In this, my third installment of four, some tips on getting along. See also Tips for Exploring San Diego and Cheat Codes!
When you’re in a building with 250,000 other people, you really must think of yourself as part of a community and not just a lone wolf with a solo agenda. This is not your awesome regional con with 2,000 people who all kind of know each other. This is a quarter of a million eager, distracted, excited nerds of every stripe packed into 1.2 million square feet, half of which is just the vendor hall. Captain Manners is here to suggest ways that we can all get along a little better, while also belying the stereotype of dysfunctional basement-dwelling mouth-breathing freakazoids.
Captain Manners uses Attitude and Kindness! It’s super effective.
We’re all here for a day or a weekend of massive fun – people go through a lot to get tickets and cross the globe to do so – this is a great, positive energy. It’s driven by fandom, by shared love of things, by enthusiasm and excitement. Carry that through to a general “yeah we’re all buddies” attitude to make it awesome for everyone.
Positivity and patience are tools you must have in your arsenal. Be game for the experience and little will faze you. You will be in long lines, all trying to get where you’re going, maybe all baking in the sun together, and you’re all tired. Revel in the excitement and ignore the minor setbacks. If you are the person whose day is ruined if someone cuts them off in traffic, maybe SDCC is the wrong environment for you. I like to approach the whole con as a big love-fest and we all get to shout compliments at each other for our cool costume/t-shirt/autograph score. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we nerds were always surrounded by Our People? Have a positive and patient attitude – and a sense of humor.
This is your weekend to be as enthusiastic as a kid again – even cynical people can burst into SQUEEs with the right discovery.
This is your chance to be who you are/the best person you wish you were, and not who your HR department demands you pretend to be. But you must fit within the constraints of what CCI needs you to be.
So, don’t be a dick.
Compliment, but don’t creep. Engage, but don’t harass. Share, but don’t burden. Swap favors or trade swag. You don’t much like your SDCC bag? Swap with someone who wants that one more than anything. (Thank you, past anonymous Chuck bag donors!) Line neighbor needs to pee? Hold their space. See someone desperate for someone to take their picture? Be awesome. If you step on someone, acknowledge and apologize. Watch where you’re going, be aware of your immediate surroundings. You might be stepping on a hem or a hand if you don’t join the flow of humanity around you. I wish everyone thought these were obvious, unspoken things, but look in any over-stimulated group: common sense and courtesy fly out the door. Never forget: NO means NO. Whether it’s asking for an autograph, cuts in line, or a date, respect each other and respect the space and wishes of others. No one deserves more than someone else.
Cosplay is not consent. If you see a hottie of any gender, admire, ask to photograph, but don’t touch or follow or bother them. They didn’t dress like that to encounter a stranger’s hand on their body; they dressed like that because they are a fan of that character. If and only when they agree to pose with you, and they put their arm around you, go ahead and put an arm somewhere covered (when possible). The same goes for the opposite, shame-based form of reducing people to their appearance: fat-shaming is not cool and it doesn’t make their fandom less legitimate. Few of us really look like our media idols.
Cosplayers are proud of their work – hell, just someone in a cool t-shirt is proud of the shirt – so ask if you can snap a picture, and they will get in a great pose because they love this character. Sometimes you may just catch them walking by – candids are great if they aren’t creepy up-skirts or the like. And if you have to actually calculate, “is this a creepy photo?” it probably is. No one wants their con ruined by unwanted attention or worse. Be a hero and stick up for someone if you see them being harassed as well. Fandom is love: be loving with each other.
Do you have a big, sight-line destroying costume? Or lots of accessories? While panel-goers should definitely scoot in so everyone gets a seat, sometimes it’s more polite to wait and stay on the end.
Prop Weapons: be cool. Some people have amazing huge swords and guns and all kinds of stuff. Impressive! We do want to see them! But please don’t drag things behind you and be aware of the space around you, floor to above head level. There is no single-stream flow of people, everyone is walking behind and in front and around in all directions, even in the one way hallways. It’s like those aerial shots of Tokyo intersections up in here. If your peripheral vision is compromised, bring a buddy to help you.
(Mouse over gallery images for more information)
Speaking of being loving, there are some religious groups who protest Comic-Con as a bastion of worshipping false idols. While theologists can debate the merit of their argument, the fact remains that a group of these folks are generally outside the convention center every year, showing their disgust with con-goers’ sinful ways. Provoking them or engaging in altercations only fuels the fire. We should all seek cool ways to respond that does not involve verbal or physical absuse. The local cops would appreciate it as well.
If you are able-bodied or tall enough to ride most rides, please be aware of the additional challenges to our very small and chair-bound peers. It’s harder to elbow your way up to a table when you’re lower than everyone else’s vision and trying not to run over feet or get stepped on yourself. Give all fans the same access!
Introverts and Extroverts
SDCC is not an ideal environment for an introvert. But even if huge crowds completely crush your spirit, you can have a great time if you are prophylactic with your self-care.
Read social cues: if someone isn’t mutually engaging with you, go ahead and give them some space. If they assert their need for space or privacy, respect it. It’s one to five days of huge amounts of stimulus and even the most gregarious can run out of steam.
If you’re up for it, network and share this experience while you’re having it. Momentary line buddies or conversational partners bonding over both wearing an Auryn can become anything from that awesome person who holds your seat when you go pee, or your future spouse. Make friends! Chat with folks in line, don’t just disappear into your phone. You already know you have something in common. Fandom is a shared love and more people loving something makes that thing even more awesome. We all can think of a group of fans that we poke fun at for liking something we think is dumb. That’s actually totally sucky. Don’t yuck someone else’s yum.
