Con+Alt+Delete is an anime and pop culture convention held in early winter in the Chicago area. This year it was held over the weekend of December 18-20, 2015 at the Hyatt O'Hare in Rosemont.
We drove up on Wednesday to be in position as soon as load-in started on Thursday without having to fight Chicago rush hour traffic. Because the main hotel is so expensive and there aren't any cheaper hotels in walking distance, we spent Wednesday evening at a Motel 6 some distance away. It looked like it had been part of a more upscale hotel in the past, and had been sold out. So on the whole it was a reasonably nice place to stay, but the bed was this miserable flimsy little thing.
As a result, I woke up on Thursday morning with an unpleasant kink in my neck and the vile promise of a headache. With a convention ahead of us, there wasn't much choice except to push myself to get everything carried out and drive over to the Hyatt. We stopped along the way at a Target to pick up some supplies we were low on.
This time I knew how to get to the Hyatt's parking lot, so we didn't end up snagged by a helpful bellman and having to pay a tip from our limited petty cash before we'd even started doing business. Getting our own cart out was a bit of a hassle, but at least the ground was dry, and I soon had our personal belongings into our room.
We even had a little time to settle in before load-in began. This time our room was in the main part of the hotel, so it wasn't quite so luxurious as the one in the Executive Wing when we went to Anime Midwest in 2013, but it was still fancier than most places we stay.
Then it was time to head downstairs to the dealers' room and start hauling in all our merchandise. They were using the same room we'd used at Anime Midwest back in '13, but it seemed smaller this time around. Of course back then we hadn't started putting parasols and giant wall fans on the top of our display structures, so we probably just didn't notice the low ceiling as much.
There was also the problem of booths not being measured out properly, to the point some dealers were left with significantly smaller spaces than what they'd paid for. We were able to snag spaces along the wall, so we had the full amount of space for our setup to work. However, a lot of dealers got shafted, especially the ones who ended up in two smaller side rooms that had been used for Artists' Alley (some of which was in turn moved out to the corridors, where the artists had to break down every night).
We managed to get some decent help, so we got in reasonably quickly and had some time to set up. However, we still weren't able to have everything set up when they shooed us out for the evening. At least we didn't have a commute to deal with, just the trip upstairs to our bedroom, where we relaxed and I tried to get a little more writing done before we turned in for the night.
The next morning we were going to have bagels for breakfast, but as soon as I opened the package, I discovered that it had all molded. There wasn't much choice except to throw away the whole mess and find our backup breakfast items.
Then we headed downstairs to the dealers' room to finish setting up and get ready to sell. The low ceiling made for some difficult choices, but we made do as best we could. By the time the doors opened, we had most of our merchandise out. However, we had to get our boxes under tables so fast that there was no organization and it was a pain to find anything.
When the doors opened, we got some decent traffic flow, but it was almost all window-shoppers. We did get some sales, but it was pretty paltry compared to what we did at the 2013 Anime Midwest. By the time the dealers' room closed for the evening, we were feeling pretty disappointed. We stopped by their con suite to get some ramen before heading up to our room for our actual supper. At least this place had a microwave oven at the vending area, so I was able to heat up our food.
After supper I did some more work on my novel before turning in at night. At that point we discovered one huge drawback to being in the main part of the hotel -- we were a lot closer to where they were holding the rave. The music was so loud it was impossible to sleep, and the little white noise machine on the nightstand didn't work. We finally dug out our earplugs, but even that was of limited value against music so loud it makes a person's whole chest vibrate. Those kids are going to be deaf by the time they're my age.
The frustration must've taken a toll on me. The next morning I woke up so sore I could hardly move. Even a good hot shower only loosened them up a little.
We headed down to the dealers' room and got our store opened. I got a brief time to look around before it opened for the day.
We had hoped things would pick up on Saturday. However, sales remained slow, which only exacerbated the misery of my stiffness. When we did make a sale and I needed to retrieve stuff from under the table, I could barely bend to get them.
By the end of the day, I could've really used a hot tub. But that hotel didn't have one, so the best I could do was draw a tubful of very hot water and soak for a while. Although it did loosen the worst of the stiffness, it was nothing to compare to a real hot tub.
By the time we were ready to turn in for the night, the Saturday rave had begun. At least Housekeeping had replaced the white noise generator with a working one, and we put our earplugs in before we went to bed. However, all those precautions still could only go so far in the face of music so loud it made my whole chest vibrate.
I did get some sleep, but it was still a pain to have to get up early to allow enough time to carry our belongings down to the parking lot so we could check out before we needed to be down at the dealers' room.
We were hoping for a strong finish, since we were still behind where we needed to be. However, sales remained stubbornly slow, so we started putting away the figurines and other slow-selling stuff about mid-afternoon. Even so, we were nowhere near ready to start carrying out when the dealers' room closed.
Even with a helper, we took several hours to get everything out and loaded into the van. It didn't help that we were getting high winds and having trouble keeping our lighter stuff from being blown away. One box of miscellaneous figurines got picked up and tossed badly enough that we had two broken. (I was later able to repair one, but wasn't able to find the broken piece on the other).
After we got done, my husband and I were walking out to the van when our helper's boyfriend suddenly came running up to us yelling about how our compensation wasn't nearly enough. He followed us all the way out to the van to hector us about how we owed her not just product but real money, and claiming that the in-kind payments should be valued by the wholesale price we paid, not the retail price we were giving up.
He refused to get clear of the door so we could close it, even when we started the engine. I finally went to the call box to call hotel security and he finally backed down and left. Even so, I was shaken enough that I missed the ramp to the Interstate and ended up in some neighborhoods that, while not bad by Chicago standards, was a bit more sketchy than I'd like to drive through, especially at night after such an unpleasant confrontation.
As a result of all the trouble, we were late getting to Merrillville and our hotel for the night. They had a hot tub, but their pool area was just about ready to close when we checked in. I also came very close to losing my iPhone. Because everything had packed badly, my purse had been perched on a high box and spilled the phone onto the pavement.
Fortunately the case protected the screen from cracking. Also I noticed the problem before moving the van, so I rescued the phone before it got run over and crushed. Still, it was just one more frightening close call in a very unpleasant night.
As a result, I had some real trouble winding down and getting to sleep for the night. And I must've gotten my neck in a kink and pinched a nerve, because I woke up the next morning with he fingertips of my left hand numb. It was a really freaky feeling, but didn't interfere with using the hand, so I decided to just work it out.
The hotel had a nice breakfast, a pleasant change from the fancy hotel where they expect everyone to eat in their restaurant. Then we carried our possessions out and checked out.
We had time to go over to the mall and Vitamin World. Then we headed south on I-65 for home. I was simultaneously tired and still shaken from being turned on so suddenly. I was very glad to be home.
Copyright 2016 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 19, 2016.