I packed the bare minimum of clothing, the maximum of electronic equipment (laptop, iPod, headphones), toiletries, magazines, a few old puzzle handouts, and one paperback. I checked my duffel bag to avoid hassles about my 4 oz. lens fluid, and it was a relief not to have to stuff the laptop or purse inside the bag to keep the carry-ons to 2 pieces. After I checked the bag at curbside, I realized most of my reading material was in it. Luckily the guy let me reopen the bag (sitting outside on a cart) and remove the magazines.
On the short plane ride, "Mutation" kept me interested enough to finish. The landing was so smooth I hoped we were actually on a runway. The terminal seemed endless. By the time I reached the baggage claim, the bag was there so there was no additional wait in checking the bag. I was to meet Wampahoofus and he found me easily. JrMan was driving squonk_npl and persona, and would take us if we fit. We loaded all the baggage, but the trunk wouldn't close even though nothing seemed to be in the way. Finally I noticed an umbrella sticking out and moving it solved the problem (ha, umbrellas are my specialty).
Ann Arbor was further away than I thought (and Ann Arbor itself was more spread out than I imagined), but we soon arrived at the con hotel, seeing people immediately in the lobby. My room was on the 5th floor down a long hallway again reinforcing my notion that this was one spread-out place. I unpacked and went back down to schmooze. I wasn't wild about Ethiopian food the one time I tried it, looked for people NOT going to the Blue Nile, and decided to go to the well-recommended Zingerman's Deli with Panther, elainetyger and Sanit. My chicken paprikash was spicier than I like, but the food quality seemed excellent.
In order to save time, we hadn't taken a route going directly through the university, so I didn't get to see it and wasn't sure I ever would. We got back to the hotel on the late side, and found seats in the ballroom. For the newspaper game, my table considered working in 2 teams but then pretty much combined. We still couldn't find many of the items, but weren't organized enough to form a strategy other than making an easy-looking word square and then finding the words in it.
tmcay's Coordination could have a 10-person table, so some of us moved to the next table to play. The game was as fun as it ever was, and I found I didn't know the "Wordplay" poster as well as I should have (though I was close).
The announcement that extravaganza teams of 2 or 3 needed to be self-formed struck me into panic. Even though I know everyone and everyone knows me, I prefer being put on a team or having random selection over risking rejection by asking people (after all, I'm not that great an Enigma-type solver, people might have already formed teams, etc.). I considered putting my name up by myself, but then what if complete newbies signed up (and then I'd have to do everything myself, and I'm not really that good, or they could lose interest and leave me to solve everything myself...) or someone I didn't want to solve with joined me (there are a very few people in that category). This was getting to be more pressure and stress than I wanted.
In the end, it worked out. Canadian Gary who I had talked to earlier that afternoon (he's from Montreal so I could do Jewish Geography with my relatives there) asked me to play (he was new, but a ringer since he'd represented Canada in the WPC), and then we thought we'd look for another Canadian to make things, well, Canadian (I *am* half Canadian), thought of Fraz or Witz, turned around, and there was Witz. So the team was formed, with no anguish at all. I later found out Fraz didn't have teammates at that point, so he would have worked out too. Oh well, I prevented a fully Canadian team, as opposed to our 2.5 out of 3.
With that settled, I didn't know if I'd get cryptics partners. I'm not much of a cryptic solver, and some years I don't do the paired cryptics. Other years I do (one year this was even arranged in advance by e-mail for all 3 puzzles). In this case, ennirol asked me for one (which I wrote down between Spelvin and Harth on the program, leading me to think it was Spelvin's, while she meant Harth), Teki found me for our quasi-traditional partnership (Ucaoimhu's), and Badir had Harth's left (I forget who asked who; I previously solved with him on Haystack and Puzzle Boat).
So all social anguish about teams was laid to rest. Now it was time for social anguish about after-hours games. Again, I know everyone. Everyone knows me. Even people I don't really know know me. Yet I'm sometimes shy when I see groups around tables, not knowing if I should join. By now I know that you don't hang around near a "Jeopardy!" or other trivia game you might later play in case of spoilage, but generally anyone can join in on anything. Noam had asked me to play his J! but I got there after it started, so wandered aimlessly for a bit.
My laptop was giving error messages when I tried to do the NYT scripts for converting InDesign puzzles into Across Lite, so now was a good time for the developer toonhead_npl to troubleshoot this. He brought some files on an external drive, and painstakingly tried lots of things, but couldn't solve the problem. He did pinpoint where it was occurring, and it might be related to my having a slightly different OS than Will's machine at the Times where it works just fine. Toon and Manx both had brand-new iPhones (Manx's first cell!) and were geeking out on all things Mac. The phone had many cool features, but the small screen and awkward keyboard are not for me. It would be nice to get Internet and e-mail on the fly, but I don't see how a tiny keyboard could suit a speed typist.
Since I had been up early and this was my travel day, I went to sleep not long after.