With 15+ years of experience of packing up and going to Comic-Con, you’d think one of these years it would go smoothly. But no matter how much we’ve prepared, the day before Comic-Con is always a hot, hectic mess. I can’t even remember some of the details of all any more, but I cannot remember a single year we had no problems.
Right before our second (or third?) appearance at Comic-Con, Peter’s car got some front-end damage that made it undrivable, so we managed to stuff all the contents for our booth into my sub-compact 1990 Toyota Tercel. It was a tight fit, and we did have to tie down the trunk over the booth panels, which hung out of the back all the way from Sunnyvale to San Diego, and back again. Then, during set up, one of the computers fell down onto the concrete floor and stopped working, so we scrambled to find a Macintosh repair shop in San Diego. We found one, which diagnosed the problem as just a loose cable, and moments before the show began, we were ready to go.
Years later, I was driving with Loretta and my then-two-year-old son up Grapevine (the mountains on the northern edge of the Los Angeles basin) when the thermostat on my car gave out and the engine started to overheat. Loretta, who then had more experience with P.O.S. cars than I did, knew what to do. We turned the heater on to pull heat off the engine, and pulled off the road to let the car cool down (which by the time we reached Orange County took an hour) when the hot engine light went on anyway. We were in Los Angeles rush hour traffic in 80 degree summer heat in a black car with the heater on full blast. But we finally did make it to San Diego, where an auto mechanic replaced my themostat. My car was still a P.O.S. without air conditioning though, so on the way back Loretta taught me to put a car into lower gear when the gear it’s in can’t make it up a hill, and sprayed all of us with a water bottle to help with the heat.
After that, there was the year Peter and I had to fix our new light panels, which arrived at our house smashed to pieces in transit. We found a welder to create new cases, and a plastics manufacturer to quickly produce more stressable plexiglass panels instead of fragile plastic. The expensive custom-made cases they original panels had come in were worthless, since we couldn’t fit them into our vehicle. When he arrived in San Diego, Peter struggled to haul the panels in to the show floor, and one of the facings gave loose and mightily cut his fingers. Later, a doctor friend of his asked why he hadn’t gone to the emergency room to get such a horrible cut stitched; but Peter just didn’t have the time.
This year, like many other years, Peter was sure he’d have everything done early, so he could actually relax before diving into the outrageous extravaganza that is Comic-Con. Then I came down with a quickly-manifesting, especially vindictive stomach flu on Friday. It passed to Kelly on Saturday. It slew Peter on Sunday. And today, Neil, who we thought might have escaped the family fate by having been at Boy Scout camp and becoming almost compulsive about washing his hands, got wiped. Peter and Kelly have massive constitutions, so as soon as they’re finished being down, they’re right back up again. Neil and I have the constitutions of soap opera heroes, which means we linger on the verge of being admitted to the I.C.U. and recover gradually, bit by little bit. So I think Peter will once again miraculously pull through. And Neil, who like the other attendees who still brave that prodigious show, would be despondent if he had to miss it. So I suspect he’ll be there, albeit travelling in a fragile state.
Somehow we manage to pull it through every year. But really, I wish, just for once, that we didn’t have the perpetual last-minute drama before we had to be on.