A large red wolf is half-sitting, half-laying — lazily, and in the most casual way — across the center couch of the lobby, engaged in speechless communication with the small handful of others already present at the venue. Around their neck dangles several identifying badges, two of which advertise Twitter and Telegram handles, complete with QR-codes for easy scanning. I immediately add them on Telegram, and open a dialogue, initiating the chat with a cartoon-style ‘sticker’ of an orange fox licking the screen: my usual conversation starter.
A small group of other fursuiters playfully chase each other around the lobby, and engage in other, similar types of innocent, childlike behavior. It’s clear we are in the right place, and that the festivities have already begun. Within ten minutes, I’m already feeling more relaxed, just to be in the presence of such good company.
The hotel, despite its unusual location, is surprisingly nice. The rooms are far larger than expected, and with what appears to be high quality showers: an especially important feature for me.
Downstairs, in what will later become the main convention space, a staff member is operating a small laptop computer tagged with hacker-culture stickers. They have consoled a Raspberry Pi single board computer and are composing from scratch an xorg.conf file in vi. The default screen-blanking feature, they explain in perfect English, is interfering with the digital signage software they have written. The problem is quickly fixed, with a few keystrokes of configuration directives, pecked into the keyboard with the casual and effortless precision of someone who obviously has a firm grasp on such things.
It is estimated that as many as 50% of furries work in IT, a trait that continues to puzzle psychologists. It would appear that there’s just something about working with technology that makes you not want to be human anymore. Professor Farnsworth would understand, and, I guess I too can relate.
I quickly decided to make my move. I know of a powerful social engineering tactic that guarantees instant popularity at times and places like this. It is cheap and easy, and, after observing the casual pre-convention atmosphere all around me, I had judged the timing right to put the plan into action.
After a quick trip to Aldi, I returned to the hotel with a large selection of cake, candy, soda, tea, and cheese. The cheese was for myself, the rest was promptly offered to anyone who wanted it. I had made my first impressions now, and later it would be far easier to start a conversation with any of these people.
“What are you writing?” someone asks. My MacBook, sitting open on the table with the food, with MarsEdit, a popular WordPress client, running full-screen with the draft of a post open, has found someone’s attention. I look over to see a friendly looking face. The badge says Meta Ravi, and the lanyard is orange.
The orange lanyard is reserved for those with the dubious honor of not being allowed to enjoy the convention while simultaneously being responsible for making sure everyone else does.
Before I can answer, additional staff approach and ask nicely that the remaining food be removed from the lobby. The hotel, is it explained, does not wish outside food to be brought in. I had been busted, but it was too late: I had already achieved my goal. Or had I? Sensing an additional opportunity, I instead demand, in a telling and sarcastic manner, that they remove the contraband items themselves… and take them to Con Ops. After a slight hesitation, they understand the offer, laugh, scoop up the junk food, and wander off.
Meta Ravi, having witnessed the whole operation, is visibly amused and again tries to start a conversation.
“I really enjoy meeting new people,” he starts off, “and you seem interesting to me.”
They are a writer, I would learn, and have been creating science fiction novels for over a decade. They had seized the opportunity my blog draft provided as a conversation starter.
We proceed to talk until well past midnight.