The Office Convention: Part One -- Arriving in the rain
I know that Scranton exists because I spent a full day there at The Office convention. Up until now my only other experience with long-from first-person journalism was reading Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Orginally, I was going to approach this assignment like him and go to Scranton whacked out on Mescaline. As it turned out, Mescaline wasn't really needed...
I'd like to think that I was chosen for this assignment because I'm considered on of TV Squad's top writers. That, in the halls of TVS Headquarters (deep in the heart of a man-made volcano shaped like Charles Nelson Reilly's head), our lead bloggers had a heated discussion where my name kept being brought up. "There's only one man for this job and it's Jay Black! Only his keen powers of observation and lightly mocking, poor-man's-Bill-Simmons-and-Chuck-Klosterman writing style could possibly do this event justice! For the love of all that is good and holy in this world, somebody get me Jay Black!"
In actuality, the conversation I had with the uppity ups here amounted to this:
Them: "Hey, you live near Scranton, right?"
Me: "Well, not near, Scranton, it's actually like two and a half hours --"
Them: "Perfect! Shoot on over there Saturday and see what's up, okay?"
And so it was that early Saturday morning, after only four hours sleep thanks to a late flight due to the Philadelphia International Airport not being able to figure out how to handle light rain, I found myself in a car headed up the Northeast Extension towards Scranton.
The Northeast Extension is a fun road because it has the most obvious solicitation for prostitution I've ever seen on a billboard: "The Body Clinic: We Don't Miss a Muscle." In a lot of ways, northeastern Pennsylvania is like the Old West without the romance...or the sophistication.
The other fun part of the Northeast Extension is that it has the drainage capacity of a third-world donkey-cart path. The light rain that hobbled my flight the night before had become a torrential downpour by the time I was up and driving to PA (more proof that God hates me). Of the four hours it took me to get there, I'm pretty sure that three of them were spent hydroplaning. Seriously, even the Michelin Man said he'd prefer to wait it out at a rest-stop. I pressed forward without him.
By the time I actually rolled into Scranton a little after 1 PM, I had officially become the person who had worked the hardest actually trying to get into Scranton.
The second I got into the city, I could tell there was an event going on. The right turn into the University of Scranton was blocked off and people wearing blue Dunder-Mifflin employee t-shirts were on every corner directing the convention attendees where to go. Unlike actual Dunder-Mifflin employees, they were nice, helpful, and competent. They got me a parking place and told me where to go: I, in turn, offered to buy one of them a massage at The Body Clinic. He stared at me blankly, which I took as a sign that the Jesuit morals of the campus are holding up well against Northeastern PA's Deadwood attitude towards prostitution.
I got up to the press room and received my pass. There was free food in the press room so that meant that there were a lot of reporters hanging out there. They asked me where I was from. I said "New Jersey." They looked at me with the kind of sad eyes a kindergarten teacher might look at a boy who was crying because he'd lost his mittens and then asked me again, more slowly, where I was from. I said, "Ohhhh, you mean who do I write for! TV Squad."
They hadn't really heard of us.
I turned to some of the kids in the room, figuring that they, a little more hip to the blogging community, might be aware of us. I said, "TV Squad? Part of AOL? The blog? I'm Jay Black? I write The Office reviews?"
More blank stares.
So I said: "Hm. Maybe TV Squad is a made-up blog to make me feel better. You know, like Creed's."
And this got a big laugh. Being a laugh whore, I will make this joke another 476,000 times throughout the course of the rest of the day, whenever someone doesn't know what TV Squad is. My photographer (comedian Jason Pollock) deserves credit for not punching me.
Coming soon: The Office Convention: Part Two -- Things to do in Scranton when you're dead