Dr. Mike ~ UL Communication Studies Professor
I don’t like crowds.
I’m not claustrophobic. I’m not agoraphobic. I’m not some other kind of phobic that has to do with crowds. I would just prefer not to be in a big crowd.
Wow, did I find myself in the midst of one this weekend though.
Thanks to a very generous gift from my wife, my family was attending Galaxy Con in Richmond. We went a little nuts with fan glee, shelling down cash for photo opportunities with Daredevil co-stars Charlie Cox and Vince D’Onofrio and with Doctor Who’s former Tenth and current Fourteenth Doctor, David Tennant.
Prior to the start of the event, we were given two times to show up. They were exactly an hour apart. We were a little worried about that going in, but hey, it’s not like we were trying to cross the entirety of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (something I’ve done *shudder*twice in my life). These photo shows were in the same building in the same room.
And that was the origin of the problem.
The exhibition room was a massive space, a continuum that started with spaces for retailers and then gradually gave way to spaces for creators and celebrities to meet their fans. The photo area was next to that, thus allowing the biggest celebrities to move over easily from a meeting area to the photo space.
Someone had set down tape lines on the floor, marking out lanes. This suggested some pre-planning. The brief fit of organization did not last though, because no one had thought to control the lanes of access to those lines.
Thus, everyone seeking a photo with a celebrity piled into the same zone only to encounter unlabeled lanes. A few event employees moved into that zone, trying to create organization, but it was chaos.
As the four of us first hit the scene, I looked up at the level above us. People were looking down into the crowds with wide-eyes. That’s when I realized how much trouble we were in.
The primal instinct to leave was strong. The nerd instinct to meet the celebrities was stronger, so we kept at it.
Here’s the absolutely wild thing. Somehow, we made both our shoots.
Part of that was due to the overall delay that was apparently generating the chaos backward. People could not get in at their times because the previous queue believers had not been cleared yet.
What really drove it though were the fans. In the absence of a strong organizing force from the event staff, the fans took care of each other. Even though we were all there to see different celebrities, we all recognized that we were there to see someone important to us.
So, information was carried between fans. If a last call for a photo opportunity with a particular celebrity was called, the fans relayed that back into the crowds. And then space was made for those people to move forward.
Meanwhile, total strangers just talked to each other. Everyone was friendly. Everyone was united. It was an ordeal, but the camaraderie was impressive.
And I should note that celebrities took an interest too. One particular hero was John Barrowman. You might know him as Doctor Who companion Capt. Jack Harkness or as CW’s Arrowverse baddie, Malcolm Merlyn. When delays for his photo sessions kicked in, Barrowman got answers and then personally came out to assure his fans that they would get in to see him. Later when I had the chance to tell him how cool that was, Barrowman just shrugged off the compliment. “That’s just what you’ve got to do,” he said.
In the end, we met our celebrities, who were clearly working hard on the other side of the curtain to make their photo commitments. There were no divas there, just actors doing their best to stay positive and friendly under the rush. I still wonder how any of them have functioning retinas after all that flash photography though.