So I (a bit reluctantly) went home for the four hours of sleep I had planned. I did not get them, of course; I slept for maybe two hours and tossed for the rest of it. I finally got up and got ready at 3:00, and karenor arrived promptly just before 4:15. (She had fabulously offered to give me a ride; since I don't drive, I couldn't get downtown earlier than 7:30 on a bus. I'd probably have started walking before then.) We picked up another friend on the way downtown, actually got street parking just a few blocks from the convention center (amazing what you can do pre-dawn on a Sunday) and found the line.
It wasn't a huge line, but a bit more than I expected at that time of morning. Quite a few people had obviously slept out, though from what I heard things started picking up around 4am. There was some shuffling around of people (karenor needed to find the badge line, some other friends arrived, etc) and then we settled down to wait. The line continued to pile up behind us at a pretty good rate.
And then the line moved, and it was a clusterfuck. There we were, all in line, mostly in order of arrival. The mission of the various people in charge was to get us upstairs and line us up near Ballroom 20 in that same order. (This was maybe 7am? We still had plenty of waiting to do.) I'd gone early Friday morning just to see how this worked with the Stargate panel line; there's a huge queueing area on the deck outside Ballroom 20, neatly roped off. Rather than lining people up in the hallway, on Friday they'd steered the entire line into the roped area (obviously planning to let them into the hallway later on, but outside was a good place to get the line both well-defined and out of the way).
Well, on Sunday somebody missed the memo. It was bad straight off -- there are three escalators going upstairs right when you enter, and of course the line instantly fractured. Security didn't do anything radical like tell everyone to just slow down and stay in order, so they didn't, and it was chaos. They were checking badges (though not ID), slowing some people down, letting others around them, and when we got upstairs the line was apparently in the hallway, going the opposite way from how it had outside on Friday. Some people, probably familiar with procedures from previous days, had gone to the outdoor roped area; they got sent back and ended up behind everybody else. I was kind of panicky, knowing where the line should be but unwilling to disobey the guy who seemed to be in charge. People got upset. A guy in a convention center uniform showed up and asked who'd arrived first, bringing the people who raised their hands to the middle of the hallway. He then seemed to think that everyone would just fall back into order, but again, chaos. More angry people. "I'm not in charge of this line, I'm just trying to fix it," the guy said. (Okay, then I got angry. Stop messing with the line if it's not even your responsibility.) Then he told everyone not to worry because we'd all get good seats anyway. WTF. You are talking to people who've been waiting for hours here.
Anyway, the guy actually in charge of the line eventually showed up to apologize, saying he hadn't communicated well with the other security people, and the line sort of re-formed itself a bit randomly. I was annoyed at having gotten shoved farther back during the rejiggering, and tried to stick to the Doctors; I don't know if they were where they were supposed to be in line, but I knew I was supposed to be behind them. (The stupid thing is that everyone knew who they were supposed to be behind. Don't tell me they didn't. Kindergarteners can stay in line, adults ought to be able to manage it too.) There was quite a bit of continued bitching, but finally the line was led -- staying in its current order this time -- carefully through the roped area. The girls behind me, carrying big bags and pillows, continued to complain a lot. I asked then when they'd arrived, and they said 4:00. I let them go ahead of me.
I'd lost everybody I'd been with by that point, but they turned out to be maybe twenty people back. There wasn't enough room to have them join me, and I didn't want to give up the potential advantage of being a little bit ahead, so we stayed like that. For the next two hours. The sun came up. I considered a nap. The Doctors remained entertaining (they'd ended up a few twists of the line ahead, but still close enough to watch), so I got a few more shots. Pity I missed the one with the banana.
The ballroom is HUGE, with a big center aisle. I wanted to sit as close to the center as possible, and was willing to give up a couple of rows to do it. When I hit the tenth row or so, the middle was getting pretty well filled in, and if I went any farther up I was going to be hunting for individual seats, possibly farther to the side than I'd like. Plus, you can't count on a seat that looks empty actually being open -- there's a fair bit of seat-saving -- and meanwhile everything behind you is swiftly filling in. So I stopped at a row with just a couple of lone people in it, and karenor and company joined me, and all was well. It was the ninth row (I think -- I tried pretty hard to count), which wasn't bad; I wanted to be closer to the stage than the cameramen, and I was. Just a row or so farther back than I was last year, actually, in the same general area. (Though I think I arrived 2-3 hours later last year!)
So we had seats with about 45 minutes to go. There was a mad scramble for bathroom passes, and I did some testing with my camera (I heard people making fun of people 'taking pictures of the empty stage,' but dude, that's how you figure out what settings you can use later), and Ken left a message on my cell phone. I couldn't hear a thing, but I called him back to tell him we'd made it.
And then we waited.
Pictures from the panel to follow -- I made it through the first third of them last night.