Shutocon is a large anime convention held every year in the spring in Lansing, Michigan. This year it was held over the weekend of April 4-6, 2014 at the Lansing Convention Center and the downtown Raddison.
We headed out on Wednesday and spent the night with family in the Fort Wayne area. On Thursday morning we got up and had breakfast before hitting the road for Lansing. The weather had turned particularly nasty, with heavy rain and high winds that made driving a full-sized van difficult. The farther north we went, the worse things became, until the rain started freezing on the van, making sharp needles on the radio antenna. That made me worried that the road might turn into a sheet of ice with no warning. After our experience going up to ConFusion, I was understandably skittish, but the ground must've warmed enough to keep the water liquid on the pavement.
Just to make things even more complicated, my husband had been dealing with a lingering intestinal upset, and it became an order of magnitude worse. We had been planning to stop at the Lansing Vitamin World anyway to make some ordinary purchases, but now we decided to also pick up some digestive remedies.
Then we continued to the Raddison. Since we didn't know the parking situation in downtown Lansing and had gone through a bad experience with parking in downtown Detroit at Youmacon, we'd decided not to try to find a cheaper place and commute. However, it was a bit of a hassle to get checked in and our stuff into the room.
After that we headed over to the convention center to get loaded in. At least the nasty icy rain had stopped, so we were able to load up the cart with our first load of merchandise. They wouldn't let us start carrying in until it was exactly 3PM, but they did let us go inside and do our sign-in stuff.
Once we could load in, things went fairly quickly because we ere able to pull the van right by the door. I did have to move the van as soon as it was empty, so I took it over to the Radisson where we already had parking paid for as part of our stay. I then headed back to the convention center via the elevated pedway, which we affectionately called the hamster tube.
However, once we got everything in, setting up proved more time-consuming. We got our structures up and most of the small collectibles up, but didn't have time to get the t-shirts unboxed and into the displays before the con staff were shooing us out.
We headed back through the hamster tube to the hotel to have supper and relax a little before getting to bed. However, my husband was continuing to feel ill, probably as a result of the stress of all the work involved in setting up. So we decided to go ahead and turn in early.
On Saturday we got up and discovered that the cream cheese for our bagels was missing. So we had to eat the bagels plain. However, with raisin bagels that isn't a huge privation.
Then we headed over to the dealers' room to finish setting up. We'd been told the doors would open at 9AM, and after they'd been so strict on Thursday, we figured there was no point in hurrying to get over there. So we took our time, only to get over there and find people already hard at work finishing their setup.
We dug in on finishing our setup, only to discover that there was no way we could get finished setting up before the doors opened for VIP members. In fact, we had a sale while we were finishing our setup.
Once the doors opened for the regular membership, we got crazy busy. It didn't help that my husband, who'd been working through his illness, finally had to go back to the room and take a nap. I was able to grab my lunch between customers, but that was about it for anything beside dealing with one customer after another.
In the afternoon, my husband finally was up to helping again. Shortly afterward, the fire alarm went off. At first we hoped that we'd get the word it was just a false alarm, but then the con staff came through and told us we'd need to evacuate. After the close call we had at Kollision-kon with a possible tornado evacuation, I'd already worked out my priorities and was able to grab cashbox and computers with minimal fuss and join the crowd moving to the exits.
Since neither of us had brought coats, we didn't want to go outside. Instead we headed for the hamster tube to the hotel and retreated up it far enough to satisfy con security. With a spectacular view of the river, we checked e-mail on our iOS devices and watched for evidence that an all-clear had been called.
Once we started to see people moving back into the convention center, we headed back as well. The con staff handled the process really well, allowing only dealers and artists back into the shared exhibit hall for the first ten or so minutes afterward. Only after we'd had a reasonable time to secure our booths were the rest of the attendees allowed to come back in.
However, the pace of sales remained noticeably slowed for some time afterward. It did pick up later, and we sold a fair amount in the later part of the afternoon. But we still wondered what kind of sales we might've had if we hadn't had the interruption.
After the dealers' room closed for the evening, we headed back to our room to have supper. I also retrieved some papers from the van, although that involved more time and hassle than we'd expected. But then I had some time to get on the Internet and to work on a con report before we turned in for the night.
Saturday morning we got up and headed over to the dealers' room. We were actually running a little early and arrived before the dealers' room opened for dealer setup. So we had to sit around and kill time before we could get in. I did a little more work on the con report.
Saturday we were really busy, and I was feeling tremendously tired, probably because my husband slept so poorly the night before. At least he was feeling better and could help more with the customers who were pouring in.
On the other hand, we ran out of several things, leaving me wondering how much money we might be leaving on the table because we didn't have any more of what someone might want to buy. In particular, if we'd had more than one pair of Necomimi ears left, we might've sold several.
After the dealers' room closed for the evening, we headed back to the hotel to have supper and take it easy for a while. I tried to catch back up on some of my favorite blogs, and wanted to get a little writing done, but ran out of time.
On Sunday we had to get up a little earlier so we could get our personal belongings packed and checked out of the room in time. While we were getting ready, we got a phone call from my brother-in-law: like at ConFusion, he'd gotten sick and would really appreciate if we'd plan on going straight home instead of staying the night.
So we had that hanging over our heads as we headed out. I got the van loaded with our personal belongings and headed over to the convention center parking lot to park until it was time to load out. I was gratified to see that it was fairly empty, so I had no trouble finding a good space.
However, I had more trouble finding an unlocked door so I could get into the dealers' room. I ended up a little late, and my husband had already uncovered most of the tables, but we still had a little time to walk around the room and look at stuff.
Once the doors opened, sales were fairly brisk, although not at the level of Saturday. We did sell some stuff we'd been carrying forever, including some old VHS tapes. But once we had to start packing, things tapered off.
By the time I needed to go get the van, I was starting to wonder if the people who'd agreed to help us load out were going to blow us off. However, by the time I got the van to the loading dock and went back in, I was happy to discover that one of them had turned up and was helping my husband pack boxes of t-shirts. So I was able to start carrying out the packed boxes with minimal delay.
We got everything out to the van in good time and hit the road south. Just north of Fort Wayne, this guy in a little car passed us, pulled right in front of us, and slowed down. I didn't think anything about it, just passed him at my next opportunity. I pulled ahead a good way ahead before getting back in the right-hand lane, and assumed I'd seen the last of him.
Wrong. The next thing I knew, he was pulling back up to pass us and then jump in front of us. This was getting a little frightening, so I decided to really speed up when I passed him, in hopes of losing him for good. Instead, he was trying to catch up again as we got to Fort Wayne.
As a result, I was a little glad to have to stop in Fort Wayne to retrieve some stuff we'd left behind. At least it gave us a reason to get off I-69, and if the other driver was in the throes of road rage, he wasn't so brazen as to jump off and follow us.
Once we got back on I-69, we were able to continue on home without further incident. I was very glad to find all in good order, although the cat was not happy that we'd left her. The fact that both her food bowls were empty may have had something to do with it.
Copyright 2014 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated April 19, 2014.