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Encounters with The Crazy™

At the beginning of September, three friends and I attended the 25th annual Dragon*Con. This was my fifth year attending, and we enjoyed ourselves quite a bit.

Dragon*Con runs from Friday through Monday over Labor Day weekend each year. If you can possibly make it and you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, horror, cosplay, filking, skepticism, science, space, the occult, Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, animé, gaming, comics, writing, reading, parades, scantily clad people, parties that go all night, meeting famous TV and movie actors, musical performances, spending lots of money on art, getting autographs, and just generally anything having to do with pretty much anything fandom related, you would probably enjoy it. Along with 40,000 others who also enjoy those things. And all in the oppressive heat of Atlanta, Georgia in summer!

The Atlanta Skeptics have hosted something called The Star Party for three years running. It's not an official part of Dragon*Con and is hosted at the observatory at Georgia Tech on the Thursday evening before the official beginning of the con. It's an evening of astronomy, science, food, drink, and unadulterated, unabashed geekery.

And, for me, my first encounter with The Crazy™ this year.

My friend telleestmavie and I walked in and both immediately grabbed something to drink, then saw a small group of people sitting around Dr. Phil Plait and George Hrab, who were chatting amiably in a little sitting area with several people I didn't know. There were two empty seats, which she and I grabbed. We each had brought copies of Dr. Plait's book Death from the Skies to get autographed and we clutched them to our chests like talismans, waiting for a chance to interrupt Dr. Plait. She sat next to Dr. Plait and I sat on a couch caddy-corner from her next to...The Crazy™.

This particular member of The Crazy™ took the form of a smallish-statured, plain woman of...somewhere around thirty, would be my guess. She had short, nondescript hair, wore glasses, was dressed very casually (the Star Party is specifically "cocktail attire," but a number of people apparently didn't get the memo), and was apparently there with someone sitting on yet another couch catty-corner from her. Judging from looks, they were sisters.

I sat down, said maybe two things to telleestmavie, and was looking for an opening to inject myself into the ongoing conversation with Plait and Hrab...and then It Happened.

The Crazy™ turned to me and—I stress this—without any preamble what. so. ever. "continued" a conversation we had not been having.

Let me say that again. She launched into the continuation of a conversation she had apparently started either in her head or with someone else who had been sitting there (and who had mercifully escaped). Literally. She started, "So, anyway, I was..." and then I kind of zoned out.

I mean...she would. not. shut. up. I gave every (too-subtle) signal I could think of.

I smiled politely and looked away. She kept talking.

I didn't make eye contact and shifted so I was facing my friend and not her. She kept talking.

I literally closed my eyes and took several deep breaths while thinking, "How in the ever-loving holy fuck am I going to get away from this?" She. Kept. Talking.

I noticed out of the corner of my eye that telleestmavie was getting her copy of the book autographed. Dr. Plait was charming and laughing and everyone was having a great time. Everyone but me.

The Crazy™ yammered incessantly. At one point, she launched into a whole monologue about where she lived, her glasses, her relationship with her sister, family, cats...and the whole time, it was done in a very familiar tone as though we had known each other for a long time. Were continuing a relationship we never initiated. And it wasn't like she was all gushy and friendly. It was like she was a hose with a nozzle, and words just kept spewing out because no one could find the spigot to shut it off. I think if she had stopped talking, the pressure would have built up in her head and it would have been very messy.

Now...one thing about me: I'm nice. I'm polite. I'm a Southern Gentleman™, I guess. I was raised that way. With a kind of dawning horror, I watched myself open my mouth and actually respond to something The Crazy™ said.

I fed it. I couldn't help myself.

Meanwhile, my friend got up from the couch, and so did Dr. Plait. George Hrab wandered off to get set up for his musical performance. One by one, everyone else on all the couches wandered away. I was left alone with The Crazy™. I sighed and just gave up. I turned toward her and kept my eyes on my friend, who was across the room getting a refill of her drink.

