Ashley asked if I wanted to do something stupid. I said “Hell yes.”
She said it was once of those conventions with comic books, sci-fi stuff, and computer geeks salivating over superhero action figures, complete with celebrity guests and a bad party afterwards.
I once again said, “Hell yes.”
A month later, we got dumped by a bus from the train station to the city center in Milton Keynes, England, about an hour train-ride north of our study abroad home in London looking for Collectormainia. The city center wasn’t so much a city center as it was three malls that looked like they were sculpted out of the aftermath of a cement truck explosion. We knew the name of the room where Collectormainia was, but nothing else. Completely lost, we wondered into one mall with a rock climbing wall and an arcade, but no one dressed like a Lord of the Rings character. Then into a second, which was massive enough to eat the average American mall and still have room to snack on a movie theater. We wondered aimlessly and looked at a kitchen ware store, until we spotted our compass: a guy under the age of sixteen wearing a Star Trek uniform.
Just like four out of five dentists recommend Trident, four out of five members of my family like Star Trek.
I’m the fifth dentist.
I hate Star Trek more than any other TV show. I’d sooner sit down to a marathon of Tara Reid’s travel show, Taradise, than watch more than five minutes of Captain Whoever negotiating with ferengis or klingons or whatever alien species. I hate myself any time I accidentally exhibit any knowledge about the show. But thanks to involuntary exposure and osmosis, I know stuff about Star Trek. My parents and sisters watched an episode of Star Trek almost daily, thanks to syndication. It’s the same reason why I know the all of the words to the several Backstreet Boys albums and the Eurythmics Greatest Hits.
I didn’t see any Star Wars movie until I was going into my senior year of college. Ok, that’s a partial lie; I saw part of Return of the Jedi on TV when I was in elementary school. But my parents made me go to bed. Luckily, the rest of modern pop culture is so riddled with Star Wars references that I had the Cliffs Notes to all three movies just by existing.
Video games and I never hit it off. When my family got an original Nintendo, I couldn’t get past the second level on Mario 1. The double Goomba at the beginning killed me every single time. My sisters stopped letting me play, and I’m not even the youngest.
I played Dungeons and Dragons once. I went home with my boyfriend freshman year of college for spring break, and it’s what his friends were doing one night. I tried to avoid it by baking cookies, but the game was starting just as I walked into the room with a finished plate of cookies. I sincerely tried to be interested in the game, but I wound up taking a nap instead. I don’t have the kind of patience to sit through: “Ok you’re an ogre with 6.4 killing power and you’re with this dwarf who’s riding a motorcycle and who has a staff and you have to get into this room in a building, are you going to turn the knob clockwise or counter clockwise? Roll the dice to find out.”
I hate outer space in general too. The vastness and size really freak me out, and not to mention I think it’s incredibly boring. On family camping trips, my sisters would always bring their star charts and telescopes. I’d always lie in the grass and play dot-to-dot with the stars, making up my own constellations named for what my star creations actually looked like. I named a triangle configuration, “Isosceles.” There were some chair shaped stars that I named, “Lazy Boy.”
But despite my hatred of most things sci-fi, I loved the movie Trekkies, the documentary about hardcore Star Trek fans.
Actors in bad jumpsuits did nothing for me, but a dentist trading his scrubs for a bad jumpsuit? Sign me up. That made me laugh in the same as bumper stickers that say, “Happiness is being a church secretary.” Going to the comic book convention and the bad party afterwards meant I’d get to see Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and assorted other Sci-Fi and fantasy fans fighting for autographs by day and drinking by night, wearing costumes the whole time.
Ashley said she was oddly attracted to one of the Hobbits from the Lord of the Rings movies, so she was planning to wait for his autograph. None of the celebrity guests had me shaking in my boots with anticipation. I was mildly excited for the Weasley twins from the Harry Potter movies because they’re my favorite characters from the books. The joke “two of them, two of us” never got old, either, just like saying, “That’s what she said.”
My limited Star Trek knowledge includes two of my dad’s favorite characters, Data and Warf, and they were both of them were on the guest roster. Troy was there too, and my dad takes most opportunities to point out how much she whines. So being the good daughter I am, I was going to stand in line and get autographs and pictures with his little Star Trek friends and surprise him for Christmas.
Maintaining a discreet stalker distance, Ashley and I followed the Star Trek kid to Carrie Fisher, magic cards and people dressed like Darth Maul. We thought we were ready for Collectormainia. We both had our cameras. I had a notebook and a tape recorder so I could practice being a freelance journalist. We said “bring on the trading cards! Die cast metal spaceships! The lunch boxes! Mint-condition ninja turtle happy meal toys! The people who have passionate opinions of which was the best Stargate season!”
But Collectormainia was a sensory overload like we never expected. There were people dressed up like storm troopers, girls wearing shirts that said “Viggo Mortesen Fan Inside,” three girls with bunny ears and tails, eight year old boys slipping their autographed pictures of mini-me into frames, a girl in a Little Bo Peep dress, wookies, trekkies, grown women with pokemon backpacks, a teenage boy wearing a penguin puppet, all wading through a sea of vendors who were peddling She-ra action figures, Spiderman bobble head dolls, Simpson’s animation cells, Tarentino posters, Lord of the rings Replica swords, comic books and trading cards, and fans waiting in the lines for the autographs surrounded the merchandise section. Ashley and I were the most attractive people in the place for the simple fact that we would never even consider wearing a fanny pack.** Since it was Saturday and there’s nothing else in Milton Keynes, everyone in town was apparently at the mall and decided to pop over to the exhibition space after hitting the kitchen ware store to see what was going down. So on top of people in fairy wings, we were dodging families, preteens, and people pushing the fashionable baby strollers of the day, which happened to be a throwback to the Victorian era, i.e. little rolling coffins. The traffic pattern made me want a pair hipwadders, and I probably would’ve been able to pass it off as a costume.
We fought our way through the masses to find our celebrity autograph conquests of the day…only to find out autographs cost twenty pounds each, which was forty dollars with the exchange rate. Ashley and I numbed our disappointment with cookies, and stepped outside to the open air market portion of the mall, where I stared at lawn ornaments to recenter. (And only in Europe would you find a meat truck in the center of a shopping mall).
Instead of talking to her hobbit, Ashley and I made like middle school girls and casually walked by his spot, hoping to catch a glimpse. As much as my dad loved Star Trek, he appreciated frugalness more. So I opted for the cheap bastard version of his Christmas present: stand on the benches and zoom my camera as far as possible and take blurry pictures of Data, Warf, and Troy before the nerds in “Crew” T-shirts told me to keep moving.
**I’d like to note this was before any sort of designer fanny packs made a comeback, but I retain my statement despite any newfound chic. I can’t get behind a bag I carried to the roller rink in elementary school. I would carry a shirt tales lunch box as a purse before I strapped another fanny pack around my waist.