SDCC 2015: Tales from the Hall H line

hall h line
The beginnings of the Hall H line for Friday morning can be seen on the left and right hand edges of the sidewalk.

Hall H. The hall of halls at San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). Long time attendees are well aware of the level of dedication it takes to earn a spot in this coveted place. For those of you unfamiliar with the hall, Hall H is the largest and most popular hall at SDCC. It is here that studios promote upcoming blockbusters and popular television shows. After Twilight invaded SDCC, camping out overnight in the Hall H line had become commonplace.

I consider getting into Hall H something that everyone should do at least once. Sleeping out under the stars and chatting with equally nerdy strangers is an experience of a lifetime. I have plenty of stories to tell from my time in line, but first, a rant.

The introduction of wristbands was supposed to alleviate the need to campout, providing everyone with plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the Con. While things might have moved smoothly last year, this year has proven to be a hot mess.

Fights erupted Thursday evening when large groups of people line jumped. Only a handful of wristbands were passed out to those in the Americans with Disabilities line. People began lining up for Saturday morning Thursday afternoon, even though according to the Toucan Blog attendees can only begin lining up for the next day after the last panel of the present day. Anyone left without a wristband might make it into the hall eventually. However, knowing that there are food carts and restrooms inside Hall H is not very encouraging since attendees can essentially stay inside all day. Thursday night campers were left wondering about wristbands until 1am, and on Friday night, wristbands were said to be distributed at 9:45pm, but they didn’t make it to my end of the line until roughly 2am!

Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let me tell you what it’s like to wait in line for hours on end for a chance to get into the most action packed hall at SDCC.

Thursday night ended on a high note. I was able to attend the Drunk History/ Another Period panel and the Nerdist Gaming panel, so I was still chuckling when I strolled out of the convention center in search of the Hall H line at 9pm. I had seen part of the line earlier, but I figured it couldn’t be that bad. Most Hall H line pros had said that as long as you get in line by 11pm you’d be fine.

Unfortunately, I had failed to thoroughly exam Friday’s schedule. Walking Dead and Game of Thrones were in charge of most of the day.  There was also a little film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens scheduled for Friday night. Next year, I’ll know better. Triple check the schedule and be aware of which fandoms will show up.

When I finally found the end of the line, I was out behind the Xbox Gaming Lounge, where very little signs of life could be seen. Since the SDCC staff had no information to share with us, I turned to Twitter for help. @HallHLine was a definite lifesaver. I highly recommend following the Hall H twitter handle if you plan on getting in the hall. Not only did I learn what was going on elsewhere in line, but it provided quite a bit of entertainment.

As time marched towards midnight morale was running pretty low. According to Twitter, my section of the line was deemed “the others.” Our chance of getting a wristband was zero, and many wondered if we would be able to get in the hall at all. Just then, as people were abandoning all hope, the So So Happy crew appeared with Domino’s cheese pizza! That was all the fuel we needed to make it to 1am when we were officially told that all the wristbands were gone. We were welcomed to stay in line and take a chance at making it in the hall. With pizza in our bellies and a new hope on the horizon, we all selected a piece of sidewalk and hunkered down for the night.

waldo 2

The next morning we were greeted by a group of jogging superheroes just before we made a brisk walk to the small local park that had recently been designated The Island. While waiting on The Island, I had a delightful conversation about Kingdom Hearts.

Eventually we all needed to use a restroom. At the time, the closest facility was the park restroom. Park restrooms aren’t the cleanest to begin with, but this particular one lacked stall doors in the Women’s restroom. Although I heard that the Men’s restrooms were nothing more than a hole in the floor, so in that sense we had it better. This is where having a buddy in line really pays off. You can ask a pal to save your spot while you use a restroom at one of the hotels.

I eventually ducked out of line on Friday because I was due to meet up with an old friend for lunch. I was pretty far back in the line anyway. Besides the panels I really wanted to see were on Saturday. Don’t get me wrong, I love Star Wars, but I’ve been burned by my love of all things jedi before.

With Friday night closing in, and learning from my previous miscalculation Thursday night, I kept track of @HallHLine. People began tweeting that The Island was filling up. That was my cue. If you make it on The Island, you get a wristband. A wristband means you enter the hall.

I was in line by 6pm. Half of The Island had filled up already so I was confident I had made a wise choice. Those around me were worried about getting in. Using my sage knowledge from the night before, I assured everyone that we would definitely make it into the hall Saturday morning.

As I sat chit chatting with the people surrounding me who would soon become my wolf pack, we all talked about things that would help pass the time faster. One person requested ice cream, another a dance party, and I wanted a concert and fireworks. Suddenly we heard cheering from the entrance of the park. A group of Stormtroopers had appeared. The word from Twitter was that Joss Whedon had invited everyone in Hall H to a free Star Wars concert. At first, we were disappointed, but then we realized, “Hey we’re right next to the concert venue. We’ll be able to hear everything.”

We certainly did hear everything, including a hype woman who seemed to have trouble getting concertgoers pumped up. Before the concert began, they played dance music, which got us pretty pumped up. A few minutes later an ice cream truck appeared. The concert’s finale included a spectacular fireworks show. It just goes to show, if you ask, the Comic Con Gods will answer.

Everyone in line was beaming after the last firework faded into the night sky. In mere minutes we would all have wristbands. The night was still young and there were after parties everywhere. We could leave, get some drinks and some food, and come back to line without any problems since the end of the line barely touched the basketball courts. However, minutes turned into hours. Around midnight we heard the Batmobile revving it’s engine. It was at that point we started saying that we had been forgotten. It is also at that point that social media proved our biggest source of amusement.

Those sitting on the marina felt bad for us. Or should I say, they feared us. Tweets about the sounds of drumming from The Island and walkers making a break for the mainland flew across the twitterverse. I kept everyone up to date with the latest twitter newsbreak, which helped us make it to midnight before passing out.

Just before 2am, I heard those magical words, “The wristbands are coming!” I was up in a flash looking for the mythical red blinking lights. There they were on the backside of The Island. Slowly inching their way towards us. I woke up everyone right away.

wristband

Four hours after the allotted time, I had secured a wristband. We were told that we could go back to our hotels and sleep, but we all knew that the lines would begin moving at 5am. What was the point of leaving?

Victorious in our quest, we snuggled deep into our blankets, and talked about actress Margot Robbie and our favorite panels of the day before drifting off to sleep.

5am rolled around and we rolled out of the grass eager to get moving. Those who had left after receiving wristbands returned at 7am with breakfast treats for their friends who stayed overnight. The closer we got to Hall H, the more diligently we watched for line-jumpers. Before we knew it, we were at the Promised Land, Chute #4.

Standing there, waiting for our group to go in was exhilarating. We had braved the cold, fought off hunger, and defeated boredom. Any second now, we’d be heading in for the experience of a lifetime. Any second we’d be sitting in the same room as our favorite actors. Then the signal comes for us to move forward. The light of day fades, and darkness envelopes us.

Read the second part of this article (Tales from Hall H)

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