Tampa Bay Comic Con 2016

Tampa Bay Comic Con is a big convention run by the same parent company as Indiana Comic Con. This year it was held over the weekend of August 5-7, 2016 at the Tampa Bay Convention Center.

Because of the distance, we left on Tuesday. At least we didn't have to get up quite so painfully early, since we only had to get to Chattanooga, not all the way to Macon, Georgia. But it was still early enough that it meant starting on a very short night's sleep.

However, the trip went relatively uneventfully, mostly because we left so early. I had to drink a whole bunch of caffeine to get there safely, which meant I became acquainted with every single rest stop between Indianapolis and Chattanooga. But it was better than falling asleep behind the wheel.

Once we got checked in and ate supper, I made some notes for a story I was writing. However, I'm beginning to think that I'm at an impasse on that particular story, and it's time for me to set it aside and let my subconscious work on it for a while. Then I discovered a serious problem with a story I'd just put up on KDP, and wrote to to ask them to correct it ASAP.

On Wednesday we hotel's complimentary breakfast and carried our belongings back out to the van. Then we checked out and headed into Georgia. The trip went fairly well, at first, but soon I began to feel weary again. I dug into the caffeine supply and ended up drinking eight cans of pop before we pulled in at our hotel in the outskirts of Tampa.

Here we were in a really nice room that even had a kitchenette. However, the hotel didn't have any bell carts, so I had to carry everything in piece by piece. It sure made things a lot more work than it would've needed to be. But once I got everything in, we could make a nice little supper for ourselves, and then I got some more writing done before turning in for the night.

On Thursday we ate the hotel's complimentary breakfast, which was pretty nice. Instead of just cheap starches, they actually had eggs and sausages, which are the sort of foods that can be counted on to stick to your ribs and carry you through a long, difficult day.

Then I carried our stuff out to the van and we checked out of the hotel. Because it was still too early to check into the downtown hotel, we sat in the dining area and I did a little writing.

We made surprisingly good time getting downtown, so much that I ended up having to take our van to the parking lot until it was time to get to the convention center. At least we were able to check in and take our personal belongings to the room, so we were able to take it easy.

Then we got back in the van and headed over to the convention center. We wanted to be in position to load in as soon as they started, but we didn't want to just run the engine and burn up gas, so we had to sit in the heat and humidity. And then the guards started letting people in early.

However, they were also actually enforcing who was on the 3PM list and who was on the 5PM list. Our booths were right on the dividing line, and we had a little trouble getting the idea across that no, the ones they were looking at weren't the only ones we had, and they needed to stop being obstructive, because if we didn't get started unloading in good time, there was no way we'd be ready in time to sell when the doors opened on Friday.

Finally we got in, although it seemed to take forever to get through the line on the ramp. We got a place to park and I dug the cart out so I could start hauling stuff in. After a while, our friend showed up and with his help we got stuff in a lot faster.

I had to take the van back to parking as soon as we got our merchandise in, since the loading dock is very small in proportion to the sheer number of vendors loading in. Then I took the hotel's shuttle bus back to the convention center and dug in on the process of setting up. It was a very miserable process because the air conditioning wasn't on yet, so the whole place was hot and humid. Worse, I was having hot flashes, and every time I'd burst out sweating, I'd need to run to the restroom and wash my face off so I didn't feel like I was melting alive.

However, we were able to get almost all our stuff set up in a reasonable amount of time. When we decided to knock off for the night, we were going to call the hotel shuttle bus to pick us up, but our friend dropped us off instead, since it was right on his way.

On Friday we got up and had breakfast, such as it was. That hotel doesn't have a complimentary breakfast, so we'd brought bagels. Not the greatest of breakfasts, but at least something to start the morning.

Then we caught the hotel shuttle down to the convention center and finished setting up. We even had some time to look around before the doors opened and we had to start dealing with the flood of customers pouring in.

One of the things that really made me happy was discovering that t-shirts are now considered "clothing" for the Florida state tax holiday. As a result of that, our t-shirts were really selling well. However, we'd had a miscommunication with one of our screenprinters, and his delivery person had thought we were going the weekend after GenCon and he could drop them off at our house. So we were without a number of sizes in several designs, and probably lost some sales as a result.

After the exhibit hall closed, we called the shuttle bus and got a ride back to the hotel. The weather was good, so we decided to head down to the hotel pool and soak our aches and pains in the hot tub. It really seemed rather weird to be sitting in a hot tub and looking up at the sky between the two hotels -- but it is Florida, where it's warm all year around.

Then we headed back inside to try to relax and wind down before bedtime. I tried to do some writing, and by the time I went to bed, I felt like I'd actually accomplished something worthwhile.

On Saturday we got up and had our breakfast of bagels. Then we caught the hotel shuttle bus down to the convention center to get our booths open for business. Once the doors opened and the crowd started pouring in, I had trouble keeping up with the flow of traffic. Worse, we were making so many sales that we were having bare spots in our displays and I didn't have time to get backstock to replace them.

