Tampa Bay Comic Con was NOT cool and we will NOT BE ATTENDING next year! Here’s hoping Miami get’s it right, as we’re headed there this summer!
So what happened?!
Well, me and my homeboy Chris were determined to make it to Tampa Bay Comic Con on Sunday, April 7, which was its final day. He woke me up at 9 a.m. and then drove to my house in South Tampa from Riverview. That’s commitment. Once he arrived, we headed to the DoubleTree Hotel on Cypress Street around 10:50 a.m. By 11:15, we were parking across the street at the high school and walking to the hotel. Comic Con was supposed to start at 10 a.m., so we figured we’d arrived at a reasonable time. While we wouldn’t have first pickings, we felt confident there would still be plenty to choose from. Boy, were we up for a big disappointment. From this point on, it was one big mess.
The first thing we did was stopped and got pictures with Darth Vader and the Clones. Like, you can’t visit a convention and not do that. Then, we headed to the line to get into Comic Con. There was just one thing…this was not the proper line.
You see, before you could get into the line to ENTER Comic Con, you had to first get into the line to BUY tickets. Once you purchased a ticket, you were given a blue wristband and then could join the line to get into Comic Con. We found this out from the nice people standing outside, as there was no official or any signage indicating this.
So then we headed into the hotel to get into the ticket line. It was the length of a small city. I really believe this, as it stretched through hallway, upon hallway of the hotel. And there were people on both sides of the narrow hallways: Those in line and those walking to the back of the line. Eventually you hit the back of the line, which snaked into a wobbly “u” towards the end. The hallways were very tight, it was hot and few people could get their cell phones to work. It was like a self-imposed Siberia!
The one good thing about a convention is the people. We were lucky enough to end up in line behind a trio of the funniest girls ever. They actually ended up being a life saver, as they kept us laughing, kept us engaged and were great receptacles of information. No lie, one of the girls took it upon herself to seek out officials, get information and then yell it to everyone standing around us. She’s going to make a fantastic soccer mom! The other great thing about a convention is the costumes. One of the guys in line with us had a Resident Evil guard uniform on. It was pretty badass! I could go on and on about the costumes I saw, but you get the picture.
Unfortunately, awesome people couldn’t change the fact that Sunday’s version of the convention was a complete clusterfuck. I did hear that Saturday turned a lot better though.
Anyways, the crappy chain of events went something like this:
The line moved pretty slow. We just sort of inched along. Finally, it was announced that we actually needed two lines: One for people paying with credit and one for cash. Seems like something they’d have laid out from the very beginning. It was like a sea of shifting dominoes as people attempted to move into their proper line, while still in the middle of the small hallways! The worst part: New arrivals that had to squeeze down the middle of both lines, to get to the end of them.
Around 12 p.m. we were still in the line and rumblings were beginning to travel amongst people that tickets were “running out.” Eventually, a guy in a Tampa Bay Comic Con t-shirt came to inform us that the rumblings weren’t true, entirely. You see, there were still tickets, but the convention was at capacity. They informed us to stay in line and wait until some people had “cleared out.” It really didn’t sound like a good idea, but people had been waiting so long, few wanted to leave. We all hunkered down and waited. Eventually the line begin to move, albeit very slowly.
Unfortunately, as the line began to move, another guy, this one in a Tampa Bay Comic Con security shirt, came to inform us, again, that they were stopping the sell of tickets, temporarily. There were now troubles with the Fire Marshall and they were working to “clear out some people” before selling more tickets. He encouraged us to be patient if we decided to stay in line, as eventually more people would get in.
Then we got a new story. What appeared to be a manager for the DoubleTree came to the line and basically started to have a small, nervous breakdown. In between shaking his kid and doing an odd, nervous chuckle, he started telling people near the front of the line, which included me and my friend, that Comic Con was over and they were going to stop selling tickets because the Fire Marshall was there to shut down the convention. He went on and on about how the hotel convention had become dangerous and then, a group of guys pushing a cart and calling themselves “Engineering” went walking by, which made the managers point some legitimate.
Then, while the manager was talking, ANOTHER guy in a Tampa Bay Comic Con t-shirt stood on a chair and began screaming that the line to get a signed autograph, from the celebrities in attendance, was closed. He had to yell this out multiple times, as there was confusion between all of the lines that had formed. At this point, there was a damn line to get into another line! It was pure ridiculousness. There were people in the autograph line that didn’t even realize it was the autograph line! And people who were actually seeking an autograph were PISSED! Those poor folks couldn’t even get a picture with the star, because there were so many people at the convention. Instead, they only had the option to pay $30 for the star to write on a picture and send them on their way. Now they couldn’t even get that!
And damn if, after all of the whining and complaining from the manager, our line didn’t start moving, yet again! You should’ve seen the poor guys face as we started shuffling forward. Dude took off mumbling to himself like a crazy person. It felt safe to assume he wasn’t happy.
So basically, everybody was confused. And when I say everybody, I mean, the ENTIRE room(s)/hallways full of people. Finally, one of the women Chris and I was talking to went investigating. She came back with news that while people near the deepest end of the line “more than likely wouldn’t get in,” those of us closer to the front probably wouldn’t have a problem if we stayed in line and remained patient.
It was right about this time that my stomach began to rumble, so like many unfortunate suckers, I headed to the gift shop for snacks. A bag of chips that would usually never cost more than $1.50 was almost 3 bucks in there! Throw in a $2 Diet Pepsi and you have officially price gouged people. Even worse? I only got the dang snacks because I thought I’d be spending another hour or so in line. Instead, I took my last sip of Pepsi and got the news that Comic Con was officially over. They would not be letting anyone else through the doors.
*Sigh* Me, Chris and our new buddies were literally only FOOTSTEPS away from the ticket table.
And to add insult to injury: We angrily watched as a group of people who’d been behind us, somehow cut past us and sailed their way to the last remaining tickets. If we’d been a less geeky crowd, there might have been violence.
So people stood around angry and confused as another guy in a Tampa Bay Comic Con t-shirt stood on a chair and yelled that they were truly done selling tickets. Worst confirmation ever.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, chair yelling guy also informed the crowd that if anyone had purchased a ticket in advance, they’d have to seek out a refund. Real classy of them.
Oh, and that hotel manager? Well, he made another appearance as the crowd was dispersing. He looked relieved and stressed all at the same time. I doubt they were paying him enough to deal with that nonsense.
So my Tampa Bay Comic Con experience ended with Chris and I angrily stomping to the car, trading stories about all the things we could have done instead. And then we found ourselves shaking our heads in disgust as new arrivals to the convention came walking past us. They were all so excited as they talked amongst themselves about all the stuff they hoped to see. They didn’t even know what they were in for. And from what I heard from other people, no real signage every appeared to inform newcomers of the situation.
So did we try to inform people that the convention was over? Sure, but eventually it got old and we were ready to go. And I think, somewhere inside of us, we hoped maybe they’d get lucky and get in.
We just didn’t.