Some people can say they’ve met one of today’s most prolific and successful female illustrators in the industry. Fewer people can say they saved their coworkers and patrons from an offending and potentially dangerous wasp.
Only one person can say she did both of those things (and then some) in one day: me.
My adventure started bright and early Saturday morning at 8:30am. I got to the library to find it would be me and one other person against 280 holds (that’s roughly 35 pages of materials to pull from our shelves and scan), plus over 20 interlibrary loan items. And only 1.5hrs to do it all. For some perspective, we’re expected to be able to pull about 7-8pgs of regular holds in one hour; the truly pro can do as much as ten.
By the time our doors opened at 10am to a flood of eager patrons, we were already behind with barely any hopes of catching up. In fact, I’m pretty sure I said, at one point, “Someone grill up the burgers because we have plenty of catch-up.”
And as if to exacerbate the situation, the power nearly failed. I was in the middle of scanning return materials when I heard the telltale anti-sound of machinery ceasing to hum. Just for a moment. A little reminder that if you think things are bad now, it can always get worse.
Then, it did get seemingly worse. I was helping a patron and her son at the desk when I hear my desk partner shriek and hit the deck. The lack of other sounds assured me it wasn’t an angry patron on a rampage. Instead, I was greeted by a buzzing wasp. At the core of my being, I’m a professional. As long as it didn’t bother me or my patrons, I can keep doing my job.
That’s when it decided to land on a kid’s head. And not just any kid: the kid I was currently helping. I didn’t want to have to kill you, you know, I thought to the wasp. While his mom did her best to stay calm and keep the kid calm, I went into action. I shouted for a towel or flyswatter, immediately thinking of instant neutralization tactics. Impatient, I realized I could use my button-down blouse as an improvised weapon. By this time, someone tossed me a drying rag— small towels we keep around for rainy days when materials are wet— and the wasp had made its way back toward me, and, thankfully, away from the patrons.
So, there I was: the valiant quasi-librarian in her black cami, black slacks, and loose ponytail, wielding a blue rag. At least I knew where my towel was. Just as I was about to make my move, the wasp flew up again… Directly to my bottle of coffee.
“OH NO YOU DID NOT JUST LAND ON MY COFFEE!!” I said. It got a few laughs, which was really the intention— comic relief is what I attempt to do in any less-than-ideal situation. But now there was no way I could get at the wasp without causing a lot of collateral damage. This bug was smart. Yet, I would prove to be smarter.
Like a scene out of Portal, Deus Ex, or any other first-person POV game, I carefully picked up my bottle and gingerly, slowly, made my way out of the library.
After I got outside, I set the bottle on the ground, shooed the offending critter away, picked my coffee back up, and returned to my post triumphantly. I might even have been swaggering; the only things that would have made it more complete are explosions behind me as I walked. As I slid into my button-down again, I said to my adoring* patrons, “And they told me video games would rot out my brain. Now, which book was it that you needed?”
*Note: The patrons may not have actually been adoring, but we’ll allow the narrator her moment of vanity and pride.
Fast-forward through an hour of scrambling together bins full of library prizes, getting costumed in roughly 30min (including hair and makeup), and navigating through a new city, my partner and I made it to the convention center with time to spare before our shift started. One of the library’s team leaders met us outside with our badges, and then it was into the lobby and through security.
Inside, the convention was buzzing with artists, exhibitors, vendors, and fans. There was a colorful array of costumes. Music was playing throughout the floor. And, most importantly, there were people from all walks of life in attendance— brought together by the common love of all things geeky and nerdy.
The library’s booth was situated between a vendor and an artist, and directly across from some folks from Florida who had made a TARDIS and had it on display. These folks were the nicest, hammiest, warmest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing for four hours from a distance. We even had a dance-off at our respective booths.
I was in the middle of introductions with my other teammates when a girl from the vendor booth next door stepped directly in front of me and said, “Hey, you skipped our booth!”
I blinked, confused. My brain was still in the middle of processing information and the data stream just got interrupted by a pop-up ad. At least I remembered how to be a professional. “I’m sorry,” I said politely. “What?”
“I said, ‘You skipped our booth,'” she repeated, prosthetic elven ears twitching.
“Oh I’m sorry,” I replied. “But I actually need to get over to my booth. I’m with the library.” Then, I showed her my library name badge in a way that would have made Harriet Jones proud and stepped around her to join my squad. The girl went back to her booth in a swirl of shimmery brown skirts.
If there’s one thing the library’s taught me, it’s hitting the ground running. I may have mentioned before that the branch I work at is the busiest of all forty outlying locations. Not knowing what each minute will bring and being prepared for anything is part of the training and experience. Some people were genuinely curious (“What’s the public library doing at a convention?”). Lots of people were huge fans of ours or libraries in general (“Hey, we love you guys! We go to X branch all the time!”). Others were curious, but shy, and needed gentle coaxing to see what we were all about.
One question that surprised us the most— in its frequency and apprehension— was, “Do I have to pay?” Apparently we were pretty much the only booth giving stuff away in exchange for nothing but a little bit of time. My favorite response was, “We’re the public library. You never have to pay for anything here— unless you’re late with a book.” Not because it was particularly clever, mind you, but because it brought such relief and joy to people. It was like, for once, since stepping into the convention, they could relax, have fun, and even get something to take home from the experience.
We were busy at the booth at all times. People were laughing and having a great time. I did manage to sneak away during a lull and meet Jill Thompson, who is arguably the comic book industry’s leading lady illustrator. She worked on the Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman— which is the universe where my costume’s character, Death, resides. With my own copy of Sandman, Vol. 1 in hand, I waited patiently for her to finish chatting with another fan and did my best not to faint. I really expected her to just sign my book.
She did much better than “just sign my book.”
She did all of that with just a silver Sharpie in two minutes. I did my best to thank her in a clear voice and walk back to my booth with some grace. Of course, once I got back, I opened the floodgates on my fangirling.
At the end of my shift, I was exhausted and ready to go home. I’m surprised I managed to get out of what’s probably the most labyrinthine parking complex ever made in one piece and without hitting anything. The experience was exhilarating and a whole ton of fun. My squadmates and I had the most fun creating our own trivia questions and discussing all sorts of nerdy things— comics, literature, gaming, cartoons— with people. I’m proud to have been a part of the Cincinnati Comic Con’s maiden voyage; can’t wait to see what next year will bring.
And speaking of “can’t wait to see what next year will bring,” today marks four years since I said, “I do,” to my wonderful husband. Here’s to today and many tomorrows!