It is with deep regret and disappointment that I tell you that I will not be attending CONvergence this year. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was not able to get to Minnesota or anywhere near it, and thus, am stuck at home in Phoenix. I'm very sorry to have to pull out of this event as I was very excited to join other authors on the panels, and to finally connect with people I'd only talked to online. This makes me absolutely sick to have to do, but I did all I could to get there, and it wasn't enough.
I'm so sorry.
You might be wondering what exactly happened. If so, read on.
So, I'm a new-ish author. Some of my work is self-published, other work is traditionally published and there have been bumps along the way. I'm also a stay-at-home-mom, meaning that writing is my day job. Every bit of income I make at writing goes back into my career. I sell a short story? I get the cover art for a self-published book. I sell a novella? I get to go to an out-of-state convention.
What I'm saying is that I'm on a budget. A rather strict one due to its capricious nature. So that is why I chose to use the opportunity I have with a family member who works for an airline. I paid for "buddy passes"--lower priced tickets for employee friends/family--months in advance. The fares are ridiculously cheap (two round trip tickets for the price of a single one-way seat.) The catch is that you have to fly standby, meaning that you aren't guaranteed a seat on the plane, but get any unsold seat, or, those of people who miss the flight. I recognize this was a risk, flying standby, however, this is the only way I was able to afford airfare to the convention.
I've been monitoring the flights for months. Watching numbers creep up here and there, but nothing that would cause alarm. When I woke up Tuesday (the day before I was due to fly out to Minnesota), the flight out was completely full and the list of standby passengers was huge. So around 9am Tuesday, I started working the rust off of my "I worked for an airline 11 years ago" brain and looked for options. Connections, other flights, re-routes...
Every direct flight to Minneapolis was sold to capacity. I tried connections through Denver, LA, Charlotte, Philly... all of them were 1 or 2 seats from being booked with long standby lists already. The likelihood of getting stranded in another city was great. So, by 4pm I'd changed my reservation (tenuous as it was) to take the midnight flight out of Phoenix. This would give my husband and I the best chance of getting to Minneapolis, and, if we were bumped to the next flight, it would give us some priority over other travelers and a better chance of getting on the flights.
Because 7 people were bumped from the evening flight and got priority on us, we weren't able to get onto that redeye and spent the night in the airport. (Hijinks ensued. I'll write about those another time.) All night I watched as flights went from booked to oversold, and standby lists swelled, with many people getting priority over us (there is a heirarchy in standby and we were in the middle). Again, I checked connections...Dallas, Detroit, Wisconsin?, Albuquerque, Chicago. All of those flights were overbooked out of Phoenix, and the legs to Minneapolis from those cities were no better.
I looked at what it would take to buy two of the remaining seats on the one Wednesday flight that wasn't oversold and it would've been $1400/person. I don't know about you, but I don't have an extra $2800 just laying around for a rainy day. Other airlines? No better. All oversold.
What about leaving Thursday? Every flight, every combination... all of them were identical to the flights I'd already check. Overbooked, large standby lists. None would get me to Minneapolis in time for my first panel. The best chance we had of even making it to Minneapolis was a connection through Charlotte that we MIGHT make both ways, and if we did would land us in the Twin Cities Friday around midnight.
No, the only way I could get to CONvergence and meet all of my obligations would be getting on a direct flight on Wednesday.
By 7am we were at the gate for our next potential flight (after that gate had changed 4 times, keeping us rather nimble) and waiting. I watched the lists, constantly refreshing them. Our names went down the lists as people with some arcane priority got loaded in front of us. We weren't even close to getting on that one.
We tried another flight. It left at 12:10, and due to a connecting flight arriving late (and about 5 people not being able to run fast enough), we almost made it onto that flight. But it didn't happen. The heirarchy of standby didn't give a shit that this was our 3rd try, or that we'd followed the rules and dressed business casual. A couple who'd just arrived in their shorts and tie-dye shirts looking like they'd spent a couple of days in Margaritaville got on in front of us.
I looked at the next one, due to leave at 3pm. We checked the list. We were near the top. This was our best chance. We were going to stick it out for one more flight (because again, everything after was oversold with growing standby lists.) Within five minutes, our names plummeted due to passengers who'd missed connections getting on the list ahead of us.
We quit. It was a difficult decision.
By that time I'd been awake for 27 hours and working on the problem of getting us to Minneapolis for most of that time. I'd barely eaten. And all that lay before us was more of the same: trudging from gate to gate in hopes that someone else would have a shitty day and we might capitalize on their misfortune.
We went home.
I feel terrible that I had to pull out of a convention. I feel terrible that I had responsibilities to others and I am unable to fulfill them. I should've done more, should've waited, should've been stronger or able to sleep in a brightly lit airport terminal when the cleaning crew is louder than the jet outside....should've been able to afford the ridiculously steep fare...
I tried and it wasn't enough. I did all that I could. It wasn't enough. And I'm sorry.
So that's what happened. I'll write a funnier blog about the time spent at the airport. Or you can read my tweets/Facebook posts on the matter. They read like a slow descent into Lovecraftian madness.
If you're at CONvergence, have a great time for me and support the authors there.