Invocation IV was held at the Marriott Hickory Ridge hotel and conference center in Lisle, Illinois, one of the western suburbs of Chicago, over the weekend of October 11-13, 2002. We had originally arranged to sell at it when we thought we weren't going to be getting tables at Archon, and we wanted to have some kind of sales event in the fall. When we got last-minute word that we would be getting tables at Archon the week before, this made for a very tight scheduling situation. Although Archon had 8-foot tables and this con had 6-foot tables, there simply wasn't time for us to completely unload the van, reconfigure our books, and re-load. Thus we were having to fit more stuff into less space.
We arrived fairly early Friday morning and immediately encountered the people in charge of the dealers' room, who showed us which tables we were assigned and told us we could go ahead and start carrying stuff in. To do that, we had to bring everything down a steep ramp and then up a passenger elevator and through a difficult hallway. At least we were able to secure a hotel luggage cart, which meant that we could bring stuff in twice as rapidly.
At about that same time, we also got checked into the hotel and took our personal stuff up to our sleeping room. We were astonished at how small the room was. There was barely enough space to walk around the bed, and then only by pushing the desk chair into the back corner, which made it difficult to get into the closet. Considering the amount we were paying for the room, we were not impressed. We've stayed in cheap motels that have had bigger rooms, and even when they were this small, they generally weren't so tightly filled with furniture.
Once we actually got all our merchandise into the dealers' room, we had to get it set up. That was a bit harder than usual, because of the restricted space in which we had to work, but in time we got everything arranged, although it required the two camp tables we had brought along to supplement the tables we were provided.
About that time, we were told that the hotel had set out the "break-out" food. Unlike most conventions, Invocation does not have a con suite, apparently because the hotel didn't want them providing free food to the participants instead of having food catered. So the concom arranges for the hotel to put out snackies at specified times in the morning and afternoon for the convention members. This first one was actually a fairly decent spread, but they took it away after about two hours, leaving nothing to eat after that time. This is a major disadvantage for someone accustomed to being able to visit a con suite throughout the day.
Sales were miserably slow, and I had plenty of time to write and do other stuff. Since the dealers' room was to be open late, we called in a pizza and had supper while we were waiting for customers.
After the dealers' room closed, we went looking for the pool and fitness center in hopes of finding a hot tub. On the way we got a snippy scolding from one of the hotel management types about how this was a convention center and we shouldn't walk to the pool in bare feet because there might be broken glass in the carpet or other hazards. We found that there was no hot tub, so we sat in the sauna for a while, then cooled down in the regular pool, but decided that it probably wouldn't be worth our while to go to the pool on Saturday evening.
Then we switched back to regular clothes and went down to see if there were any parties. Since there weren't any, we decided to call it a day and turn in early.
Saturday morning we got up early and went down to the lounge area in search of the breakfast that was supposed to be there waiting for us. Instead we found nothing but bare counters, and a large number of kids running around and being noisy. They were apparently from a Baptist church convention, which made us nervous because of the possibility of conflict.
We went down to the hotel's front desk and asked what had happened to our free breakfast. We were then told that it had been relocated to the hotel bar. We went in and, sure enough, it was there waiting for us. We wondered if the hotel was trying to hide it from us, so that they could claim that they'd provided it and we'd never availed ourselves of it. Afterward, we discovered that they'd relocated it because the Baptist youth group hadn't bought into it, and it would be hard to keep them from it in such a public area, hence the relocation to a less obvious area. Because the bar permits smoking, and several convention members have severe tobacco allergies, the afternoon "break-out" session was to be relocated to another room in the wing with our function rooms.
After that we got into the dealers' room and got our tables open. We had a few sales, but overall sales remained painfully slow. In the afternoon we had some trouble with waiting for the break-out foods to be set out, and thinking that they had already been set out and taken away. However, Saturday's spread was notably smaller than Friday's, and the selection not nearly so nice.
We had a few more sales that evening, but we were still far behind the amount we really needed to meet our expenses by the time the dealers' room closed for the evening. We headed up to our sleeping room and called in Chinese food. We got such a generous portion that we were hard-pressed to finish it all, and ended up making some jokes about excessively generous helpings and the nationwide epidemic of obesity.
After we were done eating, we went downstairs to check one last time whether there were any parties that evening. When we didn't find any, we decided to just call it a night and turn in early.
Sunday morning we got up early to get our personal things out of our sleeping room. Then we went down to the dining room area to avail ourselves of the hot breakfast buffet, which we hadn't realized was included in our room rate. This had really good food on it, and included an omlette bar where you could choose your own ingredients and the cook prepared it right in front of your eyes. It was the one really good thing about an otherwise mediocre hotel.
After breakfast we went to the dealers' room and got our tables open in an effort to get a few more sales and narrow the amount by which we would fall short of expenses. We did get a few more sales, but not nearly enough to put us over the mark, or even close to it.
Because sales were so slow, we started packing at noon, and were ready to load out as soon as the dealers' room closed. We managed to secure a hotel cart again to help loading out, and ended up just swapping off the carts so that I picked up stuff from the dealers' room and my husband put it into the van and we'd meet in the middle.
We did say a few last-minute good-byes before heading off for the long drive back to Mundania.
Copyright 2012 by Leigh Kimmel
Permission is granted for reproduction in fanzines and other non-profit fannish publications.
For permission to quote or reprint in other venues, contact Leigh Kimmel
Last updated October 21, 2012.