Just when I thought it couldn't possibly get any worse, our friend got a phone call with bad news: his boss had a family emergency and was going to have to miss a very important presentation. So our friend was going to have to do the presentation in his place, and that meant taking a flight to a distant city. Obviously his job had to come first, so there was nothing to do but wish him the best.

Still, it meant we were going to be on our own during some of the most busy periods. But there was nothing to do but muddle along as best we could, even if there were times when I felt like I was running at top speed just to stay in one spot.

After the dealers' room closed for the evening, we headed back to our room for an unappetizing cold supper. Then I did some more writing and set up a new post on my blog.

Sunday morning we had breakfast and gathered up our stuff to take to the van so that we could get checked out. At least this place lets us leave our vehicle in their parking lot for the rest of the day, so we just caught the shuttle bus back to the convention center for the final day of business.

Sales were slow at first, but right when our friend had to leave to catch his flight, things really picked up. For a while it was so crazy busy that I really think we lost some sales as a result of having only two people and not being able to keep up with customers.

As it got closer to closing, I started packing. I didn't like having to, since it almost invariably means lost sales. However, being down to just the two of us for loadout meant either starting early or being there until midnight. Even so, we were still busy enough that I had to stop repeatedly to deal with customers. And eventually I got to the point where I was packing things that were actually getting interest.

When the doors closed, we still had several customers making their final purchases. I made sure all of them were taken care of, and then we started packing in earnest. However, I also needed to go back to the hotel and retrieve the van so that we could start loading while it was still reasonably light.

The plan was that my husband and whatever helpers he could obtain at the last minute would finish the packing while I was gone, and we could start loading out as soon as I got there. Instead, I arrived to discover that no, a number of the t-shirt boxes were not any way near ready to go. So I had to do some more packing before I could even start carrying things out. At least none of the people in charge of the loading dock noticed, so I didn't get yelled at about it.

Because of the delays, it took all evening to load out, and then we still had to drive back to the other hotel. Because they didn't have any bell carts, I ended up putting our cart where I'd be able to pull it out and use it to haul our personal belongings in.

As we left the convention center and got onto I-4, we were astonished to discover a tiny lizard clinging to our windshield. It was a green anole, one of the little iguanid lizards that are often sold in pet stores as "chameleons," but are no relation to the actual African chameleon. That little lizard made a game effort to hang onto the van and go home with us, but eventually the slipstream proved too much and it went flying off into the night. I felt bad about it, but trying to rescue it probably would've only succeeded in making the poor creature hide somewhere in one or another odd nook in the van and maybe even get hurt more quickly.

We got to the other hotel in decent time and I swear we got the exact same room we'd occupied on the way in. I hauled in our stuff and I grabbed a little writing time while we were eating supper. Then we tried to get some sleep in preparation for the trip back home.

On Monday, we got up to rain. At least we could get to the breakfast nook without too much trouble, but getting our belongings back out to the van was going to be a challenge, especially considering that I needed to get our cart back into its proper place, which meant unloading merchandise. We finally settled on pulling the van under the awning and doing it there. Not the greatest solution, but at least it kept things dry.

When we first hit the road, I didn't feel all that tired. But by the time we got to Gainesville and I made our deposit, the short nights and long days really started hitting me. I ended up just drinking one can after another of caffeinated pop to push back the weariness enough that I could drive us safely a little further. As we got into northern Georgia, I was really on the ragged edge of exhaustion and barely hanging on.

Finally we crossed the state line into Tennessee and the ramp that would take us to our hotel. I was literally shaking as I stood there in the lobby checking in. Somehow I managed to get our possessions carried in, and I scribbled a few words of writing while eating supper. Then we turned in for the night.

On Tuesday I wasn't too bad when I first started, but the all-carb breakfast really wasn't that much. As I was carrying stuff back out, I felt overwhelmingly tired, and really wished I could spend another hour sleeping. But we had a schedule to keep, especially since we needed to return some unsold merchandise to our consigner before we went home. So there was nothing to do but drag myself out to the driver's seat and press onward.

As we headed north, it became increasingly clear that the caffeine simply was not doing the job. So we stopped at a truck stop and bought some more Monsters, hoping that they would be enough to give me the energy to get us back home.

When we finally got to our consigner's place and dropped off the merchandise, I said that I'd get them the total and the check as soon as I'd rested up enough to be able to add 2+2 and reliably get 4. His girlfriend laughed and said she understood, since she'd had a few times when she got that bad after a long and difficult project.

Then we drove back home and I had to carry our stuff into the house. During one trip I caught my sleeve on a projecting edge of the storm window. I was so tired I just pushed forward, and the cloth ripped in a tear about an inch long. Not huge, and I knew I'd be able to repair it, but it was still not exactly the note on which I wanted to end what should've been a very successful convention.

Copyright 2018 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated January 11, 2018.