Friday, March 19, 2010

SXSW From A Corny Perspective

If you're thinking of attending SXSW at any time, you may want to read this.

I went to SXSW Interactive Conference 2010. It was fun and exciting and exhausting. I wasn't the only one exhausted, but I'm relatively sure I was in small company if not alone in attempting this with a semi-severe corn allergy.

I went through some AAT treatments about a year ago for my corn allergy (and others) but the treatment didn't stick long term and I've recently been becoming more and more sensitive, and I assume I'll be back to my old severe sensitivity in a month or two.

SXSWi lasted five days. Each day brought new surprises and new depths of tired. The first couple days seemed ok as there wasn't a whole lot of corny fumes, but by day 3 the Film Festival was solidly underway and popcorn was everywhere... or at least it seemed that way.

Most of the lecture rooms were safe from popcorn, unless you were unfortunate to sit near someone who brought in popcorn from one of the film venues. This happened to me a couple times. But the main hallways in the Austin Convention Center, and the Trade Show were filled with popcorn fumes.

The main problem was finding safe foods and beverages. I brought my own from home and it turned out all the free stuff was corny. Most of the bottled water available was also unsafe with added minerals. Since I live in Austin, I managed to bring my own water, which meant more trips to the car for refills as if there wasn't enough walking for SXSW.

Even with all my precautions, by day 4 I was allergy-sick. My lungs were full of phlegm, my sinuses clogged, my throat scratchy, and my skin felt like it was swollen and a bit on fire. It hurt to move my fingers. I ended up taking some prednisone to make it through the day. Even with that, by the time I went to bed at night my skin itched like I'd been bitten by a million mosquitoes.

On day 5 though, I got smart and managed to avoid walking by the popcorn machines themselves. I walked from one end of the Convention Center to the other, with only about 10 feet of obvious corn fumes. This required taking two escalators up to level 4, walk across 1/3 distance of the Convention Center, an elevator down to level 3, walking the rest of the way across the Convention Center, then an escalator back down to level 1 on the other side of the Convention Center. To return, I had to reverse this process. It was not a quick process, but it did help immensely lower my exposure to the popcorn fumes.

Most of the parties at night had free booze, if you could drink corny stuff. But the atmosphere was relatively corn-free, as Austin is a smoke-free bar scene. I should also mention that the films held at the Alamo venues in town should be relatively corn-free as well, as long as no one orders it near you. (There is usually no pervasive popcorn fumes at any Alamo as there is no candy counter but merely wait staff that bring your orders to you - like a restaurant)

All in all it was a good time, but not something for the faint of heart or ultra-sensitive corn allergic. I don't know how I'd have coped if I didn't live here and had to stay in a hotel.

So if you're thinking about checking out SXSW 2011, do make sure you take precautions and have an epipen handy.

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