This weekend, I took myself a little trip down to Greenville, South Carolina, for the third annual South Carolina Comicon. The fledgling con is growing in size rather quickly and is already attracting many thousands of people, as I witnessed, firsthand. This was my first time attending, but I’m a con veteran (it was my third convention in four weekends, including a cross-country trip to Seattle for Emerald City Comic Con).
I am a collector of many geek-related items, one of which is photos with and autographs from anyone who has appeared in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film or television show. I have done rather well in this venture, securing names such as Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, and just three weeks ago in Seattle, Vincent D’Onofrio and Evangeline Lilly. While I respect these people for their work ethic and talent and appreciate the quality entertainment that they provide me, I don’t place them on a pedestal. I don’t get nervous and I in fact enjoy talking to them about the work and – if there’s time – learning a bit about filmmaking from them. I look at this as a collecting exercise, in which I can flip through my binder-o’-8’X10″s and think back to cool little moments when I got to live in a different world, just for a second.
Appearing at this particular convention was Spencer Wilding. He is best known as portraying the one and only Darth Vader in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But he was also the Mean Guard in 2014’s crowd-pleasing MCU blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy. Sure, the role wasn’t exactly Captain America or the Hulk, but it counts, and one of my goals for the con was to add him to my MCU binder.
So, let’s jump to this past Friday. My drive to Greenville is extended by an unnecessary 90 minutes due to three traffic jams. And I have also worked a full day, teaching at the university. So, by the time I arrived at the hotel, I’m pretty tired. Also, my dad wanted to do a father/son weekend, so he met me there, arriving several hours before I was able to.
Upon my arrival, knowing my dad is already there, I approach the front desk to get the key to my own separate room. There are a couple of different desk clerks helping the incoming guests and, after a few minutes, the first available clerk pleasantly asks me how she can help. I immediately notice that she has a warm, yet quirky personality, and she also happens to be rather cute. This isn’t all that uncommon, though; there are attractive people everywhere and we all see them, every day.
I show her my ID to confirm that I am who I claim to be. We have a moment of informal banter before she hands me my key and then says . . . something . . . else, but for whatever reason, I’m sure I heard her correctly. I think she said that she is also going to the convention and that she hoped to see me there. I’m toting my Hulk messenger bag full of my sketchbooks, comics, 8″X10″s and all of the other items I need for the show, so I think that perhaps she had seen that, correctly deduced why I was in town, and then attempted to initiate conversation.
Here’s where I need to inform you of something. I suck with women. Really, I’m awful. Putting modesty aside, it’s not because of my appearance, as I’m not hideously deformed and – though I’m not an Olympic athlete – I’m not in horrible shape. I’m not a buffoon, either; I teach at a university, learned to read at two, teach myself advanced mathematical concepts, and am as objectively intelligent as anyone. It’s not because I treat women poorly; I respect all people and get along well with virtually anyone, until they start praising Donald Trump. And it’s not a commitment thing. I hate change; commitment is perfect for me. I love the idea of commitment.
No, when it comes to women, I’m just a f*cking idiot. I don’t know what I’m doing. Some people have trouble seeing things from others’ perspectives. I’m the opposite; I’m capable of seeing things from everyone’s perspective. So, when it comes to approaching a woman that I’m interested in, I ask myself if she would prefer to be approached through method A, B, C, and so on, then I get wrapped up in the fact that I can see the benefits of each approach but I don’t know which one she would prefer, so I get all discombobulated and ultimately screw it up. Every time. A few years ago, I really put myself out there for someone I felt a huge connection with. It ended poorly. And I gave up on the whole thing.
So, with women, despite my best efforts, I’m just a f*cking idiot.
So, what do I do when this beautiful woman tries to initiate a conversation with me about my favorite hobby: going to comic conventions? I pretend I understand her, say, “Duuuuuuh, okay!” and then head up to my room. F*cking idiot.
So, I meet up with my dad and we come back downstairs for dinner. All I’ve had to eat that day since a small breakfast is a pear, a Snickers, and a NesQuik. I’m starved. We eat at the hotel restaurant and I mention that I want some chocolate. He suggests I get a dessert but I don’t want to overdo it, so I figure I’ll just grab something from a vending machine. We head back up to our rooms and I find the vending area, but there are only drinks – no snacks. He goes on to his room to retire for the night, while I head back to the lobby to look for chocolate.
As with many hotels, I find that there is a little “cupboard” near the front desk (basically a small convenience store with snacks, over-the counter meds, and so on). I step in and find my two favorites: Reese Cups and another Snickers. I go to the front desk to pay and my friend from earlier comes to my assistance. Like the moron I am around women I’m attracted to, I drop my Snickers, sending it loudly crashing to the floor.
