The Office Convention: Part Two -- Things to do in Scranton when you're dead
After checking in (and eating my own weight in free press-room pizza), I went down to see what there was worth seeing...
(It should be noted that from this point forward I will only be referring to the actors on The Office by their character names and not their real names. You could make the argument that this is disrespectful, but I think that it's actually a testimony to how good the actors on this show are. Even when you're in the same room as them, you're not thinking, wow, look, I'm standing in the same room as Leslie David Baker, you're thinking: hey look, it's Stanley!)
These were the things there were to do:
1) The Office Olympics (moved inside due to rain, with awards given out by Kevin and Stanley).
2) The Stock Holders meeting (an improv session hosted by Oscar and Darryl).
3) A display of the costumes.
4) An autograph session with Kelly and Jan.
5) A concert by the Scrantones (with Creed on guitar)
6) A tent filled with Office T-Shirts
7) Another tent filled with local businesses desperately trying to link themselves somehow to The Office
8) A outdoor screen running Office episodes
9) A Q&A with the cast
10) A look-alike contest.
The problem was that the events were scattered throughout the city of Scranton. Scranton isn't a big town, but it's not exactly tiny, either (and I'm an American so, you know, I don't walk). The Stock Holders meeting was at the mall -- a good fifteen minutes by foot from the campus -- and the costume display was at the Train Museum -- which seemed like something that was imaginary.
I suppose if I was spending the entire weekend here with the sole purpose of soaking in everything Office related, I would have made it a point to get to both of these events. Inertia, however, kept me at the University where the majority of the rest of the events were playing.
Of the ten listed, the most popular was obviously the cast Q&A. We'll get to that later.
The 2nd most popular event was... watching Office episodes on a big screen. Yep, a lot of these people traveled thousands of miles (I talked to one guy from Ireland and another woman from Venezuela, both here specifically for the convention), so that they could stand outside, in the rain, and watch The Office.
That was, to me, the first major observation worth making about the people who attended this convention: They absolutely love this show.
What I mean is this: of all the events the organizers put together, other than getting the chance to interact with the cast, the thing that captured the attention of these people was simply watching the show. They weren't here to be memorabilia traders like at a sports or science fiction convention and they weren't here to get drunk and cheat on their spouses like at every other convention -- they were here to enjoy the show in the presence of others who enjoyed it as much as they did.
There was something sweet about this. In line at the Jan and Kelly autograph session, I talked to a group of women who had traveled from the four corners of the US as well as Canada and South America to meet up at the convention. I asked them if they were enjoying themselves and they all hooted -- which I took to be a "yes." When I asked what they were most excited about they said "getting to meet each other." Sharing their mutual love of the show was more important than what any of the events had to offer.
(Incidentally, the ladies I spoke with had settled on the name "Dunderheads" for the fans of the show. I don't know if this is official -- I don't want to get into an East Side-West Side/Trekkies-Trekkers kind of blood feud -- but I thought that was an appropriate enough name that I'm going to use it until enough people in the comments convince me of a better name!)
Scranton, much like Ronald Miller in Can't Buy Me Love, tried to make the most of its newfound popularity. It hosted a street fair where every single local business tried to connect itself in some way to The Office. Sometimes it made sense (one enterprising uniform company made up faux Dunder-Mifflin workshirts that I'm sure will sell wonderfully until NBC's lawyers hear about them), sometimes it didn't:
Seriously, would you ever take your dead grandmother to a place that advertised itself as "The Best Corpse House"?
Coming soon: The Office Convention: Part Three -- The press conference