Now that I have been accepted into nursing school, my time is no longer spent trying to research the multitude of requirements that the NursingCAS application service demands of its prospective students. For some ludicrous reason, the programs starting in the Spring (which I thought I would have to apply to since there were only two programs in the Fall) require a separate, more meticulous application (including an entirely separate admissions test) than the ones in the Fall. With some of my free time reclaimed, aside from work, I have generally been buoyantly passing the time at my own pace while fondly looking forward to classes starting on August 31st.
Recently, I found myself with an opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. on May 30th and the 31st. It was a trip that I was looking forward to, but I was also concerned that the ongoing deluge of storms and flooding in Texas would delay my travel plans. With thunderstorms pounding the area almost non-stop since the start of the month, highways were flooded, animals were displaced, and cars were swept aside by powerful currents. Thus, as had been the case with all the other days in the month, May 30th was under both thunderstorm and flooding advisories; the day before, around 19 flights had been delayed or cancelled at the Dallas Love Field airport due to similar concerns.
While the weather was clear when I reached the airport, the rain began to come down as we were boarding the plane. By the time the plane had taxied to the runway, the wind was blowing hard enough to cause visible “ripples” as the rain struck the tarmac. The plane had to wait around twenty minutes before taking off due to safety concerns and the flight was definitely bumpy — lighting was visible around us on more than one occasion. The pilots did a good job however and the plane reached Reagan National Airport only five minutes behind schedule. Thankfully, the weather in Washington, D.C. was more akin to a normal summer day.
Another thing I was thankful for was the fact that the Super Shuttle service spared me from having to utilize a rental car in the pedestrian-dominated streets that are typical of the Northeastern states. The shuttle itself was extremely reliable and took me to my destination in a timely manner even despite the other passengers on board. An added bonus was the fact that we were right in the Capitol Hill area so we were able to pass historic landmarks such as the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol, The Pentagon, and the National Archives Building. After a mere fifteen minutes or so, the shuttle dropped me off at the Morrison-Clark Historic Inn.
Though the hotel was in fact among America’s historic hotels, I actually stayed in a modernized, newer wing attached to the original building. Nevertheless, my fourth-floor window offered a charming view of the alleyways below, yet again typical of the architecture prevalent in the area. I did not stay long however, for I had been hoping to stop by at an event that had been brought to my attention a few weeks back.
During that same weekend was a comic / popular-culture convention by the name of Awesome Con. Though I would only be in town for the Saturday and Sunday that the convention would be taking place, Saturday’s guest list had caught my eye. On Friday and Saturday, William Shatner would be present at the event. In addition, on Saturday and Sunday, George Takei would also be in attendance. Given that both of these people starred among the original Star Trek crew, both were immense heroes of mine — especially William Shatner and his legendary role of Captain Kirk.
Since I arrived in D.C. during the late morning, the convention’s admission line had dwindled. Considering this fortuitous, I immediately walked all the way to the end of the exhibit hall to what the map indicated would be Mr. Shatner’s booth, only to find it empty. Nevertheless, the line in front of his table was encouraging so I opted to wait with the others. I must point out for a moment how nervous I felt and how inwardly surprised I was at my nervousness. Every so often, the black curtain behind the booth would rustle and I would honestly feel my heart rate quicken in response. Eventually however, the man himself appeared and he appeared looking exactly the same as he did in the Star Trek movies.
…no, really. For an eighty-four year old, he looked great and literally looked like the same Captain Kirk that I had watched all these years. He looked the same, talked the same (in his characteristic style), had the same warm demeanor that he would display when talking to Spock or McCoy… he even wore a black jacket reminiscent of his maroon one in The Final Frontier.
It certainly astonished me how Mr. Shatner looked like he had walked right out of the big screen and into the exhibit hall. I half expected him to look more aged and less interested in his fans, but he truly surprised me with the attention he was giving each person who talked to him. It was not a rushed affair with him trying to see as many people as possible; he took the time to smile, make eye contact, and speak with each of his fans. When it was my turn to see him, he gave me his autograph, exchanged a few words with me, and filled me with awestruck joy. I can still hardly believe it happened.