“Oh, hey, you can get another one, if you want!” she says.
“Nah, it’s okay,” I replied. “I broke it, I’ll buy it.”
“Awww, okay. That will be . . . four dollars?” she states questioningly, biting her lip and raising her eyebrows as if to say, “I know this is overpriced. Do you still want it?” Of course I do. It’s chocolate.
She says something else, stumbling over her words. I follow in kind, stumbling over my words, as I say, “Earlier, when I was down here, you said something right before I went up to my room, and I didn’t quite catch it. What was it?”
“Oh, the con! I’m going to it, too!” We then have a casual and – more importantly, comfortable – conversation about our respective geekdoms and in which areas our individual interests lie. By the time I head back to my room for the night, I’m intrigued, not just by the content of the conversation, but by her spirit, her smile, and the way she exudes energy.
I wake up at 6:00, the next morning, and meet my dad for breakfast at the hotel. As we eat, I notice an extremely tall man come in and take another table nearby. I catch a glimpse of his face and realize that it’s Spencer Wilding! Darth Vader himself is having breakfast at the next table over!
I quietly say to my dad, “Hey, I paid to have get an autograph from and have a picture with that guy! He was Darth Vader in the new Star Wars movie!” My dad is a smart man, but he’s clueless about geek culture, so I kept it to the basics. He says, “You should just get it now and not pay.” That’s counter to the culture, so I just say, “No, I prepaid and he’s trying to eat. I’ll just see him in a bit.”
The plan is to take only my dad’s car. He was to drop me off at the con and then he was going to go to a car show (cars are his thing, whereas comics and movies are mine), then come back later and pick me up. He also wants to run his car through the car wash. He needs ones and I can’t help, so on our way out, he stops by the front desk.
My new friend is there and breaks a ten for my dad. She tells him to have a good day. I throw her a look and a smile, making eye contact, and she wishes me the same. I wonder if work would keep her from the con.
At the con, I meet Spencer. He is nothing but friendly and gracious. He comments on how much fun he had filming his scene with Chris Pratt in Guardians and he takes a great picture with me. I can’t say anything but positives about my interaction with him.
Dad and I finish going about our business and decide to come back to the hotel to take a break at about 2:00 that afternoon. I had to go back out to the convention to pick up a sketch and then we were meeting other family for dinner at 6:30, but we had a little time. I head back out to my car to grab a couple of things – noticing that the Woman of Interest (I’m going to call her Genie, though this is NOT her name. I just need something by which I can refer to her and don’t want to use her real name) is still at the desk and, on my way back in, I see that she’s now gone. Another woman working the front desk sees me and, asking about the con, says, “How was it?” I think this odd, as I can’t remember seeing or speaking to this woman previously, but as I approach to respond, Genie emerges from the back.
“Not making it to the show?” I inquired.
“Oh, is it closed? I was going to go after work!”
“No, it closes at 6:00.”
“Oh, okay. I’m going to try and make it.”
We proceed to have an easy conversation about Seattle, the fact that she’s from Montana, and the con. I inform her that I’m going back out, myself, so I’ll look for her. She consents and, as I head back to the elevator, she says, “Come back and see us! I’ll be here in the morning!”
Wow! Okay! I think. I then playfully respond: “Well, so will I!”
“I know, WHAT?! CRAZY!”
I’m more intrigued.
She’s not at the desk as I head back out, and I don’t spot her at the show. I have a nice dinner with my family, then relax the rest of the night.
Cut to this morning. I begin to wonder if I should maybe make an effort to maintain contact with Genie, once I leave the hotel. I’m resistant to the idea. Not only have I had enough of the stresses, frustrations, and heartbreaks that tend to come with sort of thing, but we also live three-and-a-half hours apart. Is it even worth the effort, despite the spark and obvious chemistry? I decide to take some of my belongings to my car, see if we interact, and just play it by ear.
I step off of the elevator. I should make a point of saying that, at this hotel, one doesn’t pass the front desk to get from the elevator to the hotel exit. When getting off of the elevator, the front desk is about thirty feet to the right and the exit is about fifteen feet to the left. As I walk towards the exit, I glance to the right to see if I can spot Genie. Sure enough, she’s there. She looks up and sees me, so I throw her a wave. She smiles and says something along the lines of, “Good morning!”
“Good morning!” I retort.
A stutterstep of a pause, and then, “It’s good to see you!” she projects.
