I arrived at 7:45 am, a panic in my chest as if I were stepping into a major job interview or the hospital room of a loved one.
I wasn’t doing either of those things.
I was approaching a line to purchase [approximately] $30 tickets to a Broadway show.
When I saw the air mattress on the ground, I knew things didn’t bode well for me.
Sure enough, here are 2 bitches sleeping on the horizontal plane of a twin air-mattress: feet-to-knees hovering over the sidewalk, waist-to-crown resting (seemingly miserably) on the concave plastic air-bed.
17, 18, 19, 20… I counted the people as I passed. Nope. There was no way I was making the matinee batch of Standing Room tickets. I had been here one morning before (they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results…), had been far closer in the line, and, at that time, still didn’t make the cut. I hovered over what was soon to be my home on the sidewalk, knowing that I was fucking crazy, but also knowing that I was going to commit to this for the long-haul — until 5 or 6pm, when they released the tickets for the evening performance.
Luckily I had planned ahead. I had my dollar coffee from McDonald’s, a towel to sit on, my computer, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and the latest Buffalo Exchange catalog. Wasn’t I just the poster-child for 20-something faux-hispter living.
Step 1: Insert headphones to drown out the projected, nasal-y tones of the Theatre Girls next to me trying to one-up each other’s lists of: Shows I’ve Seen, Open Calls I Went To, and What Happened The Last Time I Rushed.
Step 2: Do all of the correspondence/administrative things your better-self has been meaning to do for months now, but your real-self can’t accomplish until you (willingly) quarantine yourself to a NYC sidewalk for potentially 12 hours.
Step 3: Stare. In utter amazement. As the girl to your left walks down said sidewalk with her harem pants and coffee…BAREFOOT. Girl. This isn’t your Astoria apartment. This isn’t your college dorm. THIS IS A MIDTOWN, NEW YORK CITY SIDEWALK AND YOU ARE GOING TO GET HEPATITIS.
Step 4: Befriend the vaguely European girl next to you who also hates everyone and watch each other’s stuff while you go to Starbucks or the deli down the street to pee and/or retrieve coffee.
Step 5: Scowl at the people who arrive about five hours after you have to enter the lottery drawing (an addition to Standing Room) for another set of cheap tickets. I planned to enter the lotto as well, as my chances at the matinee were obviously slim. Clearly, I felt I deserved a lottery winning more than the 250 people who showed up at the last possible hour to enter.
And this, ladies and gentleman, is how Broadway proves to be the most fickle of lovers. The Standing Room people are then quite literally herded over to the opposite side of the theatre entrance and wound about in a haphazard snake of a line much like Disney World but without any ropes or railings, so that any organization balances precariously on the verge of complete chaos. It is here that I discover that the first two people on line arrived at 3am, far outdoing Air-Mattress and his companion, who, despite their flagrant demonstration of commitment, actually arrived several hours later.
It is also here that I learn that there are even less Standing Room tickets than I anticipated, and, unless every other person ahead of me wins the lottery or suddenly decides they actually don’t like theatre, I stand no chance at a ticket for either of the day’s two performances.
You would think, at this point, looking at the 299 people swarming about me who have entered the lotto, I would have given up and gone home. But. Theatre seduces people the way few other entities can, and I staunchly stood my ground, thinking maybe, maybe my 6 am wake-up will be worth it. Maybe…I will win the lotto. I have just as good a chance as everyone else, don’t I?
A slight sidebar at this moment for an observation: about four people behind me in the Standing Room line, there is a girl in a cape. A casual cape — black, polyester — her weekend cape, I’d imagine. It was worn very casually under her camouflage backpack. The wonderful thing about the theatre community is that we all took notice, and then moved on with our lives.
Needless to say, my view of the theatre soon faded as I trekked through the midtown haze empty-handed. No lottery winnings. No Standing Room seat. But, not to worry. After fruitless hours living just as your mother imagined when you told her you were pursuing an English/Theatre degree — that is, on the streets — you are always offered a consolation prize: walking through Times Square to get home.
After all, there is a broken heart for every light on Broadway.