So I’m back from Penguicon and the signing off near Detroit.
Both events were a good time. I had the chance to read the Princess Book to a few people, hung out with other author types and talked geeky writing talk. It was fun. I’ve even got a few pictures to share…
I’ll post those things later. Today I’m going to talk about part of the convention that usually gets glossed over: The traveling.
The truth is, traveling is one of the hardest parts of going to conventions. It is for me at least.
Conventions themselves are easy for me. I meet people, sign books, talk on panels, and do readings. It’s exhausting, but it’s not hard. I’m a fairly decent public speaker, and I like meeting fans and other authors. So conventions are a treat for me. They’re a break from my otherwise rather unsocial and solitary life.
But the traveling isn’t fun. It’s expensive, irritating, and time consuming. Worst of all, I seem to get sick every time I go on an extended plane ride.
That’s the main reason that I do so many events here in the midwest. And that’s the reason that I decided to drive to Penguicon.
It takes about 8-9 hours to drive from central Wisconsin to Troy, MI. Still, given check-in times and layovers, that’s only a couple hours longer than a plane. Plus it’s cheaper and I don’t have to worry about people groping through my luggage.
The trip to the convention was relatively uneventful. I made a pitstop in Madison to hang out with some friends I don’t see nearly often enough and helped one of them move some furniture around in his new apartment.
Have I ever mentioned that I used to be a professional mover? It was only a summer job, and I was in better shape back then. But still, it’s nice to keep my hand in, just in case this whole writing thing doesn’t pan out for me in the long run.
It’s on the way back from the convention that things get interesting. After my library reading I hop in my car, enter my home address on my Magellan, and start driving.
I feel I should mention here, in yet another tangent, that I feel morally conflicted about the Magellan. I got it as a Christmas present from my dad, and it’s wonderfully convenient. But at the same time I believe devices like this are actively endumbening the populace. You should be able to read a map, folks. You should know which direction north is.
Did I ever mention I used to be a delivery driver too? I was. I can read a map. What’s more, using a brilliant mixture of zen navigation, Aristotelian logic, and pure rage I can get you your package and/or delicious sandwich relatively close to on-time.
That’s another fallback career for me.
That said, I do use the Magellan when I’m in unfamiliar territory. I don’t have a map of Detroit. It’s quick, easy, and usually accurate.
Note the *usually.*
The Magellan tells me to turn right, then left, then right. I just follow along, as most of my attention is focused on listening to Warren Ellis’ Crooked Little Vein on audiobook.
But something doesn’t feel right. I look at the one of the passing signs and see that I’m heading north. I pull over in a gas station and have a discussion with the machine:
Me: What the fuck, Magellan?
It: Calculating Route.
Me: No. Seriously. What the fuck?
It: Turn right onto North 74.
Me: North isn’t the right way to go.
Me: I’m going to Stevens Point. In Wisconsin. Through Madison.
It: Calculating route. Stevens Point is 974 miles away.
Me: The fuck it is. Go south.
It: Ding! Turn right onto North 74.
So I throw the thing into the footwell of the car. I throw it hard, too. So it knows who’s in charge. You people might have to deal with that sort of insolent backtalk from your machine overlords, but not me. I work with machines in one way: they do what I say or I fucking destroy them and do it myself. I consider myself a Darwinistic force in machine evolution. I’m encouraging them to evolve along more helpful lines.
The gas station is depressing. The woman behind the counter doesn’t know which road leads back to I 94. She doesn’t think the gas station has any maps to sell. She suggests I get directions from someone who has an iphone. She has one eyebrow. Not kidding.
So I find the maps myself, buy one, and get back into the car. Using the map and eight seconds of rational thought, I find the sensible route home.
After two hours the Magellan’s battery starts to die and it chirps at me pitifully from the passenger-side footwell. I let it starve for another ten minutes then bring it out and we have another conversation.
Me: How far away is Stevens Point?
It: 820 miles?
Me: What’s your name?
Me: No. Your name is bitch. I’m asking you one more time, how do you get to Stevens Point?
It: You should head south through Chicago on I 94.
Me: That’s right I should.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that an hour later, after paying a toll, my driver side window refuses to roll back up. Machines tend to stick together like that.
So I pull over at another gas station and kick the hell out of the door for a while. I do this partly in case it’s a loose wire or something that can be fixed by kicking, but also as a warning for any other machines nearby that are considering insubordination.
Then I go into the gas station and explain the situation. I don’t want to drive another three hours with damp, 50 degree air blowing into my ear. Cardboard and duct tape isn’t good either, as it would limit my visibility too much. The attendant there is cool, and lets me poke around in back looking for useful supplies until I find a roll of that plastic stuff you use to wrap up pallets.
Did I ever mention I used to work in a warehouse? I did.
I have to say, even though I’ve been out of the game for about two decades, I still have some mad pallet-wrapping skills.
Then I went home.
Everything said, it was still way better than flying.