Con Fail

This is what it was like to be me, on Sunday, attempting to look for the Toronto Fan Expo.

Me and my Head

You find yourself walking out of Union Station through the Toronto Train Station to get to the Skywalk. Unlike the other times you’ve been here, there aren’t any cosplayers or people with Fan Expo bags to follow, but you make your way to the Skywalk.

You know that, in the past, all you had to do was open the glass door on the left-hand side in order to take some escalators down the stairs in order to get to the lobby. All you would have to do is get your prepaid ticket scanned, get a wristband, wait in something of a line and get in. And because it’s Sunday and almost 3 pm, you think that you won’t have to wait very long. You would get in, meet with your friend from London, Ontario and explore for about two hours. The only issue would be the line that might form as you are all leaving like last year’s.

However, it is precisely because of your knowledge of last year that you know that the door is locked and you have to go the long way around, down stairways and across a street or two to get to where you need to go. You get out of the Skywalk and you are outside on the roof. You wander around. Finally, a really nice young lady–whose costume you can’t even recall now and who isn’t a staff member or a volunteer–asks if you’re lost. You admit it and she points you to where you need to go: a Pavilion entrance down below the Convention Centre.

So you travel down the steps. Your thin tight black Dr. Who T-shirt is sticking to your body in the summer heat. You walk to the Pavilion entrances and notice that there are either “Priority,” “Vendor” or “Re-Entry” entrances and exits. So much for that. You keep walking: past a large Aquarium, the line to see the CN Tower and even the Blue Jays booths. You still don’t find the entrance.

You go back and move onto the streets. In fact, you follow a large group of people across a street or two. You even notice some signs that say “Fan Expo” on the sides of walls. They are few, and scattered, and far between. There are no arrows on them pointing anywhere or even a map. You walk past a place where someone, who may or may not be a staff member is talking with a driver. You find another sign. You follow it to a dead-end.

You go back to a park area where you see a young woman standing in a grove of trees dressed and posing as Saber from Fate/Stay Night. It is very awesome and you see her friends taking pictures of her. You try to ignore the lonely feeling, wishing that you could contact your friend or someone that can help you, and continue on. And then you see that you are back in the same place you started at: the Pavilions. A small train ride, that you passed before, nearly runs you over as you are clutching your ticket papers in your hands: which you’d gotten out beforehand so you would be ready for the booth and your wristband.

You have been steadily losing your patience. Finally, you get fed up and go through the Re-Entry to ask the people in charge where you need to go. The security woman in her red uniform is nice enough, but her directions are long and vague. She mentions the Aquarium as a land mark that you’ve passed more than twice. You are tired and hot. It has already been something along the lines of twenty minutes or so that you have been lost in the non-Euclidean geometry of this part of the city or, let’s face it, Toronto itself.

Or at least it might as well be non-Euclidean because this is a vast space and you have spatial issues and difficulties with direction to begin with. You can’t follow the vague map on your papers–if that is what it even is–which has no written directions whatsoever. You keep to the Aquarium and because there are no signs indicating where the Fan Expo ticket-scanning booth is, you walk up some stairs and find yourself at a Hotel.

Then you see two men and a child. You see they have Fan Expo bags like everyone else. You ask one of the men where the ticket booth is. He points vaguely in back of you and asks if you are going to pick up a wristband for sentimental value because the Expo is essentially over. You say that is impossible because it says, specifically on your sheet that they close at 5 pm. He says that this is not possible.

It is 3:45 pm by this point. You walk back down the stairs and across the Blue Jays booths to see if you can find this place. You are feeling a weariness begin to creep into your very being. At 3:55 pm or so, knowing that by the time you find this fabled ticket-scanning place you will have less than hour assuming the vendors weren’t packing up at this point, you realize that this venture is over.

You can feel the bitch-face–that cold unsmiling mask–forming over your features to cover the growing rage you feel inside. You pass by two kids that have shirts with the words “Game Over” and you can’t think of anything more appropriate than to call this waste of an outing. The anger is doused by pure exhaustion and sheer disappointment as not only do you realize that you have wasted $45 for a Sunday ticket to an event you couldn’t even access, and time you could have used to rest, but you also know that your friend is probably heading back to London by this point.

