The problem is, my first day at the convention, I didn’t really see much to blog about. Actually, I sat in on about 15 minutes of the LGBT caucus, and saw Michelle Obama’s speech on a television screen with closed captioning and the volume turned down, and from a distance at that. But, at least I got a pretty good story out of it. So, maybe the day wasn’t a total loss.
First of all, I have to confess that I’m a convention newbie. And my downfall was not taking seriously the first law of conventioneering: without credentials you are nothing and you belong nowhere. Upon arriving in Denver on Sunday, I managed to miss the opportunity to pick up a credential for Monday, and suffered for it.
Those pieces of paper passed out each day are the key to spending your convention days in air conditioned venues, with reliable internet access and with a very good chance of catching some tidbit of the convention worth blogging about, or grab a celebrity or VIP for an interview that might make good blog fodder.
Without one of those you are nobody, and you belong nowhere. This is the story of a nobody in city overflowing with somebodies.
It started off simple enough. In fact, it started off well. I started out hopeful. I made my way to the Denver Convention Center to meet up with fellow bloggers Pam and Autumn. I was successful.
We met. I got a credential to get into the Convention Center, and even got to attend a few minutes of the LGBT Caucus.
These pictures don’t do it justice, but I was moved to see how full the room was. (And I couldn’t thinking how big a turnout the Log Cabin Republicans would get at their convention event, since I’m pretty sure they don’t have a caucus.) I had to leave early though, to get to a work-related meeting at a place called The Big Tent — a blogger haven in the midst of the convention.
On the way out, I met up with Pam, returned the credential and made my way over to The Big Tent. But first, I stopped to get this picture taken with Pam. Little did I know if would be the last time I smiled during my first day in Denver.
I stepped outside, asked for directions to the shuttles that were delivering people to the Pepsi Center, where I thought The Big Tent was, and ran in to my first roadblock. No credentials, no shuttle. So, I had to walk, and I headed off in the direction of the Pepsi Center, where I’d been told The Big Tent was. (Or that it was near there.) It was a distance of about 1.3 miles though it felt like more.
And at that point I started bitching with every other step. I did not stop.
I arrived at the perimeter of the Pepsi Center only to be stopped by the first police officer I would encounter that day, who informed me that I could not pass.
He also had no idea what or where The Big Tent was, when I informed him that I had a pass waiting for me at The Big Tent, but apparently couldn’t get to it without credentials. At that point I called my boss and just told him I wasn’t coming to the meeting because I was “caught in a credentials clusterfuck.” It was at that point that a guy working at the gate must have overheard me, because he handed me a slightly used credential that would get me past the gate and on my way.
Or so I thought.
At any rate, the credential got me through the gate, and through security. Suddenly I was in. But there wasn’t any sign of where I was supposed to go. I asked a few people, and they kinda looked at me funny when I asked where I could find The Big Tent. One woman actually said to me, “There’s a lot of tents around here, and they’re all pretty big.” At this point, I thought a signpost might be handy.
But, alas, there was none. So I wandered among the white tents until I determined I was good and lost. I called my boss and tried to tell him where I was. He asked me if I saw a steel bridge. I did, and thus we both thought he knew where I was. He said I needed to cross the bridge, so I did.
On the other side of that bridge was a white tent. On the other side of that white tent was a fence. Apparently, I could go no further. But I saw a police officer standing outside, and asked him if he could direct me to The Big Tent.
He couldn’t. But he took a loot at my “pity credential,” and asked me “How did you get this? And how did you get here?”
I explained to him as best I could. He called another officer over, and I explained to him as best I could. Then another guy came over, and he had that familar earpiece I’ve seen the secret service wear.
He listened to my story and said “Come with me.”
I stepped into the white tent. and found myself in the midst of a lot more well-armed guys with the same earpiece. The first earpiece guy had me explain my story to another one, and then another one. And then they had me put my bag and my jacket down on a table, and directed me to sit in a chair on the other side of the tent.
One asked for my I.D., which I gave to him, while another donned a pair of gloves and began searching my backpack. At some point, I started naming the items as he pulled them out. The guy with my I.D. — my drivers license — looked at it and asked me if I knew how old it was I did the math, and apparently gave him the right answer.
At some point I reached for my cell phone and asked, “Is it OK if I call my boss and let him know where I am?” They said, “We’d rather you didn’t.” So, I didn’t.
The guy with my I.D. came over and asked me if I “had any warrants out.” When I said “no,” he walked away and continued talking to someone on his cell phone.
After what seemed like 20 minutes of this, they determined that I wasn’t a threat but just some lost, luckless sap who’d wandered into their domain. After impressing upon me how serious they were about security (something about which I had no doubt by then) they pointed me towards the exit.
Oh, and the kept the “pity credential” the guy had given me that got me there in the first place. I was glad to let them have it.
It took me a while to realized that I still had a ways to walk to get back to somewhere I could get into, or at least wouldn’t get kicked out or. Nevermind the two guys who seemed to be behind me almost the whole time I was walking out of there.
I lost them after along walk down a bike trail and across a canal, when I found two police officers. I took a deep breath and asked them if they knew where I could find The Big Tent. They pointed across the street, and there it was.
I reached the Big Tent, found my pass waiting for me, and finally went in there.
You’d think my story ended there, happily. And I wouldn’t blame you. I did too.
But I was wrong.
(To be continued.)