My son and I went to Comic Con Montreal in September. We hit some panels, crisscrossed the convention floor several times, saw William Shatner speak and then at the end of the day went to the William Shatner/Patrick Stewart “Reunion of the Generations”. It was a great father-son experience and the only thing at or around the Con we didn’t do together was early in the day when he went to a Mass Effect 3 panel while I went to see Wil Wheaton speak.
It was a really fun day, marred only by a single, short experience.
This picture has four levels of failure in it and two of them are mine. Combining those four levels together has more or less soured me on the whole Photo Op experience which, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t all that keen on to begin with. I’d rather go and listen to someone speak for an hour, even if it’s at the back of the room, than stand in line for the same hour to get my photograph taken with them. Aside from being far cheaper financially, the time investment feels better spent to me. I really enjoy the presentations and Q&A sessions I go to, though I’ll admit that’s probably a lot because I pick the ones I known I’m going to enjoy.
When I really want that personal touch, I go and get an autograph, something I only recently started to consider as part of my fan experience. The minute or so of small talk while you’re picking your photo and it’s being signed is generally enough to give me that inner thrill. Deliver a quick thank you for the work you’ve enjoyed by that person and another for taking the time to sign for you, and sometimes you come away with a quick fist bump or even a handshake. My autograph experiences have been uniformly positive so far. I won’t go when the line is huge as there’s always too much else to see at the Con, but if you’re paying attention, you can often time things really well except for the super big names.
But, as I was saying, four levels of failure.
1. The Convention
Enamored by the vast, insufficiently tapped geek wallet, some power behind the Con decided that it would shove as many people through the photo ops as possible, which makes the experience measurable by a tiny march of seconds. I know this makes a certain kind of financial sense—more photos = more $$ —but it’s also not treating your customer base with respect. More irritated people is going to equal fewer $$ next year for similar events. Sacrificing the long term for the short is never a good business strategy, but it seems to be the way things work lately. Comic Con fail.
2. The Photographer
Either because s/he had no option due to the over-scheduling or because s/he was just too lazy, the Photographer didn’t have enough pride in his/her work to take the extra second or two with each person that would make a good picture. The words “squeeze in” followed by a shuffle to the right by my son was all that was needed. Photographer fail.
3. I’m too Canadian
I could have complained. I should have complained. Yes, I’m far too polite. Yes, it’s a culture stereotype in the Great White North, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes you need to complain, even if you know it won’t do any good, and I know it wouldn’t have in this case. How do I know? I saw some of the other photos people were picking up. Ours may not be that great, but there were a lot worse on the table and you can be damned sure the Con wasn’t letting people circle back through for another try. The process isn’t set up to allow it. Personal (cultural?) fail.
4. My inner fanboy is a brainless idiot
How much presence of mind would it have taken to grab my son by the shoulder and pull him closer in? Not much, but I wasn’t just getting my picture taken, I was standing a handful of centimeters from Captain Kirk and Captain Picard. Close enough to be able to put a hand on each shoulder. Oh yes, my inner fan boy was running the show and he has no idea what’s going on in the rest of the world. I’d thought myself evolved enough in parenting that this couldn’t happen. I always pay attention to my kids when there’s anything going on. My purpose is always to ensure that they’re having the best time. Always. Only apparently not always. For just long enough to screw up the photo, I let my proximity to a pair of cultural icons suck all of the brains out of my head. This will not happen again, no matter what the experience is. But it happened this time. Parenting fail.
Rectifying any one of these failures would have resulted in a better photo, a real memento to help crystallize the memory of an awesome moment. As it is, I do have the memory of standing with my son next to a pair of bright, shining beacons of Star Trek, the conversation and time we spent in line and moving through the cattle stalls to get there and the excitement of the picture being taken. But I also have the memory of the disappointment in the photographic evidence.
The disappointment is secondary. We were there and we shared the moment, if not as well as I’d like. Given another opportunity, will I shell out for a better photo? Not for myself, but if he wants it, I’ll stand in line far longer and be far more alert while doing it.
For reference, if the picture taken a ¼ second sooner, my son swears he had a giant smile on his face, and I believe that because he was pretty excited, but he was still half hidden behind Sir Patrick.
Also for reference, the picture my girls had done with Rose McGowan at FanExpo in August turned out spectacularly well.
Each experience on its own terms. Learn and grow and adapt.
Be well, everyone.