In the spring of 2014, my husband convinced me to volunteer at the Salt Lake City ComicCon. If you don’t know, ComicCon is a large multi-day convention dedicated to fans of comic books, movies, and other entertainment. Perhaps you’ve seen cosplayers dressed up as superhero’s or characters from the latest sci-fi shows? It’s a bit nerdy for me, but it looked like it could be fun.
Being the amazing and supportive wife I am, I said yes. We were assigned to work in the celebrity photo booth area. I dreamed of myself meeting famous actors, charming them with my skills and being swept away as their new personal assistant. That didn’t exactly happen, but I’ll tell you what did.
I got promoted, 3 times within 12 hours in one day.
The celebrity photo booth is notorious for being the highest profile area and extremely stressful for volunteers. The volunteer handbook literally told us to “prepare to stay calm, and keep attendees calm and happy”. Eager fans had paid hundreds of dollars to have their picture taken with one or more famous celebrities. Nathan Fillion, Patrick Stewart, the Star Trek Next Generation crew, Karen Gillan, and others were a few of the high profile guests there to appease their adoring fans.
My first job was to help queue people in line to purchase tickets and answer basic questions. I outgrew that in about 30 minutes and was moved over to the cash register (Promotion 1). I was trained to help customers find their photos, pay for additional copies, and up-sell them on protective covers. (My poor husband ended up behind the curtains for 12 hours cropping photos, I’m much too social for that.)
My second promotion (Promotion 2) was when I was given supervisor privileges on the cash register. If anything other than basic transactions came up (refunds, double prints, etc) I’d constantly be turning to the head volunteer over the photo area. He recognized my ability to make quick, smart decisions and gave me the code I’d need to override the register. Yay. He then proceeded to run around like a chicken with his head cut off. We were understaffed and you could tell he was stressed and it was freaking the rest of us out. I motioned, “I got this” and had him head back behind the curtains where he addressed whatever was going on back there with the celebrities.
As hundreds of people passed by me, I saw a need to get them through the line as quickly as possible in order to keep the chaos down, and morale up. I promoted someone else to cash register duties, so I could help grab photos and run them to the tables, where guests shuffled by giggling about how “tall Nathan is in real life”, or awesome it is that they just met Captain Picard.
Then the complains started coming in. Every once in a while people would come out to find out their eyes were closed or they looked ridiculous in their photo. These people had literally paid big bucks and waited in line for hours just to have a 3 second get-in-get-out photo op. If it were me, I’d be upset too. While on my watch I had a lady who was very upset about her eyes being closed. Rather than ask someone what we should do I found the lead volunteer and said, we need to get her to the front of the line to re-take her picture – her eyes were closed. After presenting the best solution (rather than coming to him with the problem) he said, OK, and took her back. Things were fixed.
As the day went on, things just got crazier. The lead volunteer (chicken with his head cut off man) pulled me aside and gave me a pep talk. He needed me to take control over the station because something had come up and he needed to help out (Promotion 3). So I began making all the decisions, coordinating breaks, helping restock printers, running back behind the “Do Not Pass” curtains to find forgotten purses and cell phones, and helping misinformed patrons understand they couldn’t use their “ComicCon cash” on the photo op (if they were heated enough I just made the call and honored the comic cash anyways).
Basically I ended up kicking butt and taking names that day. I had so much fun. Our team lead told me how grateful he was for me and that he’d put in a good word for me to the Con so I could be promoted the next time I volunteered. Sadly, I haven’t been back, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Craziness and all. Except next time, I think I’ll work on leaving with am offer to be a celebrities personal assistant…