This past weekend, my lovely partner Jenny and I went to GenCon 2011 for the full four days. Heeding the advice of previous convention goers and the badge registration process, we opted to order our badges ahead of time and pick up our badges at the convention center at the will call booth…and so did everyone else.
When we arrived at GenCon at 9am Thursday morning we encountered a massive will call line that wended it’s way through the convention hall. Our best guess was that it would take about 2 to 3 hours to get through the line and get our already printed badges.
It took a little to find the end of the line, but eventually we settled in and began to engage in that most human activity of commiseration. We were going to be here for the long-haul, so we should just settle down and enjoy.
It is here that we met Kelly, a fellow gamer here for a whole bunch of Paizo games. If the line didn’t move fast she was going to miss her first scheduled event.
A few minutes into waiting, we could see the line was now working it’s way out the doors, and not moving very fast. In my head I was thinking “Maybe we should break out Fiasco and give it a spin while we wait.” Jenny, more practical than I could ever be, suggested that I go and see if I could volunteer to help with the traffic.
So I peeled out of the line, and worked my way to the volunteer booth, surveying the throngs of geeks waiting for their badges. They were making friends, and developing the narrative that would become "I survived the GenCon will call line and all I got was this stupid badge!“
As I approached the volunteer booth, I could see that traffic control was a nightmare. There just weren’t enough yellow shirts keeping the line. I walked up to one of the volunteer coordinators and said “I’d like to muster into the volunteer corp and get this line moving.”
I signed the waiver of liability form, he handed me a bright yellow T-Shirt and I was off to wage war against this serpentine nightmare.
As I donned my shirt and worked to orient myself to the surroundings, the convention goers immediately began asking questions. “Where’s the bathroom?” “Where can I find a water fountain?” “Where do I get my event tickets?” I did my best to answer their questions.
Eventually, I worked my way to a particularly nasty bottleneck right near the will call booth. I asked Candy, one of the convention center staff members, what I should do. She stationed me near the Maw of Mayhem.
The Maw of Mayhem was the spot in the line where we had a notable break in the line so cross traffic and fire codes could be appeased. It was a critical point where people were likely to accidentally (and in some cases deliberately) cut into the middle of the line.
We worked out a system where I would usher people from one end of the Maw to the other, and set them up for the final stage of waiting for their badges.
At my station, I ended up turning several people away, directing them to the end of the will call line (which happened to be somewhere outside, the end of which I had no clue). As they turned to survey the line, their shoulders would immediately sag as the weight of their unfolding fate set in. Vacation should not be about waiting in long lines.
After about an hour and fifteen minutes into my volunteer duties, Candy said I should go get my wife and bump her up to the front of the line. So I went searching for Jenny. I found them at what I estimated was the “another hour and a half” point in the line. I pulled Jenny and Kelly out of line and escorted them towards the front of the line to get their badge.
By my estimation of how the system was working before and after I mustered in, I believe I ended up shaving 10 minutes off of each person’s wait in the land by overseeing the Maw of Mayhem by making sure those already in line were not cut in front of.
Next year, I hope GenCon will run a query on number of will call people with four day badges and respond accordingly. It’s not like the will call booth was a surprise. So next year I’m going to have my badge delivered to me, even though GenCon recommends the will-call line.