ShutoCon is a big anime convention held every year in the spring in Lansing, Michigan. This year it was held over the weekend of March 20-22, 2015 at the Lansing Center and Radisson Hotel.
Because it was the weekend right after Indiana Comic Con, I'd had to really hurry to change our loadout. One of our wholesalers was also selling at Indiana Comic Con, so we needed to add in their merchandise for ShutoCon. We also needed to take out some merchandise that appealed mostly to fans of American comics and less to anime fans, since the additional t-shirts made things tight in the van, and with an out-of-town con we'd have personal things we didn't need to carry when we were commuting from home every day.
Worse, someone at Indiana Comic Con was carrying a nasty con crud. It had all the symptoms of the common cold, but about twice as hard. I started coughing really bad on Tuesday, and I didn't think that much about it. I'd done cons while fighting a cold before, so I just took cough drops and pushed my way through the final preparations.
On Wednesday we hit the road for Lansing. Driving while having an incessant cough was not fun, and by the time we got there I was pretty well wiped. We did stop at the Vitamin World to pick up some vitamins, but by the time we got to the hotel, all my plans to work on a novel went out the window. I just crashed as soon as we had our personal stuff in, and I pretty much slept all afternoon and evening.
On Thursday we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast, but it didn't taste all that great to me. Then I spent the rest of the morning sleeping, right until we needed to drive over to the convention center and start unloading.
Things were a little confused at the loading dock, and we got moved around several times before we could finally let us pull up to the big door and start loading things in. At first I was able to keep up a good pace, but as we were carrying in the last few things, I was beginning to feel week and dizzy from having to push so hard. I also heard from the people who help run Grand Rapids Comic Con that they'd picked up the same bug and that it had really trounced them when they had it.
Once we got everything out and I took the van over to the nearby parking lot, I started to put together our store fixtures. I was feeling so weak and miserable that I got a chair and sat down while I was doing it, because there was just no way I could stand up the whole time. By the time I got them put together, I was ready to go back to the hotel and crash. However, my husband insisted that we would keep working until they closed the doors and shooed us out.
As a result, it was almost midnight by the time we got back to the hotel and got to bed. Worse, my illness had progressed to nasal congestion, and although I took some Benadryl in hopes of clearing it out, the snot set up like concrete in my nose. I spent the whole night struggling to breathe, which made it very hard to relax enough to fall asleep.
Friday morning came way too early, and we still had an awful lot of stuff left to set up. I tried to eat breakfast, but nothing tasted good. By the time we got to the convention center, I was so miserable I could barely do anything, and we were still finishing our setup when the doors opened.
I tried my best to sell, but I was so hoarse I could hardly talk. Worse, I had no energy and ended up sitting down most of the time.By the time the dealers' room closed, I was very glad to be done. When we stopped at the gas station to fill up, we also picked up some cold medicine in their convenience store. It was way overpriced, but I was hoping it would help.
It proved to be a waste of money, and provided no real relief. Worse, we discovered the salmon for our supper had frozen solid. We tried to get it thawed, but ended up eating deli meat instead before turning in for the night.
On Saturday we got up for breakfast, but I was feeling so rotten I didn't want to eat anything on offer. I even had my husband drive us over to the convention center because I was feeling so crappy I wasn't sure I could be a safe driver after two rotten nights' sleep. As soon as we had our tables open and ready to sell, I headed over to the Radisson in hopes of finding something at their gift shop that might help my cold. They didn't have a gift shop, but I was able to snag some gum in a vending machine.
Chewing a stick of gum did help knock my cough. However, it also shut down my taste buds, and when I was trying to eat lunch, I could feel the food in my mouth, but it had no taste at all. At least I was able to keep the cough under control enough to do business, even if I was weak most of the time.
When the dealers' room closed for the evening, we stopped at a RiteAid drug store on the way back to the hotel. I got some real cold medicine and two cups of instant chicken soup. Although we missed our turn and had to find our way through the campus of Michigan State University to get to our hotel, when we got back and I had that chicken soup, I felt a whole bunch better.
On Sunday we had planned to head home after we got loaded out. However, my husband was showing symptoms of the same crud that had flattened me, so we decided to stay overnight and drive home on Monday. That meant we didn't have to hurry to get our personal possessions out of our sleeping room Sunday morning, and we'd be able to make the drive after a reasonable night's sleep.
That taken care of, we headed over to the convention center for the last day of the con. When we arrived, there'd been some kind of mixup and we couldn't get in. We ended up having to sit for almost fifteen minutes before somebody could be found who had the authority to get the doors open so we could get our booths ready for the day's sales.
Because both of us were in iffy shape, we tried to line up adequate help to get us out. We thought we would have five people, but when it came time to actually pack and load, only one showed up. She was a cosplayer, and was dressed as the Landlady from Kung Fu Hustle, not exactly the most suitable outfit for carrying stuff out to a van in March in Michigan. But she was a worker, and without her help we probably would've been struggling until midnight to get things out.
Instead, we were done a little after eight, and were able to eat a hot supper and even have a little time to wind down afterward before we went to bed. I was still feeling pretty crummy, but at least with the help of the medicine we'd picked up, I wasn't so miserable I couldn't get to sleep in a reasonable amount of time.
On Monday we slept in a little more, since we were both tired. We got a bit of a surprise when it was time to check out and the bill turned out to be quite a bit larger than we'd been expecting. At least we had the extra cash to cover it, but it was still an annoyance when neither of us were at our best.
As we left the Lansing area, the sky was gray but the weather wasn't bad. That changed shortly after we crossed the Indiana state line. When we stopped at the first rest stop, the first flakes of snow were in the air. As we approached Fort Wayne, the traffic slowed way down and the roads grew progressively worse. One guy tried to pass us and ended up sliding into the Jersey barrier in the median. We'd been planning to stop in Fort Wayne and find a branch of our bank to make a deposit, but by that point the ramps looked so bad that I was leery of getting off the Interstate. So we just kept pushing on.
South of Fort Wayne, things got truly scary. I could hear and feel ice crunching under the wheels of the van, much like our very unpleasant trip to my folks' place on Thanksgiving. We were just creeping along, and even then I didn't feel like we were steady. There were wrecks and slide-offs everywhere, and on the northbound lanes traffic had come to a complete standstill for miles. There was even an ambulance stuck in traffic and one of the EMT's was out, apparently going around asking people in other vehicles if they were all right.
By the time we got to the next rest stop, the snow had slowed down enough that driving was no longer such a harrowing experience. We were able to drive the rest of the way home at a more reasonable speed, but by that point we'd lost so much time that there was no way we could even hope to make it to an evening activity we'd been looking forward to. However, we both allowed that, given our illness, it was probably best not to be out and about.
Copyright 2015 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated May 1, 2015.