Celebrities and representing the awesome fans we are
SDCC attracts some seriously big name celebrities, and it’s not just because they pay them to come. SDCC attendees are fervent, informed, and enthusiastic, and they give that energy to the creators and stars of what they love, which brings them back again and again. Keep them coming back by respecting their space, their time, and their rights as people to enjoy the con too.
These folks are people just like you, just with nicer cars. Respect their space and time as well as the time of other fans hoping to also get a moment with someone they admire.
Smile, tell them what you love about their work, welcome them, thank them.
Pepper them with questions or demand they give you time/photo/autograph/etc.
What not to do (sins committed by the author):
Great things to do:
If someone you recognize is eating lunch with his friends, let them be. Personally, I think it’s OK to wave hello unobtrusively and then skedaddle, or snap a discreet candid from afar just to prove you saw them, but not to use for evil. Just think about how tired they are from having to “be on” all day. Ask permission to take photos of people you see, especially if you want them to stop and hold still for you, or with you. People might complain about the scourge of the selfie, but at least you’re not hunting down a friendly stranger to shoot the photo of you and then explaining how your camera works just to get a blurry mess – now you can just lean, smile, click, thank and depart. Always say thank you!
Don’t chase them down to pose, especially if they are clearly on the way somewhere (see the gracious and handsome Ryan McPartlin above). But some may offer – take it!
If you randomly bump into someone you admire (and you will), it’s always nice to ask. The nicer and cooler the fans are, the more likely our favorite artists will come back.
That said, when you’re one of 6,500 people in Hall H, scream your love out with all your heart. That’s what the big rooms are for.
Q and A’s: The P’s and Q’s
Speaking of Hall H … or any panel: If you get a chance at the microphone, please ask a real and a concise question. Don’t just get up there to comment on something or tell a rambling lead-in. People miss out on getting to be there – don’t steal the moment just to waste it. Plan your question to maximize your own inquiry satisfaction and the number of folks who can get through the line behind you. So many panels end in frustrating awkwardness because of people who don’t observe this simple courtesy.
Good: “Hi, Mr. Rickman, thanks for being here. I have loved your work since Die Hard! My question is: Were you more surprised by the immense success of Harry Potter or Galaxy Quest?”
Includes some love, some acknowledgement of your fandom credentials, and might be something anyone might be curious about
Bad: “Yo, Chris Evans! My name is Sal and I have been here for three days hoping to see you. Captain America rocks so hard! So like, you were singing and dancing in Not Another Teen Movie, and like, kissing a bunch of girls and stuff, but you also got to do that in Scott Pilgrim, but like, Sunshine was a total trip, right? I mean seriously. And then you mess up your arm again in Snowpiercer so I am wondering if you like, have a bet with your friends as to what will happen to you in the next movie you work on?”
Please don’t be that guy that everyone is sorry came.
A Final Word about Overshopping
Perhaps this is a futile cry to the universe, since I am sure anyone discerning enough to read SCIFI.radio would never be so crass, but please: Stop buying all the goodies to sell later and more expensively on eBay – it’s hard enough to get into SDCC without someone buying up all the exclusives just so you can make a profit (instead of the actual seller)!
See this guy? He ruins everything.
Don’t be That Guy.
Personal Space: The Final Frontier
It’s a crush of people; even in the quieter sections of the convention center or out on the street, you’re brushing up against a zillion people an hour. Be clean. Brush your teeth, carry mints, wear deodorant, take a shower. It’s warm, you’re excited and moving around a lot, and you’re in close proximity to a quarter million people doing the same. Do all you can to keep any natural odor-causing to a minimum to help everyone feel comfortable and enjoy the show. Gotta fart? We all do it. But if you can avoid the gassiest foods or take Gas-X, or even keep it to the bathrooms, you might feel better as well as keeping your vicinity full of awesome. Wouldn’t you rather be the person who asked that intelligent question than the one that crop dusted the Small Press area? Stay healthy! Avoid the nerd flu and wash your hands often. Maybe even carry antibacterial gel – everyone is touching everything everywhere all day for 5 days. Want to shake hands with John Barrowman? So does everyone else. Help yourself, the other fans, and the celebrities by occasionally de-germing with soap and warm water or Purell.
There’s no smoking anywhere indoors in California, and additional local restrictions near the entrances to buildings and most outdoor patios; the butt litter is a plague, and it stinks. If you can do e-cigarettes or Nicorette patches for the weekend to survive, that would be greatly appreciated. It’s also impossible to just pop out for a second to grab a smoke, so you’ll be happier too.
Only service animals are permitted on site, so if your cosplay involves an animal mascot, do the animal and your fellow conventioneers a favor and bring a proxy. See Wild Republic or ThinkGeek if you need some good sources of plush proxies. Definitely do not bring a live facehugger. Babies aren’t getting much out of SDCC except over-stimulated and exhausted. If you can, leave them at home. If not, please keep the strollers small and nimble, or better yet, carry your child as part of your costume.
Working security for this event is a rough job. Volunteering at SDCC (the ultra-majority of the staff you see are volunteers) is rough too, and most are paid only with a badge. Be polite to these folks and do what they say. They do know best and they do know how much you want to see Carrie Fisher but seriously, please follow the rules. They can make it worse for you and everyone and you won’t actually die if you don’t get your My Little Poe-ny signed by Edgar Allen Poe’s great grandson.
Be awesome, and help keep SDCC awesome for you and all of us.