Sunday, February 20, 2011

Two Tickets for Tacos at Midnight- Part One "Irritation Iteration"

Between the Day-to-Day problems or just little bumps of real life, Peryton and I were in neither well-centered or in overly happy moods Thursday night and Friday morning. BASHCon was coming Friday evening and our household laser printer went down. Peryton was fiddling with the machine for like four hours on Thursday night, while I kept writing up my Glow scenario, and going further and further in-depth into the post apocalyptic world as opposed to making much progress on the scenario. Chatting up C-Crab helped me get around my block but then even I could not fix the printer, meaning only one thing spend too much at printing shop as well as dealing with whatever kind of day the folks running the place were having as well.

Friday morning, Peryton and I gave each other a lot of room, as well as little reminders that we were doing what we loved to help keep things under control. Wallah, everything was packed and the documents that we needed to get printed up for Toledo were ready to go an hour ahead of schedule. So by about half past noon, I yelled at Peryton and she stopped standing in the center of the room and thinking of things to keep her from leaving, and we were off to the Staples just up the street from us.
Of course, at Staples the person who knew what she was doing was busy handling a customer that needed all of her attention to print two pages and then to argue over the price, so we got the other guy. I knew we were in trouble the second Peryton asked him to print up the items "double-sided on each sheet of paper" and he answered "Yes" in that tone of voice that actually means 'I have no idea what you just said.' Peryton being the smart one went and browsed the prices for new printers to be bought in the near future, leaving me to wait.

And what a wait it was. For five minutes I watched the guy handling our order stare at the computer in front of him and go slack jaw, every minute crouching lower and lower, once in a while adjusting his glasses. He never clicked the mouse which he was handling awkwardly as if he'd just touched one that morning for the first time ever. He thought that progress was being made when he came back up to the counter and asked me what was it exactly that I wanted to be done for the second time. This time he went back with a reassured expression, but the second he got to the computer the earlier look of dread that came over him returned. After another five minutes, he clicked the mouse twice, and after a pause he clicked a third time.

The man's face did not whiten when nothing happened, it got red with anger. Apparently whatever was going wrong was becoming my fault and not his responsibility. He was about to say something that might've gotten me thrown in jail when his coworker noticed what was going on. He kept his voice even and mentioned that he could use some help when he answered her. The other worker promised that she'd be over in just a second, so five minutes later the other customer was mollified enough to leave after forking out whatever ungodly rates the store was demanding. The woman took a look on the PC screen and started clicking the mouse in rapid succession, but still nothing happened. The man could barely hold back his urge to throw the flash-drive that we needed printed up back in my face before the woman noticed that there was no paper in their massive printer designed to orders all day, quickly and efficiently even, not to mention without any hassle to the customer. So after twenty minutes of deep thinking and nothing happening, the printer guy was ready for a nap while the printer slowly pushed out almost 50 papers of work. He couldn't help comment on how large the order was and how pricey the cost was going to be.

25 minutes after I showed up for a five to seven minute print job, even with printer jams, the fellow finally brought over a pitifully small pile of single-sided sheets, and laboriously counted the exact amount of sheets though he could've read the number from the printer itself. It took him another few minutes. He then shoved the pile at me and jumped onto the cash register to punish me for making his life hard. While he stood there waiting for me to take out my wallet so he could close out his transaction on the machine in front of him, I examined each sheet that he felt that he had bled while producing, and tossed about five blank sheets of papers at him. He almost had a stroke having to call back the supervisor to now learn how to remove items from the once all-mighty cash-taking retribution machine. After paying him, I asked to use a three-hole punch, which for some reason was not available on the "Do-It-Yourself" work tables. The supervisor wasn't going to play this time, she went on break. The dude picked up three and examined them closely before another employee walking by asked if he needed help, he explained my outlandish request and she told him that he was holding one, and gave him a safety briefing on the proper use of the item to be related to me. The man threw the thing on the counter and fled to look busy while he went back to sleep.

Still Peryton and I were on the road ten minutes earlier than we had planned. Oops, the GPS unit that we for some reason decided to use was on a "No Toll Road" setting and we lost about 30 minutes before we noticed that our usual hour and 15 minute drive was expected to take two hours. About ten miles later, we expected to be at our hotel in Toledo only twenty minutes later than planned.

