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“The 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. 

Upon entering 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.



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