A Night In The Park
August 24, 2001
"Donít take this the wrong way, but Iím surprised that young people like you are such Capitalists." Now, Iíve been called a lot of things, but this really stung. The woman who had just spit out this cutting insult in her best Jean Stapleton impersonation, stepped back and was obviously offended. Offended that she couldnít just waltz right up to the front of the line, offer some twentysomething a few bucks and be handed two of the hottest tickets in New York. After all, sheíd been sent by her husband who knew she could work miracles. Instead what she got was someone who, god forbid, was a little more savvy. The young couple who the woman had approached had spent the night camped out on the sidewalk with 400 other weary theater lovers. They were in fact able to get two extra tickets; there were only the two of them, and the Delacourt Theater allows two tickets per person. The dumpling of a woman asked how much.
Ah, thatís the question weíd all been waiting to hear.
Letís see, weíd all been in this line since 10pm the night before. Thankfully the weather had been good, but camping in Manhattan can be a bit of an extreme sport. Central Park is still slightly menacing at night, despite the Gulianni factor, but when the police moved the line out to Central Park West at midnight, we became one with the homeless. We were like a line of refugees, sleep deprived and carrying our bedrolls along with us in order to find our own piece of sidewalk to spend the night. The next six hours were spent breathing bus fumes and hoping the rats didnít find our Pringles. People had brought camping chairs, sleeping bags, guitars. There was a subdued festive mood, we were in for the long haul. No one got much sleep. The line was moved back into the park at 6am when the park re-opened. We knew we were in the home stretch. The sun came up, people shed their sweatshirts. We were refugees in search of a Meryl Streep sighting. There were over 400 people in this line. We knew from the stories told to us by those brave souls who went this way before us that only about 300 tickets would be handed out. There are many more seats in the Delacourt, but with all the corporate sponsors, friends of the mayor, private donorsÖdonít get me started.
The question hung in the air. How much for a pair of tickets? A silence settled on our portion of the line. Would our comrade, our brother in arms, sell out to this tourist? What is our time worth? How much would she shell out? The figure he came up with was 200 ó each.
The woman looked physically shocked. Her eyes widened. The five stages of not getting Seagull tickets washed over her face. "Thatís extortion," she exclaimed (anger). They werenít even really for her, it was her husband that wanted them (pleading). Besides the review in the Times wasnít great (denial). She never quite got to acceptance. She just stepped back, said the things about us all being capitalists, and stormed off.
Now, without making this too much about us and them, it was her generation that taught us how to be such great capitalists. Besides, the true capitalists are the suits working down town where they hand out tickets at the water cooler. Itís probably a tax write off for the company, denying the precious commodity to us poor masses, the ones who really appreciate what weíre waiting in line to see. If one of us were to give our extra seats to this woman, that would mean two less tickets for the people behind us. I ask you, who is more deserving? This feels more like a Communist thing to do, and after all, we here to see a Russian play.
As it was, the theater ran out of tickets about ten people behind us. That means, that on our particular night, if you got in line by 11pm the night before, you were already too late. These people stood in line with the rest of us for 14 hours, only to be denied in the end. Because this young "capitalist" refused to give this woman his two extra seats, at least that means that two more true fans were able to get in to that nightís performance.
A few days later we were sitting in a restaurant and an elderly woman beside us was telling her daughter that she got tickets to the play from work. She went. She liked it. Christopher Walken was funny, she said. Iím only slightly bitter at her lack of investment. Was she even aware that hundreds of people wait in line each night for seats worse than what she got given? My fellow line-mates and I invested time, energy, junk food. There was considerable risk involved. Some of us called in sick to work, skipped classes, or feigned doctors appointments to get out of less pressing engagements. All this for the greater good of seeing a "free" play in Central Park. And I think we appreciated the return on our investment all that much more because of it. If delving deeper into experience, investing so much, and reveling in the rewards is capitalistic, than Iíll wear that badge with honor, thank you very much.
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