The most convincing proof ever that there is no such thing as telepathy is that my friend didn't turn around and mouth, "Okay, okay!" because I was screaming, "How dare you leave me! Get me the hell out of this!" in my head. I was aiming my plaintive cry directly at her head. Nada. Teleportation clearly does not work, because I would have popped off that couch and appeared across the room with a giant BAMF! next to Fraser Cain or Dr. Pamela Gay. Pyrokinesis is bunk because a fire did not spontaneously erupt elsewhere in the observatory, forcing the sprinklers to activate and everyone to evacuate the building. Believe me, no further proof will ever be needed. James Randi's million dollars are forever safe from those powers because they provably do not exist. My need was too great for the universe to ignore if it were possible to accomplish these tasks. Time and space itself would have bent...okay, I'll stop.

And at this point, I couldn't just...get up and walk away. I'm convinced she would have followed me, yammering on and on and on in an endless (literally!) monologue about what kind of socks she likes and whether she enjoyed tap water or bottled more.

Finally, my friend came over and said, "Come here, I have someone I want you to meet."

I said, "Excuse me," to The Crazy™ and followed my friend back across the room.

I have never in my life been so grateful to get away from a person.1 Once we were out of earshot of The Crazy™, my friend said, "I'm sorry it took me so long to rescue you, but I couldn't think of a good way to do it." She did introduce me to Dr. Gay; it wasn't a lie. Not entirely.

I spent the rest of the evening avoiding The Crazy™. If she walked into a room, I walked out, or made sure I was talking to someone else. I had another friend or two there, and it was fairly easy.

Still. It was...an experience. I'd never had someone continue a conversation that I never started, before.

Next day, the last person in our party arrived and found his way from the Atlanta airport up to the hotel we were staying in. Although telleestmavie, ian_smith, and I had registered already, Bob (as I will call him) had not. So ian_smith and I took him down to the registration area at the con. Since ian_smith and I had done it in about 5 to 10 minutes the day before, we decided to just go through again with Bob. But when I got to the part of the line where it starts zig-zagging like at Disney, there was a bit of a crowd. Knowing I would be standing on my feet a lot over the next four days, I told my friends I would meet them at the exit, and I left them and went around to find a place to wait.

And had my second encounter with The Crazy™.

Now, I don't mean the same person. I want to make that clear. The Crazy™, here, is a shorthand for "a random crazy person." I'm using it as either metonymy or synecdoche, and frankly I'm too tired right now to figure out which one it is. Knock yourselves out.

I found a clear spot on the carpeted floor just outside the registration area and parked myself and busied myself going through the schedule to figure out what to do when.

She was dressed kind of like an unlikely cross between a pirate wench, a gypsy fortune teller, and Carol Burnett's slovenly maid character. I don't know how tall she was as I was sitting on the floor. She wore big, clompy boots and the hair—or it could have been a wig—coming out from under her jaunty head-scarf was an unruly thatch of graying, slightly more than shoulder-length hair.

She was Not Happy™.

As she clomped down the carpeted hallway, she stopped in front of me and—I stress this—launched into a one-sided conversation that she had clearly begun elsewhere. Or with someone in her head. There was no provocation. I wasn't wearing a sign that said, "TALK TO ME" (I checked). I have no idea why she singled me out of the dozens of people sitting in that hallway.

She stopped talking and clearly expected some kind of answer. I looked up at her and, fully utilizing my sparkling wit and my vast years of developing the fine art of dazzling repartée, said, "What?"

That got her. I mean, really. Apparently, in whatever language they speak in The Land of Crazy, "What" means something that decisively supplied her with a satisfying answer. She nodded her head emphatically, grinned, and clomped on down the hallway. About 30 feet further along, she repeated the performance with some other hapless people who were seated, much as I, on the floor.

I looked around and made eye contact with several other people. I wanted validation. Surely, this could not happen to me twice. But...on the other hand, I hadn't imagined it, had I?

I had not. Others could see her, too.

Yay. Probably not a brain tumor, then.

The Crazy™ reached the end of the hallway and did an about face and began to make her clompy way back in my direction. I decided it was a great idea to stand on my feet—you know, for practice—and wait inside the registration for my friends.

I didn't see The Crazy™ again that day.

