On Saturday at Denvention I commented to Diana how surprised I was to see so few fans riding electric carts. They’ve become commonplace at Worldcons, where less mobile fans use them to get around huge convention centers. I really don’t know how many carts fans rented at past Worldcons. Rather like the larger carts carrying passengers at the airport, it takes only two or three beeping past to make you think you’ve seen a lot of them. But seeing none at all in the prairie-sized corridor that ran the length of the
At least in big cities, there generally is a medical equipment rental service that fans can make advance arrangements with, the Worldcon doesn’t have to become involved at all. However, past performance now has created some expectations that the Worldcon committee will facilitate arrangements for attendees who discover at the con they can’t handle all the walking and now want to rent an electric cart.
If a committee rents a small number of carts as a contingency, it may recover the expense from fans who use them. So the problem for the Worldcon is not the expense, but having to front the money, and choose this over something else that has to be paid in advance. There’s also a small risk that not all the carts will be sub-rented to members.
Denvention was a smaller Worldcon, its budget was really squeezed, and so questions looking at this single item in isolation from all the tradeoffs considered in Denvention’s budgeting process have been cheerfully answered with accusations that people are confusing the Worldcon with socialized medicine.
Worldcons really don’t have the resources to be electric cart vendors, but people benefit when a committee uses its local knowledge to identify businesses that supply this equipment. Denvention seems to have given that help to fans who planned in advance. The question really is what future Worldcons should provide for these last-minute needs, if anything. The issue needs a champion — jargon that comes with a built-in warning there will be resistance to overcome. (When Electrical Eggs did this work, they had their admirers and detractors, both.)
The best suggestion I saw in the recent discussion on the Smofs list was Sharon Sbarsky’s idea to find a past Worldcon with surplus funds, or get fans to donate, $1000 to rent four additional, spare electric carts to have available at next year’s Worldcon, Anticipation. “If the scooters get rented, the money received goes back into the fund to rent scooters at Aussiecon 4. Less than four get rented, then the number is reduced for the next year unless additional money could be found. If the idea catches on, then more spare scooters could be rented.”
In everything that happens at a Worldcon, labor is even dearer than money. If somebody takes up this cause, however, I think they will find financial support fairly promptly.