Well, this can only be a good sign. “It’s good to see you!” I reply with a smile. Keep in mind that this exchange of pleasantries is occurring across the lobby, with thirty-plus feet of space between us.
On my way back in, I approach her at the desk.
“Did you get to go out, yesterday?”
“No, I didn’t. I’m hoping to make it, today.”
I inform her that I have to go back, one more time, to pick up a final sketch but that the con doesn’t open until noon, so I’m just trying to kill time until then. She thinks and says, “Well, have you eaten breakfast?”
“Um, kind of. I finished the box of Girl Scout cookies I got, yesterday.”
We proceed to have a completely silly, entirely tongue-in-cheek conversation about Thin Mints, how delicious they are, and their health benefits. It was goofy and fun and exactly the sort of banter I enjoy having. We finally formally exchange names and shake hands, as I make a joke about how it’s awful late to be doing such a thing, seeing as I’m about to leave. “Well, we still have the rest of our time,” is her reply.
I don’t want to take up her time on the clock and maybe get her in trouble, so I say, “Well, I’ll be back down in a bit.”
“Okay!” she says, cheerfully.
I head to my room and lay there, asking myself if it’s truly a good idea to make any effort that would potentially extend contact beyond today. I’m awful at reading women and their level of interest (see the previous f*cking idiot references) but I didn’t see her interacting with anyone else the way she had been with me, so I’m torn. I decide to give her my name and number on a Post-It as I check out and say that she should feel free to use it if she’s ever in my area or if she just wants to say, “Hi”. That way, she isn’t put on the spot by me asking for her contact info and she’s free to reach out to me, or not. If not, no biggie; it’s not necessarily a condemnation of me. After all, I have hang-ups, too, and they have nothing to do with this super-cool person I had stumbled upon. I take a breath, jot my info down, and nervously head downstairs to check out.
I depart the elevator and turn towards the front desk. I see one front desk clerk and then, further down towards the end of the desk is Genie. And Spencer Wilding. Darth Vader, himself. He’s leaned over on the desk, being charming and flirty and she seems to be eating it up. I approach the desk, waiting for her to see me and say something. I hand my key to the other clerk, who thanks me. It’s still just Genie and Spencer. I don’t even exist. I turn around and walk out. And that’s it.
I was just c*ckblocked by Darth Vader.
WHAT . JUST. HAPPENED. Movies and comics are my life. And now the biggest villain in cinematic history just actively prevented me from possibly making a meaningful connection!
Now, please don’t read into my use of the word “c*ckblocked”. That’s just a buzzword that succinctly sums up the situation (unlike this post). This was never about sex for me. I enjoyed talking to this woman. I enjoyed her vibe, her humor, and her whole deal. I simply wanted to let her know that I was open to getting to know her better if she was also interested. If not, fine, but I thought she deserved a say in the matter. That’s it. And I never got the chance. Because of the Sith Lord Vader.
Believe me, I can see the humor of the situation from the outsider’s perspective. Feel free to chuckle; it’s okay, really. It’s incredibly absurd, isn’t it? I always fall back to movies because they never let me down; they only make my life better and not worse. And now this.
But, as funny as it is, I’m also legitimately a bit bummed out. For once, I think I was doing well. I think I was handling it perfectly – exactly as I should. I think she genuinely enjoyed talking to me as much as I did talking to her. I had no expectations. I just wanted to learn more about her. And my plan for achieving that was appropriate – direct, but not too forward. Respectful of her, but taking my own needs and wants into account as well. And then I was thrown off by the most ridiculous of circumstances that left me with no acceptable methods of resolution.
What was I supposed to do? Walk up to her anyway, with Darth Vader doing his thing? In retrospect, that would have been pretty badass, sure. But that’s not who I am. I don’t forcefully interrupt people’s conversations, unless it’s an emergency. And this wasn’t. Maybe this was a sign not to give her my number, right? How can one know? Also, I have to figure that she knew I was there, in all reality, and she made the choice to not acknowledge me. That’s what I think.
But, if not, I had an idea that might have worked. I thought that I could buy a box of those Thin Mints while I was back at the con, return to the hotel before I left town, and presented her with the cookies and the number, both. And I can hear half of you, now: “Yes! You should have! It’s just like something out of a movie!” And I can hear the other half of you: “So glad you didn’t! That kind of thing only works in the movies!” And that’s what it’s like to live in my head.
To be clear, Spencer Wilding did nothing wrong, and I don’t actually have any resentment towards him. It’s the absurdity of the situation and the fact that something always seems to get in my way and keep me single. I just wish it wasn’t the movies, this time.