punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Another tale from fandom: The Shriners

This is one of my more favorite tales. It was told to me back in 1988 by a guy I only knew as "Orc." He was short and muscular; stocky without being fat. Clean-cut guy, looked like former military. Wore white leather armor with studs, and was an avid gamer.

I was at a party with him, and we were discussing how conventions were rowdy places that made us look bad (this was Disclave 88, I think, where the hotel shut down the pool and people got mad and threw furniture in it). Orc was in the middle of this tale about his convention misdeeds, and he replied to a comment I made about rowdy conventioneers as, "Oh no. You don't know rowdy. Congoers are not the worst a hotel has ever seen!"

He was right. While people make jokes about fat nerds wearing armor and reading comics at age 40, we among the fannish sometimes titter at things we have seen or done. Skinny dipping in the swimming pool at 2am. We all knew someone who had an orgy in their hotel room, and how sad it was. But a sister of a friend of mine in high school was the manager of Ramada in McLean. She laughed at science fiction conventions. "You guys don't even make the top ten. Even hosted a biker convention? Some sales conventions are terrible; a few companies have been banned from the Ramada for life. But some groups make the top of the list for getting damage deposits up front. The most surprising are the Shriners, who are number two on the list." Number one? I'll leave you in suspense, but it will make sense the second you hear it.

"Who are the Shriners?" some of you may ask. They seem like an unlikely group to cause fuss. Most are retired old men. They almost seem cute. An offshoot of the Masonic order, these guys are famous for wearing fez caps and driving teeny sports cars in parades. The Shrine's charitable arm is the Shriners Hospitals for Children, a network of twenty-two hospitals in the United States, Mexico and Canada. They deal with all pediatric cases, most especially with orthopedic injuries and disease and burns. So... a good group right? Of course.

Until they are separated from their wives and out of town. These cute grandfathers suddenly become drunken pranksters who would rival fraternities run by spoiled rich kids. I am not sure why this is, but I have witnessed it personally, as well as heard horror stories from the Ramada manager. "Before I worked here, we used to have this big marble fountain in the center of our atrium," she said. One night, some Shriners unbolted a soda vending machine, and heaved it into the fountain from an 8th floor balcony. The fountain broke on one side, spilling all the water into the lobby and did hundreds of thousands of dollars with of damage that took five months to fix."

So now that I have put that image of 8-9 men heaving a soda vending machine down a hall like Egyptian slaves, giggling and not thinking very far into the future, let's get back to Orc's story.

It was at a convention called "Shore Leave," a Trek and Gaming convention in Virginia Beach. The fandom there were a combination of military brats and out of towners from Virginia towns so small, this was the only way to find anyone who actually sold comic books. So you had a hearty mix of the finest fen Southern Virginia had to offer.

Orc said he was not a happy man that night. On top of his hotel mate bringing 3 extra people who were not paying and came unannounced, Orc had been playing a miserable game with a very bad GM for many hours. Him and his friend Red Dragon decided that when their character died, they would leave. Orc was the first to go, and he said good night, and went back to his room.

When he got to his room, two of the unannounced "extras" had already taken his bed. Angry, tired, and uncaring, he dropped his books loudly on the floor, propped his prop wooden axe near to the door with a slap, and when that didn't wake up the two girls, he just threw himself into bed, spiky armor an all. He said the only response he got was one girl sat up, looked at him, blinked, and then went to sleep. Orc stewed for a minute, wondering what to do, but then grew drowsy and started to fall asleep.

Knock knock knock...

Knock knock knock...

Orc's bloodshot eyes snapped open. Someone had been gently knocking at his hotel door for the last minute or so. "Who is it?" he screamed. No answer. Angrily, he got up, grabbed his prop axe and looked through the peephole.

Someone had their thumb over it. He heard giggling, and "Shh shh shh... I think he's there."

Orc, figuring it was either the missing roommate or one of her friends whom earlier he had denied hotel keys out of principle, gritted his teeth in sleep-deprived anger, and whipped open the door, and screamed "WHAAAAAAT???" which he admitted sounded more like "HHHRRRRR!!!!"

"SURPRI--" started a group of yelling old men that Orc had not expected to see.

About a dozen drunken Shriners has been standing in front of the door, arranged like a madrigal in a posed attempt to do what was known as "a surprise party." But instead of a fellow Shriner who would have been humorously scared witless in his pajamas, there stood in front of them a 5' 8" man in spiked white armor and an axe, screaming like a demon from their childhood nightmares.

The effect was like the diner car of a luxury train derailing.

"SURPRI-- oh shit!!" said the men. In their drunken fear, the front row of fez-adored octogenarians nearly ran over the row behind them. Most of them fell to the ground in a tangle while the row furthest from the door ran down the hallway. "Oh go ho god oh god!" some of them screamed, their Depends undergarments filled instantly to capacity. Within a few seconds, however, the men had fled in various directions out of sight down the hotel hallways.

Orc didn't say another word. He said he just stood there in confusion which diffused his anger long enough to not care as he closed the door and went back to bed.

The next afternoon, when he awoke, Red Dragon was also in the room. Glad his friend was awake, he dumped a pent-up rant of the game they had, which didn't end for Red Dragon until 4am. At some point, Orc managed to get in his night's encounter with the Fez Surprise Party Patrol that smelled of Aspercreme and fear.

"Heh," said Red Dragon when the story was done. "That explains what happened to me in the elevator on they way back."

Red Dragon was so named because he had a giant suit of black leather armor with red accents and a huge red dragon embossed on the front. He was in the middle of scratching his back with his costume sword, when the elevator door opened and he encountered the following:

"SURPRI-- oh god it's another one!!"

Red Dragon was shocked and dazed by this Fellini-esque encounter with old white men in dress shirts and polyester slacks. Before he could ask what the hell they were doing, the door closed, and the scrambling drunken figures were out of his sight. It wasn't until Orc told his side of the story that Red Dragon could even begin to describe the randomness of this encounter.

The number one most banned group of people at hotels? Military school proms. Combine hormones of suppressed young males with access to weaponry and slow dancing with their first girl at 17... mayhem ensues.
Tags: conventions, fandom, orc, red dragon, shore leave
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