Readercon's first in-person convention in about four years took place at the Quincy Marriott hotel, tucked right into the elbow of on-ramps between I-93 and Mass Rt. 3. This had been the convention's hotel pre-pandemic, but I had never participated there -- my first involvement was the fully-virtual one in 2021. So as with several other conventions in recovery, it was nice to get back into a real-life venue and essentially pick up where things left off three or four years ago.
I had a bit of an issue when arriving at the effectively new-to-me convention, where the people in the unfamiliar hotel had clearly not been briefed on some of the things that they might see during an event like this. The convention operations center was in a room off the back of the hotel's restaurant area, so on arriving I headed that way, only to be stopped by some officious person at its reception desk with the usual nonsense about needing shoes in the restaurant area. It went on from there, but was fortunately all put to rest fairly quickly when the convention leaders were apprised of this and brought it up during their final tie-down meeting with the hotel. I also supplied one of my fact-sheets with some excerpted DEI rhetoric from the Marriott website printed on the back, as supporting evidence. Whatever was said during that meeting, we were told to no longer worry about it and were not harassed any further afterward. I had no commitment or pivotal role in that convention, and refuse to bend the knee to any ignorant anti-barefoot bullshit. They knew that my attendance (and technical help) hung in the balance.
After the event was over I sent the following to the convention leadership, to make sure that everyone would be very clear on this and that nobody working for our venue would ever make rude comments about any attendee's attire in the future.
Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2023 09:50:14 To: [leaders]@readercon.org Subject: Statement for hotel I wanted to have some input into your follow-up meeting with the Marriott. I don't know what transpired between the con leaders and the hotel already about this, but you may want to forward or paraphrase the following to the general manager to pursue further and make sure it never happens again. === Upon arriving on Thursday to help with setup, I ran into a couple of hotel employees who got pretty rude with me about my appearance, in particular taking issue with the fact that I don't wear shoes. The first one was a greeter at the restaurant area, who tried to insist that I needed footwear to be within some specific area of brown-colored flooring. Like that was any different from the lobby or hallways, or even the parking lot outside that I had just walked across to come into the building. I eventually managed to get past him and check in at Seven Masts. This stems from the typical misguided mythology that footwear has anything to do with food service. It doesn't, and never has, but a lot of people grow up believing otherwise due to deeply discriminatory rhetoric from the 1960s. This is much more prevalent in the US than in other countries, due to how all the "shirt and shoes" nonsense got started back then. None of that ever had any basis in science or fact, it was largely just underhanded reactionism against the Civil Rights act of 1964. The second encounter was with the facility's chief engineer, as he identified himself, when I went out to the loading dock to check if more stuff needed to come in from the truck. He tried to claim that I needed shoes to be anywhere in the building at all, an equally specious and incorrect statement. He was actually pretty rude about it, tried to invoke some mumble about OSHA which is something that only applies to employees and only in particular roles, and I had to tell him I would bring the whole issue up then and there to the general manager if needed. Frankly, I have *rarely* encountered as hostile a reception as I did from that guy. He told me his name, but I did not make a note of it -- said he was the "head engineer", at any rate. I have worked two conventions per year at the hotel's sister Marriott property up the road, the Westin Waterfront, over the past decade or more. Quite a few folks at Arisia and Boskone prefer to be barefoot for much of their con activity, it's not just me. That includes traversing the deep back-of-house bowels and loading docks and wherever we need to be to work the event. I have it directly from that hotel's general manager, Steve Juscen, that we are all welcome to come and go as we wish in those spaces, and what is or isn't on our feet is absolutely irrelevant. For the most part, their employees have been briefed to that effect where needed, and they and our convention members generally get along famously. Any facility employee who would try to engage some random member of the public in such idiotic, adversarial conversations needs to be instructed to leave their own personal prejudice at home and never bring it to their workplace. It is not their job to treat others like five-year-olds. For more factual information on this, start at barefooters.org and/or google for keyword pairs such as "barefoot" and "health". It takes all of five minutes of poking around the internet to learn the objective truth.Convention operations proceeded smoothly otherwise, and I spent much of it monitoring sound in the larger panel rooms. I had never seen the convention-owned sound gear before, and found it lacking in several ways but with room for improvement, but managed to make some minor useful tweaks to what we had. In general it was a pretty mellow time over the rest of the weekend, and the staff and volunteers were well-fed which is always nice.