Seeing all of the cosplayers, con-goers and young couples with their loot is just another slap in the face: as though their mere presence this point just rubs in the fact that you couldn’t partake of any of this. You look at the papers in your hand and feel like a fucking idiot. Everything around you feels as cold and as impersonal and uncaring as the business that Fan Expo has begun to represent to you and so many others you know. You’ve already folded the un-scanned papers and now you just crumple them into one fist.

Under your breath, you whisper the words, “Con Fail.”

Then because you went so off-track trying to find this booth, this booth that you wonder ever existed to begin with, you can’t even find the Union Subway Station again and, when you do, you end up sitting in a subway car that takes too long get there, pauses at points and decides to go out of service at Eglinton without even waiting for another back-up car to be there. And all that time, you get to sit there and see more Expo-fans sitting around with their comics and their bags: just reminding you of everything you did not experience that day before your week begins.

You are told later, after you post on Facebook, and after a polite but brutally honest letter to the latter that is probably buried under a high volume of many other incoming emails that Hobbystar–the company that has “organized” the Fan Expo–is going to have new ownership and perhaps things will be better next time. Perhaps they will have volunteers around the streets with signs, or clearer signs on posters, or perhaps just greater organization itself. At the very least, they could have a ticket booth is not in the centre of Pan’s Labyrinth or long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Because right now, just as then, you vow to yourself–having already had issues with Hobbystar and knowing that your other friends have experienced the same–that you are never going to try to go to Toronto Fan Expo again.

This message has been brought to you by Con Fail. I’m glad that everyone else, who managed to make it to the Expo had one. I just wish I had been one of you. As it is, I’m pretty ashamed that I had to spend valuable time and space writing this piece out when I have so many more interesting things planned, but it just had to be said.

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About matthewkirshenblatt

I am a writer and blogger living in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario in Canada. When I'm not writing for the Sequart Research & Literacy Organization and GeekPr0n, I tend to write science-fiction, epic fantasy, horror, literary and mythological revisionisms, and generally weird fiction stories though I have been known to make poetry, television and comic book scripts. Also, when left to my own devices I tend to write weird and strange hybrid creative opinion piece articles like those you will find on this Blog. I am also very interested in comics, video games, Star Wars, table-top role-playing games, Neil Gaiman's works, H.P. Lovecraft, vampires, zombies, and budgies.
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8 Responses to Con Fail

  1. Why did they close so early?! Con is usually an all day and close to night venture :/

    • This was the very last day, Britt. It was open from 10 am to 5 pm. Thursday was 4-9, Friday was 7-10, and Saturday was also from 7-10. I went on the last day because I thought it would be far less crowded and I could look around for a little bit. Suffice to say, I was wrong and underestimated just how far the scanning booth was: wherever it was. It was all just … gah, really.

      • Oh 😦 I usually go very early, like before the doors even open to check out the people and their costumes for either Anime Expo or Comic Con. I know it gets crowded, and I HATE crowds (I can’t stress that enough)… but there are some things I’m willing to sacrifice my comfort and space for. Live and Learn Matthew. Still shitty I know, but there will always be next year. 😉

      • Well, like I mentioned and what was told to me, this particular event is going to have some new management so it might be different next year.

        I also might see if there are any other Conventions that I might go to aside from this one. And maybe, just maybe I can attend with some friends next time and see if we can all be lost together. I wouldn’t mind that much.

      • I plan on going to Canada in February for my birthday. I have had dreams of Lake Alberta, and I know it’s further from where you are but since I’ll be there, might as well make the most of it. I don’t think any conventions will be going on, but we should meet up and you can show me around the area. ^_^ Side note of course, and nothing related to conventions, lol.

      • I would definitely like to meet up and show you around. 🙂 We can get lost in Toronto together. lol

      • Also, I’m curious Britt: what Cons do you generally attend and what are some of the things that you check out first?

      • Anime Expo and Comic Con when they’re in Long Beach. I know they have them in San Diego and LA too, but I haven’t found anyone to go with for those events. I usually go online and see who will be attending (special guest-wise) and what activities will be going on for the day. I check out booths first – see if there are any t-shirts or teddy bears I’d like to give to my friends or keep for myself. Then move on from that. Whether there’s a special screening or karaoke room, it’s definitely more fun when you go with someone though.

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