ConFusion 2014 -- Legendary ConFusion

ConFusion is a science fiction convention held every winter in Detroit. This year it was held at the DoubleTree Detroit-Dearborn over the weekend of January 17-19, 2014. We had not planned to attend, but did so only because I was invited as an art programming participant. Because of the timing, we wanted to go a little early and celebrate a family member's significant milestone in the Fort Wayne area.

On Wednesday when we went up, the weather was actually pretty nice, albeit cold. But sometime overnight it turned nasty, and by the time we were ready to leave on Thursday to get to the Detroit area, it was snowing pretty heavily. The roads were slick, and I hadn't even gotten out of the Fort Wayne area before we had a close call coming down a ramp. I wasn't sure we'd get stopped in time to avoid rear-ending a semi, so I pulled over into the shoulder. So I was on my guard, driving slow, as we headed across Ohio to Toledo.

In Toledo we saw some pretty nasty accidents, including one in which it appeared that the vehicle had flipped over the Jersey barrier in the median. We stopped briefly at the Sam's Club to get gas and some essential supplies, then continued toward Detroit.

Shortly after we crossed the state line, I hit a patch of ice and the van started skidding. I tried to counter-steer, but I just had too much mass and momentum to recover control. The next thing I knew, we were in the ditch, pointing back the way we came. We didn't hit anything or do serious damage to the van, but we ended up sitting for over an hour waiting to be winched out. And worst of all, we were less than five miles from the place where we were going to stay the night before continuing to the con hotel.

I'd been coming down with a cold, but I think that experience probably made it a lot worse than it would've been if we'd stayed home, or even if we'd had an uneventful trip. All night I felt as if I couldn't get warm enough, and my throat had become quite scratchy. I was a little more careful than usual when eating the hotel breakfast, since I didn't want to eat anything that would make things worse.

Then we had to pack our personal belongings and get it back out to the van. The parking lot was so full of snow that I ended up bringing the van to the hotel entrance and loading everything there rather than trying to drag the cart through the snow.

Then we made our way up to the con hotel. I was very skittish about the iffy roads, and the van didn't feel quite right, which made me worried that we'd done it some hidden damage.

As we made our way from the Interstate to the hotel, we passed a restaurant with the amusing name of "Gus and Us." The sign included a crescent moon amidst its imagery, which made it easy for me to imagine that it was some kind of quantum slippage from a world where Gus Grissom escaped the Apollo 1 fire and became the first man on the Moon.

I was still quite relieved when we got up to the con hotel and found a parking spot. We were able to get checked in before the dealers' room doors opened for dealer loading. That way we didn't have to try to unload our merchandise around our personal possessions, especially considering we were unloading under less than ideal conditions. Having snow on the ground meant we had to be careful about putting anything down to get it out of the way. It didn't help that I felt like crap, and it was hard to maintain the necessary energy to keep working. Worse, we had a bad layout and minimal backspace, which made it hard to get stuff set up.

We thought we were doing well, but the next thing we know, the dealers' room coordinator was yelling at us about how we need to get the stuff out of the aisles, Right Now. So we ended up frantically stuffing everything else under the tables, meaning that it became well-nigh impossible to find stuff when we needed it.

Not that we had a huge need for backstock, since our sales were pathetic. I had to leave for a panel on kids' anime, and my husband didn't have any great stress keeping up with customers in my absence. The anime panel might've been fun if I hadn't felt so craptastic, because I got to talk about artistic conventions and how they vary between cultures, and how different cultures' motifs cross-pollinate the art of one another. We got to watch part of Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro, as well as Transformers and a purely Western cartoon, comparing and contrasting the artistic conventions, particularly the use of various facial features to convey emotion.

In the evening we checked out the dessert reception, which had some pretty good food. Then we headed over to the hot tub to try to soak out our aches and pains. At least it was reasonably hot rather than bathwater temperature, but it was right beside a wall of windows, which meant the air temperature was less than ideal. Every time I got out to restart the jets, I felt chilled.

Saturday morning we dragged out to have breakfast. I thought I'd work some of the aches of loading out by taking a really hot shower, but instead I managed to drop my blood pressure to the point I was overcome with dizziness. It was all I could do to drag myself out to a chair and just sit upright, willing everything to stop spinning so I could walk to the dealers' room. I finally was able to get my feet under me in time to get to the dealers' room, but things kept spinning even as I was trying to finish the setup we'd been rushed through on Friday.

When I went for the Iron Artist activity, I was so sleepy that I literally fell asleep sitting up at my table. I was trying to do a portrayal of the Astronaut and the Man in the Moon from my short story "Tell Me a Story," but it came out really disappointing, nothing like the sharp imagery in my mind.

Then I went to a signing session, and was even sleepier. It didn't help that I wasn't getting any activity. More than once I literally fell asleep sitting up, in spite of trying to keep going by doodling in my sketchbook.

As a result, when I returned to our dealers' tables I laid down the law -- I was going to get a nap after the dealers' room closed, for the simple reason that if I didn't get enough sleep, I wasn't going to e a safe driver the next day when we needed to get back to Fort Wayne. We thought that we might soak in the hot tub afterward, but we slept so long we decided to just give up and get the rest of the night's sleep.

On Sunday I was still feeling like crap, and then we got a phone call from the family members we were planing to stay the night with in Fort Wayne. They'd caught the same cold I had, and would prefer if we could just drive the whole way back home in one day.

As a result, we were going to have to start packing way early. That meant I had to bow out on one of my Sunday panels, although I managed to drag through the genre bragging one. I was a pretty miserable specimen though, and then I had to bring boxes in so we could start packing.

Once the dealers' room closed, we finally got two helpers and were able to get everything carried out in a reasonable amount of time. However, the dealers' room coordinator was decidedly unsympathetic toward my physical limitations, and was making threats about disposing of our boxes and merchandise if it got in the way.

The drive home was a very miserable process. I was sick, the roads were awful, and with the high winds, I just didn't feel safe driving very fast. It was almost midnight by the time we got home, and I just sort of collapsed in bed. In fact, with the bitter cold and my miserable weakness, I wasn't even able to unload the van until Friday, which meant the opportunity costs of the lost sales on Amazon.

Copyright 2014 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated April 19, 2014.