I prayed. It’s something I don’t do that often, but I prayed. I had been stressing out for several days about my booth at RTX, an internet/gaming convention located in Austin, TX. On a last minute whim I had the idea that I’d take a 45” tv with me… on the airplane… because the 60” projector screen I had impulsively bought just days before would have cost me $150 round trip to take.
At this point you’re probably assuming I’m an idiot. You are correct in this assumption.
I woke up a 4:30 a.m. to gather my things and pack my wife's car for the trip to the airport. Did you know that Home Depot sells boxes specifically for packing TVs? Did you know those boxes also won’t fit in the back of a compact sedan? Neither did I! As attempted to jam the box into the back of my wife’s Mazda 3 at every possible angle, I realized that the TV would have to be left in Jacksonville. Whether it be divine intervention or poor planning on my end, the TV was going back into the house and I thank God that it was.
The flight from Jacksonville to Atlanta had been great. I was in the second half of passengers to board but somehow the emergency rows hadn’t been completely taken. In addition, because one of the flight attendants stood in the middle seat while the rest of the plane boarded, the gentleman at the window, and myself on the aisle, didn’t have to share the third seat with anyone. It was upon landing in Atlanta that my whole trip really began to take a nosedive into oblivion.
The plane from Atlanta to Austin was full, as in max capacity, as in leaving the middle seat open is a gamble with your own life. This was a gamble I took, and almost instantly regretted. Not to sound like a total asshole here, which I will, but I now understand why airlines charge “larger” patrons for two seats.
I was in the back of the plane, there was nowhere to go, and she moved faster than I expected from someone who took up that much space. Before I knew it she had slipped into her seat and about 1/3 of mine. I have my suspicions she was a first time flyer because me and the gentlemen in the aisle seat had to help her locate and buckle her seatbelt… literally help her buckle her seat belt. This wasn’t even an issue, I have no problem helping someone, especially when they are in a stressful situation, but knowing we’d be rubbing arms and legs the whole way didn’t sit well with me.
Fun Fact of the day, did you know that airplanes don’t really have an air-conditioning system. They depend on the air flow from the outside of the plane to cool the cabin once you’re in the air. This is why flight attendants request you keep the shades down on the tarmac to keep out as much heat as possible. With that tidbit of information, you can naturally guess what happens when a full plane has to cruise around the tarmac for twenty-five minutes? Yep, so as you can assume, the entire cabin is beginning to sweat in the new 747-700 series sauna, compliments of Southwest and the Atlanta International Airport.
As this point me and my new best friend are beginning to stick to each other. The combined sweat is creating an adhesive agent five times stronger than Elmer’s glue, and far more toxic if swallowed. I can’t help but think back to the moments before she sat there, when I could have convinced the guy next to me to scoot over so we could talk more about video games and RTX. I couldn’t help but think back to my life before I became the world’s first biracial unrelated conjoined twin. We would be studied by science for years.
After landing in Austin, and peeling myself from the arms of my seatmate, I took a virtually flawless Uber ride to the place I would be staying. I say “virtually” not because of an error on the driver, but because I typed the address in wrong and was dropped-off about ten minutes away from my destination. I say ten minutes, and it would have been, had I also not walked in the wrong direction for ten minutes… thus making it a thirty minute walk. This is that "Thank God" moment I was talking about. Can you imagine dragging around a suitcase, two shoulder bags, and 45” tv around with you through the scorching streets of Austin for thirty minutes? I’ll say it again, Thank God.
It was a nice break from the awful, as I found out that my Airbnb host was very accommodating and allowed me leave my bags with her while I roamed the streets of downtown Austin. The city itself seems quite… average. Not to say that average is bad, but Austin has this reputation of being weird and strange, and I just didn’t get that. I understand there are probably pockets of the obscene, but when you’re moniker is “Keep Austin Strange”, I expect that level of bizarre to seep out into even the most conservative areas of town.
Skipping through the less interesting parts, I returned to my host to grab my bags and head to the convention center. The studio apartment I rented was called the Birdhouse, and for good reason. It was big enough for the futon, a table, a toilet, a sink, a hotplate, a shower and a shelf with dishes on it. It was awesome. No lie, I loved it. It’s exactly what I was expecting at the price I paid, and I had to regrets. What I wasn’t expecting was for the window unit to short out in the first thirty-seconds I turned it on. Luckily my host was able to flip a quick switch and get it going again, but because it had been off all day, the birdhouse was unfit for human living and I was unable to rest before being forced back into the wild once again.
Because I had already walked to downtown and back, combined with my thirty-minute adventure looking for my host’s home earlier, I felt confident that I didn’t need to call a taxi or ride the bus to get my luggage to the convention center. In all fairness, I was right, but I can only imagine the looks I got from passing traffic as I pulled that worthless suitcase down the city sidewalks.
This worthless suitcase was covered with an awful travel motif. It looked as if a computer had eaten various stock images of world landmarks and then vomited them into a tiling pattern so that as many suitcases as possible could be covered in that hideous print. My solution was to hap haphazardly spray the case black and gold like the current design for the Jacksonville Jaguars helmets. The result was almost as terrible, as the paint would not stick evenly to the case, but still, better than that awful travel print.
I arrived at the hall, and began to setup my booth. It was smaller than I expected, so I’ll say it again, THANK GOD I didn’t bring that TV. Prep was fairly quick and simple. A few paper banners, hung by office clips and safety-pins, and I was good-to-go. It was nice, simple, and easy to dispose of when I was done with it.
I ventured to a restaurant that specialized in artisanal hot dogs, appropriately named Franks. I had a rabbit and antelope hot dog, a couple of drinks and returned back to my apartment. The air-conditioning had effectively cooIed the room in my absence, and I had accumulated a full day’s worth of sweat from walking all over Austin… not to mention someone else’s sweat from that airplane. At this point all I wanted to do was shower. I pealed my sweat infused clothing off and walked to the shower, turned the knob, and a trickle of water leaked out. The kind of trickle that happens when you forget to turn a faucet all the way off and it just drools slowly into the basin. The kind of trickle you wouldn’t go back and stop because it’s so insignificant that it’s not worth the time and effort to finish turning it off. To make matters worse, the sink didn’t have much better pressure. A shower that normally would have taken ten-minutes took closer to forty-five because I had to allow the water to collect enough of my body to bead down it, collecting soap is it traveled towards the drain. I washed my hair in the sink because that seemed easier.
This was Day 1 of my RTX adventure, and RTX wouldn’t even start until tomorrow.