Waiting for Radiohead’s "The Universal Sigh"

11:25 AM: Leave home with aspirations of walking over the Williamsburg Bridge instead of taking the extremely convenient subway. Sure, it’s 35 degrees outside, but it’s sunny! And you’re out of shape! Time to get ambitious.

11:35 AM: It’s windy as hell, but you’re burning calories and your body is becoming a ball of confusion. Take off your jacket. Wonder if it’s possible to sweat through a shirt while hanging out 135 feet above the East River.

11:45 AM: Arrive in Manhattan. Realize that, for a normal person who didn’t just clear a bridge, it’s cold as fuck. Don’t let this deter you from ordering an ice coffee from Starbucks. You don’t need to play by society’s coffee rules. Order that shit and grab some napkins in case your hands get cold.

12:00 PM: Walk to your Radiohead-approved designation at a leisurely place. Wonder if The Universal Sigh will be distributed at the newsstand on Broadway and Spring, the one that used to have two-for-one Marlboro Smooth (the only brand you’d smoke from 2008-2010). Feel depressed that it’s a Tuesday afternoon and you have nothing better to do than feed your nostalgia for affordable cigarettes.

12:20 PM: Arrive at the address. There, you find Dean and Deluca and more importantly, the telltale sign that you’ve reached a free-shit-is-being-given-away destination – a line of nondescript 20-somethings snaking around a corner. Tack yourself onto the end of the line. Confirm that you’re in the right place by observing the two guys in front of you – one has a graphing notebook and is reviewing mathematical equations that look like Webdings to your undereducated ass; the other is reading what appears to be a 90-page film script. These are Radiohead fans. You’re good.

12:25 PM: Jesus fuck, it’s cold. When did it get so cold? Why the fuck are you standing there, in the shade, with a Starbucks cup half-full of ice? Dumbass.

12:27 PM: Check your phone and find that you still have more than a half-hour ahead of you. Grimace at every single person that approaches the line and says, “What’s this line for?”

12:28 PM: This is perhaps the 14th time that the girl behind you has managed to touch you in some way. Write nine angry Tweets about it, but erase them before hitting “send.” You’ve already been too angry on Twitter today for unrelated reasons. Think very hard about personal space. Try to will this girl into respecting your “invisible box” through sheer mental power. Glance back at her and think you hear her say, “Sorry,” but your iPod is too loud and you’re really not sure.

12:30 PM: Passersby are aware that, of everyone on this line, you are the last person to approach with inquiries. Feel accomplished. Remember every other free event you’ve participated in and how, if you did so much as sneeze, you were automatically the weak, friendly stranger who would inform the curious masses of what the free event line was about. See: the Bloc Party travesty of 2008. You’ve come a long way.

12:32 PM: Seriously, is the girl behind you a pickpocket, or did she never learn how to stand still? Why is she still touching you? Is it so windy outside that she can’t keep her balance and has no choice but to touch you? Eat something, skinny equilibrium-challenged bitch.

12:34 PM: Wish desperately that you could ask a passing stranger to throw out your cup of ice, but that would require looking approachable and you’re just not sure you have it in you. Everyone in this line hates you and no one will hold your spot, so that’s not an option. You chose this path, deal with it.

12:45 PM: Realize you can no longer idly scroll through your phone because you’ve lost all sensation in your fingers. Wish you weren’t in bougie SoHo and could use your free littering-because-no-one-is-looking pass. You know littering is wrong, but so is peeing outdoors and you’ve never fancied yourself above the call of nature.

12:50 PM: Even the extremely polite math dude in front of you is sick of nosy ass tourists asking what the line is for. He throws a knowing laugh at their expense in your direction, so you quip, “What the fuck, right? Don’t these people have someplace to be? Why else would they be walking around when it’s cold as fuck?” Scare the math dude. Realize you are like, a really aggressive Radiohead fan. You’re like the angry part of My Iron Lung, and math dude is straight up Creep status. So pathetic and demure that it’s endearing. Wish you weren’t so randomly frustrated and feel remorseful, but snap out of it. You’re being you; you can’t apologize for that.

12:58 PM: Tell the math dude it’s almost 1:00 PM and he gives you a face that says, “Thumbs up!” He’s too nice to hate you.

1:00 PM: The line surges forward. Everything is happening so fast that, when you finally pass the garbage can on the corner, you hold on to your ice cup because you’d rather freeze a few more minutes than end up the humanization of Mufasa. Hear pedestrians on both sides of the line shriek, “WHAAATT ISSSS THISSS LIIIINNNEEE FORRRR?” and it’s like an echo chamber because there’s so goddamn many of them surrounding you. It’s like you’re Dorothy and they’re those fucked up haunted trees in the Wizard of Oz, grabbing at you and drowning you in their inquisitiveness.

1:03 PM: A Radiohead rep hands you your copy of The Universal Sigh. You reach your hand out to retrieve it from her, but she won’t let go. It’s then that you realize there’s another rep, camera in hand, waiting to snap your photo with your commemorative Radiohead newspaper and your overzealous Radiohead representative. Feel like you’re on stage graduating from college except not. You’re graduating from something less important, perhaps Freezing Your Ass Off In Line Academy or Scaring Innocent Strangers Secondary School.

1:05 PM: Feel momentarily regretful that you were only able to snag one copy, but get over it. Anyone who didn’t pay their dues by waiting in line is punished with the inauthenticity of reading the PDF online. Do not share your glory with anyone else, unless it will get you laid. TC mark


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  • Brandon scott gorrell

    hah i just got back from getting my copy, had my picture taken. there was no line at all in seattle

    pretty sure i'm gonna sell it on ebay…

    • http://twitter.com/rislynsey christopher lynsey

      Where is your photo BSG?

      • Brandon scott gorrell

        think it will be on the universal sigh website in a day or two?

      • Brandon


        i look like a serial killer unfortunately

  • Paranoid Android

    Wait. Hipsters go to Starbucks?

  • DiTrapano


  • http://brianmcelmurry.blogspot.com/ Brian McElmurry

    Enjoyed this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    “Do not share your glory with anyone else, unless it will get you laid.”


  • http://twitter.com/readdanwrite Daniel Roberts

    this was terrific. but what is actually IN the “newspaper” give us a preview!

  • http://twitter.com/andshewasnt genna mae

    Getting The Universal Sigh in Hamburg was so much less irritating, but it still felt like everyone hated each other. Hah.

    We didn't have a line, so much as a swarm. I was surprised at the lack of order, considering it's Germany and Germans Love Order (rite?). There also weren't that many people there right away.

    I managed to get two copies; clearly I need only one. If I wanted to give my second one away, I would suppose the 'getting laid' requirement still applies, no?

    • http://www.theuglynewyorker.com Stephanie Georgopulos

      It always applies.

  • T.O.

    so was it any good? my location inhibits me from ever viewing this sacred scroll

  • http://pleasureiseasy.info math

    loved it

  • Angela

    Hilarious post.

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