Rooters for Scooters

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 Colorado Convention Center I wondered why? Was Denvention’s tight budget a factor? Did a lot of people who use these carts just stay home, perhaps unable to handle the altitude?

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.

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5 thoughts on “Rooters for Scooters

  1. Pingback: More SMOF Secrets? « The Crotchety Old Fan

  2. I showed up on Wednesday, and there was… oh, around a dozen or so electric carts parked by the Information/Handicapped Services area. And I saw a number of folks zipping around on carts during the convention, so maybe you just didn’t see ’em?

  3. I didn’t see most of them, evidently. It’s interesting to know you saw a dozen. I guess those had been reserved in advance, because the mini-controversy seems to be about having extras available.

  4. Dear Mike:

    As you know, Leigh walks with a cane these days. When we inquired, we were told that all of the carts were spoken for and no more were available. As for myself, that kind of distance on concrete floors was why I stopped being a trade magazine journalist. The distances between events were just killing and I spent a lot of time in the Green Room simply because everything was so far away. Net result was that Leigh and I didn’t even try to get to the ConSuite or other events in the hotels and we used cabs to get back and forth to our hotel. Less than ten bucks each way.

    Given that it cost us $200 each to attend, I do think the committee should have been just a little more sensitive to these issues. We could have done more had we not been so damn tired from walking those endless Hallways.
    At Seaworld these things rent for $35 a day. I would have paid it cheerfully to save Leigh the pain she endured. I can appreciate that the Con needed space for audience members and that programming was full, but, given the so called “graying of FanDom”, the comittee might of have been a little more heads up. The scale of that place to so large that the security and maintenance people use Segways to get around quickly. Renting Segways might have been another option.

  5. Fortunately for me I didn’t have to rent a scooter. My health improved due to a gluten-free diet. I found in Denver that I had as much energy as before my physical breakdown back in 1999.

    When I was renting scooters, I always made sure ahead of time that I had a scooter reserved for me. I never had any problems getting one.

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