20.2.14

Booth Babes

The beanbag section of the Penny-Arcade Expo, in 2010, was a glorious spattering of randomly-colored seating where nerds – some better deodorized than others – escaped. Escaped into sleep, into Pokemon, into the kind of constant, welcoming alternate realities that make coming to PAX mandatory in the first place. I took my laptop.

Two beanbags to my right sat a pair of beleotarded women who'd been promoting a big, middle-of-the-showfloor battle game. One was a brunette in a Blue/Gold Poly leotard. We’ll call her Reese. The other, a subdued blonde in a noisier leotard, we’ll call her Kate. Kate seemed pretty exhausted. The day before, my group had wondered why Reese and Kate were even here. Why, if the PAX organizers had banned “booth babes” – the much-derided models hired to show skin to promote games – were these two rocking body-groping polyester? As happens, my mouth was open and doing conversation-like things before I realized what was happening.

“Hey, yeah you. Booth babes. Can I interrupt your coffee break?”

They stared with iron faces and mirrored shades. One of them (closest to me) raised her aviators.

She says, “Sure, what's up?”

My brain, still not quite engaged, “You are booth babes.”

She lowers the shades.

“Well, I mean, do you play games?”

“No.” 

“So, then, what are your impressions of We The Nerds?”

She grins.

“I mean...”

“Yeah, I've got my opinions,” she said.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. I've got rules, actually.” She says. “But you won't like them.”

Her blonde friend grins, half-looking over. A man in his early twenties, wearing a Valve employee’s polo, looks up from a silver Nintendo DS.

“I will probably like them,” I say.

“So, yeah, just keep in mind,” she says. “I'm hurting you to help you. These aren't friendly suggestions.

“First: the armpit stamp. So I'm in this poly leotard all weekend, right? And it's hot. And everyone is hot. And you guys, you come up for pictures, right? You're hot, sweaty, soaking through your t-shirts and pressing that against me. I am now participating in your armpit stain because you pressed your arm against me. You wouldn't believe how many people do that – and I can't be like, “Dude, that's disgusting,” because I'm working. But what happens, since this thing is dryclean only, is that now I'm reverse pit-stamping your friends. See?

“In that vein – you can bathe, it's okay. It's all good. You could even use products like deodorants and/or cologne. But I don't need them hanging around me all weekend. In moderation. It mixes with the pit and makes life difficult. Like, I'm going and partying with these game developers, right? I don't need to smell like the perfume counter at Macy's.”

The Valve employee has a huge grin. I’m typing furiously. These two things have Reese charged up, going for broke. 

“No lurking. Don't stand around and stare, and don't visit more than twice a day – five times a day is not necessary – unless we clearly like you. That's another story. We'll give you hints either way. But we're technically working, so our normal evasive options are limited.

“Use words, not obscure hand signals. You can talk to us. That's okay. There's a lot of jerky, nervous grunting, and some of you have clear issues getting up and onto the podium. Relax. As long as you're not being a creepster and coming up behind us. I'm not going to say no to you, so don't try to sneak it in on me. Like this? Totally unnecessary.”

She displays a few choice groping maneuvers on Kate.

“On the flip side, no sexy poses. I'm not going to spank you, or bend over for you.

“Finally, and really, don't be offended. No, this is totally going too far, I know, but there's options besides shirts with ironic statements. We count them. I think we're up to, what?”

“No, I lost count,” Kate shakes her head.

“There was that one, ‘sorry about your face.’ Something silly on a shirt. Like you're all trying for individuality, and it's all just a bit homogenous.”

At that point I show off my paisley Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt, hoping to earn a little ire, to stick up for my inadequately-adorned brethren.

“Pff, nah, that's vintage. Huge difference.

“Oh, yeah, and the ironic shirts are the worst. The real soaked-through pit-stampers... Anyway. Those are the rules.”

We talk, off and on, for another twenty minutes or so. Reese The Booth Babe was a gender studies major, back in LA. The modeling stuff just paid the bills. I’d later approach their booth with my journalist friend and his camera. I kept my hands near my pockets – though they both reached over for a big friendly photohug and I instantly felt bad. I started to move my arms up to do the friendly photohug in kind, and then I remembered, pit stamp. I remembered, smiled, and participated in the communal armpit stain.

Because Reese and Kate may not have been a part of my tribe, but they were very nice ladies.

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Back to chapter introduction

Next: Segregation>>


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(3/7/14) Went crazy and posted entire chapter. But I'll leave this bit below, because it was here before. And, like, because because.

This is a brief blip from my book In Play, now available in paperback and kindle.

Read from the beginning

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