Mr. Shatner signed (and recognized!) a book that I had brought with me — Star Trek: The Ashes of Eden. As some of my friends may already know, the book he signed was my very first exposure to Star Trek. I had happened to pick up the book by chance at my high school’s library one day and stumbled upon Captain Kirk’s final mission. The bonds between Kirk and his crew were so well written and so tangible however that I had to experience their adventures from the beginning. Thus began my journey through Star Trek and all of its episodes — a feat that I finally concluded at the end of 2014.
Shaking off my reverie, I snapped to attention and searched for Mr. Takei’s booth, which was sure to be nearby. He was already present at his stand, but as a result, the line to see him was extremely long. Undeterred, I got into line and played with the Streetpass feature on my Nintendo 3DS to help pass the time a little bit quicker. At age seventy-eight, Mr. Takei had definitely aged in appearance, but his voice remained as recognizable as ever. He too was very warm and friendly, taking his time with the fans. While signing my book, I was a little surprised to find that Mr. Takei recognized the work as well — it was just a nice feeling to know that both actors took interest in their characters outside of filming.
I was contented, and I was elated. I had just met some of my biggest heroes. I roamed the convention in a reverie, not having fully digested what had happened. Eventually however, I walked over to the main event hall, back for more. Both George Takei and William Shatner had their own Q&A panels and both had lengthy lines to be seated prior for their events. Since my attention was mainly directed towards the two crew members, I had no problem lining up early and passing the time with my 3DS.
Both panels were charming in their own way. Mr. Takei spent a lot of time detailing what his character represented in Star Trek as a whole and shared the manner in which “Sulu” was given his name by Gene Roddenberry. To someone like Takei, who is a part of multiple minority groups, it was very important for him to constantly strive to advocate “positive change” in society. Thus, Takei stressed both the importance of being true to oneself and the value in moving forward for constant betterment. “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations,” he spoke, reminding the audience about Vulcan philosophy and thanked the older audience for having nurtured such a mindset with their support of Star Trek over the years.
While Takei’s panel was centered around Star Trek and its regard for social issues, Mr. Shatner’s panel focused on a different facet. Most prominently, Shatner’s Q&A was a humorous celebration of Star Trek and its ideology, oftentimes even reducing the staff members to laughter-induced tears. The aging Shatner very much wanted to remind the audience that Star Trek is a spirit — an essence. A reminder that there may be a different way of doing things. A reminder that the future perpetually exists in front of us and that adventure always awaits.
I have to say that Shatner truly knew both how to entertain and weave his words together as a masterful speaker. In an almost seamless manner, he opened the panel with a near fifteen minute introduction that detailed an experience he had in NASA and slowly shifted the focus of his anecdote to the audience — his point being that everyone in the room was united by their love for science fiction and adventure. As the panel progressed, he talked about his experiences on the show and prudently transitioned to speak in memory of Leonard Nimoy. The man at the front of the room was visibly saddened as he remembered his friend.
An audience member broke the silence, apologizing for never having seen Star Trek, but respectfully remarked that Mr. Shatner seemed like a very inquisitive person. As the end of the time slot neared, a mischievous member of the audience hoped to stir things up a little by asking Shatner to recreate his famous “get a life” Saturday Night Live short performed years ago. The original skit itself was one that proved to be somewhat controversial as it poked fun at extremely nerdy and hard-core Star Trek fans, but those familiar with Shatner’s furtive humor can easily see the skit’s parodic nature.
Mr. Shatner apologized and stated that he could not remember the dialogue from something he had done so many years prior, instead opting to launch into a long-winded oration about the concept of “life” itself. Showcasing his curiosity and introspective abilities, Shatner talked about the Butterfly Effect and the facets of “life” that get passed on from generation to generation. He talked about the immensity of “life” and the numerous adventures that lie a part of it. He talked about the fact that “life” is a malleable concept that can be shaped as a vessel to propel forward one’s ambitions. And then, having thoroughly led the audience on far enough, he flashes the classic Captain Kirk grin and ends his panel with words to inspire, not mock– “Get… a life!”