he has fabricated himself, like the white horizontal book displays.

Load-in hours are all day Thursday, and we need that long to set up the shelves, unbox the books and get the books displayed. Our entire construction and box moving crew is: Stuart and Steve. I arrive to help, and Steve has recruited Ken, a co-worker. If you're in our circle of friends and family, you get "volunteered" for some job or another when we do a convention. What a deal.
Pick-up owners often have a bumper sticker that reads: "Yes, it's my truck. No, I won't help you move." I live in fear of the day when our stalwart friends and family tell us: "Yes, we love you. No, we won't help you move books."

The fact is, we couldn't do ANY conventions without the help of our friends and family. No one has an inexhaustible supply of funds or manpower. We have been very fortunate to have these people to count on. However, this recent event with Stuart's health is a reminder that we can't take these circumstances for granted. They are not only subject to change.... they are likely to change over time. We need to be realistic. And we need to be planning ahead.... now.
We always appreciate the kind comments from our patrons regarding Stuart's booth and the selection of items we bring. When you enjoy our booth and the chance to look through all the books yourself, I hope these photos help you understand how all that material gets to you. There are lots of mom and pop vendors like us who personally transport and set up their goods at a show. It's an important part of the job, but it goes unseen by the general public. I wish there were convention elves to make all this magic happen (yes, there are teamsters that work at convention centers, but that's another story).
So by the end of the day Thursday, things were looking pretty good. Stuart was pacing himself. I was letting our friends and colleagues at the show my concerns about him. If he had a relapse, taking care of him, and the booth, and the domino effect of him being sick would be more than I could handle on my own.
Tip for the day.... My feeling is, if you aren't feeling well, the best option is to let others know. When your friends (and/or first responders) are informed, they can be better prepared to help you. It only complicates the situation if you don't say anything in the beginning.... and then can't say anything because you've passed out and no one knows why.
Everyone I shared my concerns with was so supportive. I'm sure it was this safety net of our friends, family, and colleagues at the convention that helped me stay calm about the situation.

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