By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)
I’m not sure anyone likes to wait in lines. When you wait in line at a restaurant it just means more time to get hungry and cranky. When you wait in line to check-in at your hotel, it means more time holding your backpack or moving your luggage along beside you before you can deposit it on the floor of your room. When you wait in line at the DMV, the post office or any government agency, you can really start to hate all government and think Ron Paul is amazing. When you have only two minutes to make your movie and the line in front of you is full of teens not sure of what movie they want to watch, you might consider less strict rules on 48th trimester abortions. I’m not going to say that waiting in line at Comic-Con is awesome, but I tend to get a lot less impatient in the realm of the Convention Center of San Diego during one weekend in July.
There are a couple of reasons why. First, as a multiple attendee of Comic-Con, it has slowly dawned on me that there are thousands of people with the same interests as me that all crave the same scoops, information and presence of the creators. Second, once I realized there are at least one hundred thousand people crowded onto sidewalks in a 30-block area, I thought that moving quickly in any direction is a lost cause. Third, most everyone at Comic-Con is pretty damn cool, well “cool” in a wonderful nerdy way.
However, Hall H is a completely different breed of line. It is Godzilla to the DMV’s Western Skink. It is King Kong to your hotel’s Pygmy Marmoset. It is the monster truck Bigfoot to your grocery store’s matchbox car. Still, it’s Comic-Con, so even though it is the worst of the lines, it’s still pretty ok.
6,130 people can fit in Hall H. (The next biggest space, Ballroom 20, can host 4,250 and the adventures in that line can be very similar.) To give you an idea of what it is like to wait in line for a panel in Hall H, I’m going to construct a timeline from my memories and texts to describe and to possibly prepare you for years to come at Comic-Con. Most times are approximate, though the first is spot on because it burned in my memory as the thought, “What the hell am I doing?” seared it in my mind. Some events are fictional and others are exaggerated to improve your reading pleasure on the subject of lines. I won’t tell you which ones.
4:03 a.m.: Wake up before alarm clock rings. Look at clock. Try to figure out if it is possible to get more sleep.
4:04 a.m.: Lie back down to try to get more sleep.
4:06 a.m.: Realize sleep isn’t returning, start preparing for a shower.
4:10 a.m.: Walk to shower.
4:11 a.m.: Return to room because in the sleep-induced haze, I forgot my towel.
4:13 a.m.: Start shower.
4:15 a.m.: Finally figure out how to get the right temperature for the shower.
4:25 a.m.: Return to room mostly dry and preparing to pack my backpack to leave.
4:45 a.m.: Check out of room and start the long walk to Hall H.
4:46 a.m.: Glance nervously at guy across the street yelling to himself about the dangers of cotton undershirts.
5:05 a.m.: Arrive near Hall H and think that the line looks incredibly short. Plop myself down on the grass to wait.
5:10 a.m.: Realize I’m in the wrong line and start my trek to the back of the line of Hall H.
5:20 a.m.: Arrive at the back of the line that almost reaches the ocean. Turn around and start to move with the line to begin the long, drawn out trek back. It’s still dark and I have yet to have coffee.
5:27 a.m.: Text my friend hoping that maybe she is farther up in the line and I can go find her.
5:35 a.m.: Get text back saying she is just now leaving her hotel. I start to settle in for the long haul.
5:39 a.m.: Start chatting with the folks in front of me and behind me. Find one fan of Supernatural, one Sons of Anarchy fan, and many Doctor Who fans (though most are fans of more than one thing.) Chatting continues for the rest of the day as we discuss jobs, favorite shows, favorite Comic-Con experiences and just life in general.
5:41 a.m.: Discuss our chances of getting in Hall H. The more that people line up behind us, the more my confidence is buoyed. The Supernatural fan is wary and expressing some doubts for her panel at 10:15.
6:00 a.m.: Volunteer with a pleasant English accent tells us they are starting the condensing process and that we should be moving shortly.
6:15 a.m.: Start to move as it takes a while for the line movement to reach us.
6:30 a.m.: Friend arrives! Happy face!
6:31 a.m.: Friend departs to go get coffee. Sad face.
6:35 a.m.: Friend texts to say that the line at Starbucks is just as crazy. Really sad face.
7:00 a.m.: Line stops just north of the outdoor bathrooms for the park as condensing finishes. We all sit down and I break out my dried mangoes as not eating breakfast finally starts to hit me. (I wasn’t hungry as I ate dinner including a peach/blackberry cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream at 10 p.m. the previous night. Mmmm, cobbler.)
7:10 a.m.: One of the stars of Supernatural jogs by. Many people recognize him. I’m not one of them.
7:40 a.m.: Friend returns with a venti Latte for me and three other coffees for other people around us as a peace offering for joining me in my place in the line. Really happy face!
7:41 a.m.: Coffee tastes great. Tell friend Misha Collins of Supernatural jogged by. She said she would have dropped the coffee and ran with him if I would have told her. I think to myself, I’m glad I didn’t tell her. I love my coffee.
7:45 a.m.: Sun still not out and there is talk of possible rain. Rain never comes because after all it never rains in southern California.
8:10 a.m.: Coffee already gone. Sad face. Mangoes quickly depleting. Fortunately, I also brought sweet potato tortilla chips, though those feel a lot less breakfasty. Content face.
