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The Office: The convention

Cassie Belek | Friday, November 2, 2007

Fall Break minus football plus an unhealthy obsession for “The Office” equaled an absolutely necessary attendance at “The Office” Convention in Scranton, Pa., from Oct. 26-28.

Dunderheads from across the nation (and even a few from Ireland) descended upon the Electric City to pay tribute to “The Office” and meet their favorite cast members and writers. I was one of those devoted fans who flocked to the convention for a chance to meet favorites Kevin Malone or Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration. In one weekend I went from nerd to super-nerd. I can live with that. After all, there will always be Trekkies. The following are the highlights from my two days at my first fan convention ever.

Friday, Oct. 26

4 p.m.: I arrived at the Radisson alone (my friend was arriving later) to register for “The Office” Convention. I know that Michael Scott prefers to do business at Chili’s, but this hotel and converted train station was pretty spectacular. The cast and crew from “The Office” was staying there, and people would wait around by the elevators for them to emerge. I didn’t want to be too creepy, so I only did this once or twice.

5 p.m.: After registering and getting my awesome “Assistant to the Regional Manager” pass, I ordered some chicken fingers at the bar and made friends with two middle-aged sisters from the area who took me under their wing and bought me beer. After they impressed me with their love for “The Office” and “30 Rock,” we headed to the convention kick-off happening in the next room. Leave it to me to make friends with two moms instead of people my own age.

5:45 p.m.: Somehow my new friends and I were singled out to be interviewed live by a local television station’s weatherman. They convinced me to join in a chorus of “Ain’t no party like a Scranton party” on air, and I was only embarrassed until I realized that I knew one person in Scranton and he was at a movie.

6 p.m.: In an unexpected surprise, some of the cast members started to arrive at the party. Fortunately, there weren’t many people there; I was able to get autographs and pictures from everyone who came – Brian Baumgartner (Kevin), Angela Kinsey (Angela), Oscar Nuñez (Oscar), Creed Bratton (Creed), Kate Flannery (Meredith) and Craig Robinson (Darryl). I was really looking forward to meeting Angela, but ended up having the most fun talking to Kate after I told her she was my favorite television alcoholic and I asked her whether she really had to lick Purell in an episode. (It was a replacement substance. Still gross.)

7:30 p.m.: After the party died down and the cast left, I headed to the NBC Store and bought enough merchandise to get a free Dunder Mifflin snowglobe. I was slightly ashamed of myself, but why should I be when my Dwight bobblehead and “Support the Rabid” wristband bring so much joy to my life?

Midnight.: I couldn’t go to Scranton and not hit up Poor Richard’s Pub. I had heard that it wasn’t the hippest hang-out, but it’s not that way on “The Office,” either. After getting confused by its location inside a bowling alley and realizing no one from the show was there (in fact no one else in town was really there either), my recently-arrived friend and I realized the Scranton party was elsewhere and left.

Saturday, Oct. 27

12 p.m.: While waiting for the Office Olympics to start, I was interviewed by “Best Week Ever,” which was pretty much a dream come true since I someday aspire to be a talking head on VH1. I didn’t do so well at “Office” trivia, so I only won a bumper sticker and some tape stolen from the Viacom offices (which I thought was actually pretty cool).

1:30 p.m.: The second bracket of Office Olympics finally started 90 minutes late. My friend dominated in the Coffee Mug Race, and I almost won my heat of Flonkerton. The closing ceremonies featured Kate Flannery, Brian Baumgartner and Leslie David Baker (Stanley) presenting yogurt lid medals with a string of paper doves in the background.

4 p.m.: While milling about the registration tent I spotted Andy Buckley (CFO David Wallace) signing autographs and taking pictures. He wore glasses and a suit so that people would recognize him – and it seemed to be working. Earlier my friend met Bobby Ray Shafer (Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration), but sadly, I never did.

5:30 p.m.: The cast finally arrived on stage for the Cast Q&A, which turned out to be the best event I attended all weekend. Ed Helms (Andy) sang a cappella, and the cast busted each other with “that’s what she said” at least five times.

7:45 p.m.: We went to the Mall at Steamtown (setting of Michael’s Women’s Appreciation excursion) to check out the “Scranton Welcomes You” sign that appears in the opening credits. The city moved it to the mall so that more people could see it. We even saw real live Scrantonians who weren’t obsessed with “The Office.”

8:30 p.m.: We had to leave town soon, but we wanted to check out “The Office” costume party and The Scrantones concert. When we arrived, however, all we found was a lame comedy group that no one was paying attention to or laughing at. After a few “Office”-esque awkward moments, we decided to depart on our five-hour journey to my friend’s house before the concert started. We said goodbye to the Jims, Pams and Dwights we had befriended over the weekend and goodbye to the marvelous Electric City. And even though attending “The Office” Convention probably cemented our positions in nerdom, I still think Dunderheads are cooler than Trekkies.