Comic-Con was a blast–full of all the wonder, insanity and delight of fandom everywhere–and it gave me an unexpected chance to consider my time.
Before I went to San Diego last week for Comic-con (my first ever), I had been warned about the lines. Still, it wasn’t until I was actually there, with about a hundred and thirty thousand of my closest friends, that I really grasped the reality of the lines. There are lines at SDCC to get free things from vendors, and lines to get into certain popular panels. There are lines to get a bracelet which will let you stand in line again in order to get an autograph from George R. R. Martin, a thing I accomplished at a local convention with hardly any line at all.
I did admire how they managed the lines: volunteers with signs not only help you work out where to stand, but also find the end of the line, while others will hold back the traffic in the hall so that your line can move through in an orderly fashion. The good people of SDCC know about lines, and they handle them with all the grace possible.
But it made me wonder. . .I think a number of people stood in line simply because there *was* a line–especially in the dealers’ room–even if they didn’t know what the line would lead to. Surely there was something good at the end! But what, exactly, constitutes “good”? How much of your time is that inexpensive, disposable item really worth? I’m willing to bet most of the folks in the lines never really thought about it.
I went to SDCC intending to wait for access to one of the big panels in Hall H, which seats 6500 people. I thought I might wait a couple of hours for that–it would be fun to be present, it would make my SDCC experience complete. I do, in general, feel that experiences are worth paying for, and that shared experiences are one of the things that make conventions fun. But when I got out of my previous panel, and looked at the reality of the line, I decided not to join it. Instead, I had some fabulous crab cakes, saw a 3-D movie preview, and chatted with a family of cosplayers. I later met a couple who had waited in that very line, for that very panel, for six hours. They got to the front of the line, but they never got in.
Six hours. . .
I could read a pretty long book in that time. I could draft a short story, or a couple of chapters of a novel. I could watch three movies, hike twelve miles (more or less, depending on the rate of ascent and the altitude), write a few blog entries (more or less, depending on research), write a couple of articles likely to pay a couple hundred dollars. . .
Six hours is a treasure. I’d love to have six spare hours to spend any way I’d like. Would that couple have felt good about the trade-off if they had made it inside the sacred chamber? How much of their life would it be worth? What would you do, if someone gave you that gift of time?
Time is one of the most precious things we have, and it’s a thing we can never get back. I’m glad I took the time to go to Comic-Con. . . and very glad I didn’t spend my limited time there waiting in line.