The National Rural Health Association held its annual conference in Atlanta (that most rural of American localities) this year. On Tuesday we started lamenting the state of rural health infrastructure and planning our dire futures.
On Wednesday, two giant skunks appeared in the lobby of the hotel. Whispers rippled around the place: the furries were coming.
The 800 attendees of the health conference divided: a third of them googled furries, a third fled to their rooms, and the rest staked out seats at the bar and watched the luggage parade.
More than 6,000 furries descended. The number of sparkly unicorn heads on luggage carts, the inflatables trapped inside plastic, eyes always looking out with pleading expressions, and the unflappable Atlanta red cap bellmen, pushing carts with dignity as leopard tails fell over the sides, moving little pink fuzzy claws just before they got trapped in the wheels. Oh, the photo opps.
That was nothing compared to Thursday night in the bar–and the lobby, and the restaurant, and the main plaza, and the escalators…
Turns out, furries are really nice, ehm, people? If you ask they generally enjoy having their photos taken, or saying a few words to friends back home who love their particular species. Witness Mr. March Hare, who waved to my friend Willie, the first woman I know to decorate her kitchen using an Alice in Wonderland theme.
Friends back home who know me as that nice buttoned-up author who crochets and rescues cats, and doesn’t make trouble for the neighbors, sent polite private messages when I began posting Furries on my FB feed. A fellow musician and Rennaissance Faire enthusiast summed up the gist of these, “Umm, Wendy, did you go there on purpose?”
Falling into the furry convention also coincided with my birthday. Friends had promised to take me to the Atlanta aquarium, but we just parked ourselves ringside and watched the lobby fill with fur–and scales, and a trio of inflatable toucans (maybe?) who stole the show. From Facebook, friends flung advice: Give them cookies! They love cookies! Don’t step on their tails, they get surly. Don’t worry, they only bite if you ask nicely.
And the furry jokes, which we will gloss over. These came down to a bunch of friends asking, “But what is the point of this” with others more in the know sending some iteration of “cosplay with benefits.”
I knew about furries peripherally, because Jack and I play Celtic music, because of being at book festivals where cosplay might come into view, and because some of the crocheting I do has been, I think, bought by a furry or two who didn’t self-identify.
But I never got to meet any before this weekend. We had the time of our lives, my friends and I, watching the furries walk past the erstwhile posters intended to save the world with their statistics and dire warnings of hospital closure. Which will save the world first, do you think, people trying to get stuff done, or people trying to make sure everyone has a good time?
A partnership would have formed if we could have found him in time: one furry was dressed as a large mammal (authorities differed as to lion, wolf, or dog) in a doctor’s coat, complete with stethoscope. The Virginia delegation hunted him after our awards ceremony for a photo opp, but alas it was not meant to be.
Gracias, furries, for reminding us that having fun is healthy. And, well, fun. We had the time of our lives, watching y’all possess and enjoy that hotel. Thanks! Have a cookie.