Getting to Toledo, we were in a better mood, though the placement of the official hotel for BASHCon is on the wrong side of a busy commercial road leading to on-ramps to the expressway without a traffic light was getting keeping things real so to speak. The annoying habit of Toledo-ers of using the left turn lane as a short cut to get ahead of slower traffic made a few moments of my moving into the left turn lane a real world game of chicken. And then when someone decided that passing on the right of a stopped vehicle, one that had stopped to allow us into the hotel driveway since the light ahead of everyone was red anyway, I decided that laying into my horn and daring the other driver to confront my rage by meeting my eyes was a healthy release. The fellow in the minivan declined my invitation to roadside mortal combat, a wise choice I think. Taddah, we had arrived!

At the hotel, I was once again behind a person that seemed uncomfortable about the transaction that he was about to take part in. While I waited the person asked questions about room reservations and tried to check in under another person's credit card, offered half on one night's rate in cash and in general seemed awfully unfamiliar with experience of getting a hotel room in the industrialized world. Finally the man, wearing a fraternity ring from 1990 pulled out his golden American Express and did the "pre-approval" thing that I thought the rest of us have been doing since the advent of the fax machine. I noticed it was a rather large insurance company card for employees' business use. I paid attention because I was only standing behind him in an otherwise empty lobby for about ten minutes. Of course the second I got to the counter, a second person appeared from the backroom and stood there with nothing to do as Peryton and I were checked in by the other clerk. She made small talk with us and smiled, which made everything okay.

And what a room we got. It wasn't the darkness of room that first had me off-set, it was the deep smell of dust. Turing on the light, and opening the shades, which viewed onto the employees smoking area, in-between the pool building and our own wing. I discovered that one couldn't open the window. We weren't there for the room, but the gaming. Turning on the room's air unit, we dropped off our bags and kept only the essentials for the evening's events coming up. Registration this year was starting an hour earlier as well. On the way out, I noticed that our room was next to a dingy "exercise room" where crappy treadmills sat with unused sit-up benches, large TV sets and mirror-covered thin walls. There was even an aluminum door that connected to our very own room. You guy's don't want to hear about getting out of the hotel parking lot.

The early registration meant standing in line for an hour early than you would have otherwise. There were signs at the "stations" where students in orange shirts looked perplexed, exasperated and then looked to one another for guidance. Small meetings would then occur, and then the person at the computer would sit back down, look worried, hit a button and then find the paper badge and the right color sharpie pen to write down a name and an ID number, accept cash only and then hope the person in front of them would go away without any more trouble. And then the next person would step forward. By this point in the day, I had stopped timing people doing whatever it was that were supposed to be doing, but the tangible evidence around was hard to avoid. Anytime that I tried to divert myself with conversation with the people around me, I would be interrupted by people needing to move large video games through the single access area to the gaming room and the registration desks; or large groups of students who knew the person at a certain computer and would ask you let them get through basically so they could get through the line quicker than you.

I did have a bit of fun though. I proclaimed loudly when we all got in the line, that it didn't matter if one registers or walks up, you still wait forever. I got a lot of disapproving stares from the orange shirts and a campus police officer, and a score of people in line politely explained to me that I was indeed incorrect. At about the 40 minute mark, some were jumping from the preregistered line into the walk-up line as it was shorter. At the hour point, I was through the line and everyone around had waited with me was still either waiting in line or for the person at the computer to find the right color of sharpie. Very satisfying, the line jumpers had spoiled their own good thing by over doing it and now had mob overwhelming the single person trying to help out her friends-- I got to ask them now to excuse me as I walked through and past them onto where I needed to be. The orange shirts inside the main gaming area were happy that I could read the event placement without bothering them, with their relief I was able to smile at them, even joke. My mood was lightening up, and it was an hour plus before my first game was due to run.

Walking around to take some pictures before I got busy, I ran into JerryTel, standing in line and making me look patient. The man was livid. Instead of amusing himself by immersing himself in the sociological and dysfunctional dynamics of the gauntlet that is the norm of recent BASHCon registration processes, he was remembering past years, where one could expect to done and gaming in about 20 minutes during the busy times, sometimes quicker. He had made suggestions on the BASHCon forums even earlier last year. A pointless task, as I think that no one running the BASHCon probably was really part of the the BASH club, nor especially had much to do with ppl who attended gaming conventions in general. What we had in front of us were assorted something-or-another "management" majors acting as "facilitators" and using student generated database programs to inventory and set up up accounting options for extra credit. In short, they felt they were doing a dirty job, not really worthy of their time, except when obligatory as part of their degree. I got the man to smile though, and told him that I hoped that he'd bear through the line, instead of going home.

I then walked around the Student Union and took some pictures of everything getting set up. One does not simply walk into BASHCon, but once you're there it's worth being there...

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