Or the next, as it turns out.

Then came Sunday.

We slept late. telleestmavie got up before I did and headed to the con to try to get some autographs or whatever. ian_smith and Bob weren't ready, so I took MARTA down to the con by myself.

I'd like to pause here and regale you with an ode to MARTA that I wrote.
It's blazing like the surface of the goddamned sun in these tunnels.
Sweat sheets from my body in salty runnels.
Why the ever-loving fuck don't you air-condition?
I mean seriously!
It's fucking 120 degrees down here if it's a degree!
We're. Fucking. Melting.
Fix it!
Wasn't that great? I composed it sitting on the train wai—Oh, wait. That's not my ode. That's my unfinished email to MARTA. But I digress.

Riding MARTA isn't a big deal, at least not in the downtown area where the con is held. It was only two stops. It would take less than 10 minutes to get from our hotel to the con. I took out my phone and began to check email or whatever.

She was seated at the other end of the train from me with her back to me. She was Asian, but I'm not sure which "flavor." Korean, Thai, Japanese, Cambodian, Chinese, Laotian, Vietnamese...I have no idea.

How do I know she was this if her back was to me? Because she was shouting in an Asian language with lots of tonalities and vowels that slid seamlessly one into the next.

And she was most decidedly not a happy person. Nosiree, Bob. I looked up and got my first glance at the back of her...no...not the back of her head. A profile.

She was sitting in the seat twisted to one side and looking directly out the window of the train.

MARTA runs underground for a good bit of this segment, so there is quite literally nothing to see outside the windows. They turn into mirrors, basically.

She was not looking at someone sitting next to her who was so short that I simply could not see them. She was sitting with her face literally a couple of inches from the glass.

She was shouting—at the top of her lungs—at her own reflection. And just to make sure the evil other-her got the point, she was making vehement hand-gestures as well. Slash! Swipe! Emphatic finger-point! Fist-shake!

I looked around the car to see if, you know...anyone else was paying attention to this. They were. Oh, they so were. Several people near her were giving her a stink-eye.

The train then pulled up to Peachtree Center Station (Oh, come on. You knew it would be called Peachtree something, didn't you?) and I (rapidly) debarked.

As the train pulled away, I looked back and could still see her face framed in the tinted glass, shouting and gesturing and just having a grand old time.

Thus endeth my three encounters with The Crazy™. Like some twisted version of A Christmas Carol, it was.

Why did I not post this before now, some four weeks after the events I describe herein? I would think about it every couple of days and then before I could write it down or make an audio note to myself, I would get interrupted and forget.

Like something was trying to make me forget. I say, there! You! With the top hat! What day is it? Is it Christmas, yet? I haven't missed it, have I?

Really? Splendid! Here, let me come down and join you wherever you might be headed! I just happen to be going that direction!

Wait! Stop! Where are you going? I was going to tell you about my favorite pair of socks!
  1. OK, there was this one time at PhilCon with ian_smith when we asked Jack L. Chalker a question and got trapped with him for 90 minutes while he yammered on and on and on and on and on and on...

Atheists Are People, Too  Antispam  


( 4 hisses — Hiss at me! )
Sep. 29th, 2011 12:03 pm (UTC)
Vaguely related:
Sep. 29th, 2011 03:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Vaguely related:
So she does. :)
Sep. 29th, 2011 06:50 pm (UTC)
1. Face blindness. She had started a conversation with someone of approximately similar body type who had escaped a few minutes before.

2. Sounds like typical Con Attendee Aspergers to me. Talk to anyone holding still because no one converses with you willingly.

3. No chance of a bluetooth earpiece on the lee side?
Sep. 29th, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC)
1. Possibly. The vibe I got was more of a social anxiety thing. The pressure to babble.

2. Maybe. But it's the first time I've ever been on the receiving end of it.

3. I don't think so. The people on that side of her were staring at her, as well, with that expression. You know the one.

One thing I forgot to mention was that when I got off the train car, another guy beside me did, as well. He walked 20 feet to the next car and got on that one. :)
( 4 hisses — Hiss at me! )

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