Convention, The Tricorder, and Me” by Painstick
Conventions are an interesting occasion. It doesn’t really matter what kind of convention it is, the mere fact that you’re there probably indicates that you’re more than just a casual fan of the focus of the convention. In other words, “you really get into it”. It doe
sn’t seem to
matter what the theme of the convention is either.
If it’s a comic book convention, you may be one of those people
who wheel around a small luggage caddy hoping to find issues 1, 5, and 9
of “Ultra Violent, Joyless Crap”.
Or you might find yourself in the role of the greasy kid who
grabs all the free stuff and stares at the spokes models all day.
If it’s a car show, you might be the one who stands in line for
an hour so you can plop down twenty bucks to have your picture taken
with some “Adult Entertainment” “Actress”, trying not to be too
obvious about staring at the “Photographs” of her medically enhanced
“Body” strewn across her “Exhibition Table”.
The possibilities are endless.
Try role playing with a friend and see what you come up with.
A few years ago,
I had the opportunity to take a small remote television crew to a Star
Trek convention. We were
there to shoot a short news piece for a television program I was hoping
to get on the air. I was
actually pretty excited about going; but now, all these years later, the
memories still haunt me like a bad fever dream.
Don’t get me wrong; I DO appreciate the Star Trek franchise.
Even the name “Painstick” is a Klingon reference.
I just wasn’t prepared, mentally or emotionally, for what I was
about to see there.
the convention premises, the first thing I noticed was the large number
of people who came in costumes. There
were Klingons, Romulans, androids, and tons of assorted Star Fleet
uniforms. My favorite was
the classic Kirk shirt worn with blue jeans and tennis shoes.
It was a kid wearing a costume just like that though, that burned
the strongest memory in my mind. There
I was standing in front of a huge display of Star Trek merchandise with
my cameraman. I was
pointing out some shots for him and then my greasy kid sensors kicked
in. There was a skinny
young guy, wearing the aforementioned costume, standing behind me with a
Tricorder. He was waving it
up and down the full length of my back, making a strange noise with his
mouth (or at least I hope it was his mouth).
After a few passes, he leaned over to his equally greasy
companion and said in a strange voice, “Human.”
It took all the self-control I could muster to not throw an
elbow. I felt so violated.
The sudden need for a shower came over me.
It was a survival reaction to wash the stain he left on my soul
before it permanently set in.
I was amazed at
all the cool stuff you could buy in the exhibition hall for only several
times more what you would pay for it elsewhere.
Ten dollars for a black and white 8x10 glossy of Bill Bixby?
Why not?! Twenty-five
dollars for an old Pizza Hut glass with a picture of the Enterprise on
it? Where’s mine?!!
One particular table really caught my eye.
It was full of weapon replicas from Star Trek.
Swords, knives and other deadly items.
There was a kid standing there waving some sharp metal object in
the air, whooshing and swishing like he was performing some strange
Klingon war kata. I was
smirking like a banshee inside when the weapons tender looked at the kid
and said, “That’s two hundred and fifty dollars”.
The young man put the object back in its proper display faster
than a Ferengi can make a deal.
The main event
of the convention was a rousing Q & A session with Riker himself.
That’s right, Jonathan Frakes made an appearance and impressed
the crowd with stories about how Patrick Stewart once forgot a line and
how Lavar Burton had such a hard time seeing through his visor.
He even sang “Volare”! The
first thing I noticed when I entered the large, packed, theater-like
room was the incredible odor. It
was like a punch in the face! It
was much akin to a high school gym locker room after the wrestling team
just finished their marathon Saturday workout.
The combination of freaks, geeks, fanatics, and regular fan folk
alike came together to create a cornucopia of offensive odors that, if
handled carefully, could be used as a deadly weapon should the country
ever go to war again. I
remember only one question distinctly.
After all, the rest of the questions just seemed to blend into
one big, “Will we be seeing more Romulans in upcoming movies?” type
question. The question?
“It’s been twenty years since man walked on the moon.
Don’t you think it’s time we go back?”
WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?! For
the first time, Riker lost his smile.
The room was silent. You
could hear a communicator pin drop.
Even kids in horribly bad Klingon costumes were thinking, “What
a freak!” And for an
instant, everyone at the convention felt ashamed to be associated with
this crowd. After what felt
like an hour, Mr. Frakes finally regained his composure and said with a
smile, “I really don’t have much to say about that since I deal in
science fiction. I
thought to myself, “What a kind and gentle man.”
The life began to return to the room and the smell once again
filled my nostrils.
It was after that incident that I decided to leave the convention. Not because the Trekkies bothered me. They really are fun people with a contagious enthusiasm. Not because I was tired of Jonathan Frakes. He seemed like a real nice guy. It was because I was tired from being on my feet all day. I had adequate footage for our news piece. I bought a cool t-shirt. I had experienced something that was similar to visiting another country and now it was just…time to leave. Time to return to the real world.
© 2004 Lee Bezotte. All Rights Reserved.