Every year I think I’m ready for the Comic-Con crowds. And every year they astonish me. By the time I’ve gotten used to the crowd level from Thursday and Friday, it’s Saturday, and there are even more people.

Katie got up 2 hours before I did to make sure she got a spot in the Heroes line. She succeeded, and managed to get into the hall before I even made it to the convention center. Of course, that was in part because I wanted to grab cash, coffee, and a sandwich to hang onto for lunch before I got in. I think I stood in line for at least 10 minutes waiting for an ATM at a branch in the Gaslamp district. There were two machines, one of which was broken, and the two — just two — people ahead of me were both making deposits. And the machine was slow.

As for coffee, I figured I’d go to a Starbucks just because it was closer — but once I got to the nearest one, I realized I wasn’t far from an It’s a Grind. So I walked the two blocks, and passed another Starbucks on the way. 😕 So I grabbed coffee and something to eat, then spent at least 20 minutes at Subway. Then I had to wait for the trolleys so I could cross the tracks…

By the time I got to the convention center, they were letting the Hall H line in. It was running all through the park area at the end of the center, zig-zagging around, and reportedly went all the way to Seaport Village. Which doesn’t make sense, because IIRC Seaport Village is at the other end of the center, so maybe they were talking about the line for badge pickups?

I waited near the front, figuring I’d hand Katie her water bottle and crochet hooks on the way in, but then I asked one of the “Elite” staff when the line started moving — and it had been almost an hour earlier.

So I went back to Artist’s Alley to pick up that sketch from Todd Nauck. He was off doing a signing at the DC booth. So I went to the reservation desk to set up for dinner. Which took a while, since I went through the main floor, which was a very cattle-drive-like experience. At least my shoulders are starting to get used to the backpack again, though I’m starting to feel like I’m in that third-day convention haze. (Plus I had only a scone and coffee, instead of a full breakfast, which might have something to do with it.)

There are a lot more people in costumes here today. As expected, there are lots of Jokers this year — so many, in fact, that I’ve stopped paying attention to them except for the really good ones and the creative ones. I’ve seen at least two Nurse Jokers over the last few days, possibly three.

I’m waiting for the Tori Amos/Comic Book Tattoo panel now. I figured the line would be long, so I showed up about 45 minutes early, but it turned out they were letting people walk right into the Ralph Bakshi panel, so I wandered in, watched the end of it, then moved to a better seat at the break. The room’s packed, and there are about 10 minutes left before the panel. But I’m only 5 rows back, and a little off to the side, which is better seating than I’ve had at any of her concerts.

I went by the Spectrum for lunch, and the line to get into the Apple Store for the new iPhone was still stretched past several storefronts into the nearest courtyard, right up to the fountain by the carousel — even though they’d launched that morning. Actually, I had several co-workers who were late today because they went down at opening for the launch.

From what I hear it was fairly chaotic, at least in the morning. Apple’s new policy of making you activate the phone in the store was causing delays, especially factoring in the fact that iTunes’ servers got swamped. That would explain why the line was still so long several hours after opening.

Usability note: One of said co-workers got tripped up trying to sync music to his new phone, because the default is to not synchronize music, and the “Sync only checked songs” box looked close enough to being the right option that he didn’t dig deeper.

Yes, I’m shocked as well. 🙂 This morning I had to go into the Department of Motor Vehicles for the first time in several years, and was surprised to find that they’d actually worked out a very efficient system for handling people as they came in. I don’t know if this is standard across the California DMV, or if it’s specific to the Laguna Hills office, but I was impressed.

It’s a 2-stage system, starting with a single line, then a set of take-a-number queues running in parallel.

  1. Everyone starts in a single line leading to a “Directory” desk. The clerk at this desk handles initial questions and hands out the appropriate forms.
  2. You fill out the forms, then go back to the desk without standing in line again.
  3. The directory desk assigns you a number in one of several queues, depending on the type of service you need (ID, license, registration, testing, etc.).
  4. They call your number and send you to an open window.

The thing that impressed me was step 2. They have you fill out the forms before they assign you to a queue. That means that you won’t get caught half-way through the form when your number is called, so clerks at the windows don’t have to wait around while you finish filling things out. That means they can handle more people in the same amount of time.

The only problem I noticed with this part of the system was that it wasn’t clear where to go if you had an appointment.

Well, that and the occasional clueless visitor. I felt really stupid after marveling at the simple optimization, then discovering when I got to the window that I’d missed a section. 😳

I’m still attending Comic-Con in civvies, but Katie wore two costumes this year: another update of her pirate outfit on Friday, and a Sylar victim with a telekinetic slice across her forehead. Saturday, of course, for the big Heroes panel.

Katie in her latest Pirate outfit Katie as Sylar victim

She did the makeup from scratch, using latex and fake blood, and got a lot of attention. In fact, while waiting in line two hours to get into the panel, series director Allan Arkush walked past, stopped… and took her picture!

Sadly, even after waiting two hours she wasn’t able to get into the room, which was about half as big as it needed to be for the audience. Lots of people left at that point, but she was among the group that stayed hoping to get into the Battlestar Galactica panel afterward (which she did). While bored in line, she and the fan next to her posed as Sylar and victim. Edit: we have a copy of the photo, and permission to post it!

Sylar and Victim

So you can see the result of the traumatic experience of the day:

Katie, after the convention

She got her revenge, though. After we went to see the Buffy the Vampire Slayer 10th anniversary screening of “Once More With Feeling” (described in my Saturday guest post at Comics Should be Good), we went out to the Ghirardelli shop in the Gaslamp District. She got a dark chocolate raspberry sundae, and the raspberry sauce was dripping around the edge of the glass, just so…

Katie zaps the sundae

I walked over to the nearby Barnes & Noble at lunch just to see whether anyone was lined up for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet. At 1:00 there were two people sitting in front of the door with camp chairs, one with a book and the other with a laptop, but that was all.

It was nowhere near the level of the iPhone launch last month, but then there are many more places you can buy Harry Potter, and there’s little risk of the book selling out.