8:40 a.m.: Line starts to move again!
8:55 a.m.: We’re on the grass on the side of Hall H. We’re getting close!
9:10 a.m.: We’re loaded into chute three. Hall H is near! Happy face!
9:15 a.m.: Chute one starts to load into Hall H.
9:27 a.m.: Chute two starts to load into Hall H.
9:39 a.m.: Chute three starts to load into Hall H. Very happy face!
9:41 a.m.: Chute three stops moving.
9:42 a.m.: People start rationalizing why we’re not moving. People are moving to the center of the aisles! It’s dark inside and it takes a while to find a seat! Monsters and/or aliens have eaten a number of Comic-Con attendees and they are slow in Hall H to realize that those seats can be refilled!
9:55 a.m.: Line creeps forward 10 feet. Only 120 feet or so to go!
10:15 a.m.: Line hasn’t moved in a while. Fortunately we sit under a tent so that my perfect skin isn’t subject to the sun’s harsh rays through the clouds overhead. I finish my mangoes.
10:16 a.m.: Friend laughs at me for speaking my thoughts aloud regarding my “perfect” skin. I am declared the worst person in the world by all the people around me.
10:18 a.m.: Fortunately the protestors on the sidewalk with signs of religious messages choose this moment to start up their megaphones and mechanically scream towards their captive audience (which in some societies might be regarded as torture) and so my title of worst person in the world is revoked. I try not to let the relief show on my face. Hidden relief face.
10:45 a.m.: We give up on Supernatural but think there can’t be a big overlap between Supernatural fans and Breaking Bad fans. We could get inside! Happy face!
10:46 a.m.: Friend who was there only for Supernatural leaves along with the other Supernatural fan. The line to Hall H has claimed its first two casualties.
11:00 a.m.: Friend calls who just arrived in San Diego. I had said I would save him a place in line, but can’t make the offer now. It’s been almost six hours for those around me, and letting someone in now would break the Comic-Con unspoken code. (We all know it, but I have no idea what it is. It involves a sword in a stone, not being a dick, and a cape.)
11:05 a.m.: Police come to tell the religious protestors that in order to protest they must keep moving and not stay in one place. The police get a standing ovation.
11:07 a.m.: Mistaking the protestor talking into his megaphone as him staying around, the police get a standing boo.
11:10 a.m.: Protestors start to move away! Chants of “Na, na, na, na; na, na, na, na; hey hey hey; good-bye” start up.
11:15 a.m.: 15 by 15 people are going inside. We’re only 45 people back from the promised land of Hall H. Such a happy face!
11:20 a.m.: Protestors march back by with megaphone and we just start to ignore them. Then come comic fans with signs that read, “Bring back that one show that we like!” and “Galactus is nigh” run forward to march alongside the protestors and a cheer erupts from the denizens of the line. Happy face for any entertainment.
11:45 a.m.: Volunteer comes out to say that they’ve closed Hall H for any new entrances to Breaking Bad. He doesn’t expect anyone to leave before Doctor Who, and proclaims to all, “This is now the line for Community.”
11:46 a.m.: My new friends and I start to rationalize. People that like Breaking Bad don’t watch Doctor Who. Meth and time travel are totally different things. My friends that watch Breaking Bad don’t watch Doctor Who. I bet the aliens and monsters are just taking a break from eating attendees and they’ll start again at noon when it’s lunchtime. The line to Hall H claims more casualties as they escape the plastic tape confines to wander around the rest of the con.
12:15 p.m.: There is no movement in the line.
12:20 p.m.: Slight movement and my new friends and I are only 13 back from getting inside. It has been slightly over 7 hours since we got in line.
12:25 p.m.: We get the nod to go inside! I want to make such a happy face and celebrate, but I look back at three chutes still filled to the end and our chute that still has plenty more that want to get in. I remain subdued for their sake until I get inside Hall H and then thrust my fist in the air like Judd Nelson at the end of The Breakfast Club.
12:27 p.m.: I take my seat in the very back row of the auditorium and watch the panelist speak of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, watch a preview of the 50th anniversary episode and watch a preview of the made-for-BBC movie on how Doctor Who started.
1:30 p.m.: Panel ends. I move up closer, as it seems like everyone is leaving before Community enters Hall H. I call my friend who arrived at 11 am and tell him that he could make it in to see Community.
1:40 p.m.: Friend calls from outside. Line is still impossibly long. He returns to floor of the convention center.
1:50 p.m.: Community panel starts with Dan Harmon dressed as Iron Man (costume created by Rob Schrab) followed by a taped message from Joel McHale as Howard Harmon who introduces moderator Chris Hardwick and the fun begins as people keep trickling in. Hall H personnel hand out free red plastic cups (though much hardier) emblazoned with Community.
2:45 p.m.: I leave as it is only an hour and fifteen minutes for me to get some food and catch my train.
That’s my abbreviated story of my time at Hall H this year. Was it worth it? Yes, because the whole day passed amid a bunch of people with the same interests and I got introduced to a new show, Supernatural by these friends in line. I watched the pilot and second episode when I got home last night and I can see watching many more. That’s a favorite part of Comic-Con – no matter what you love as a nerd, there’s always room for more. More shows, more comics, more movies and more friends.