I think one of the primary metrics of how much you value yourself is what free things you’re willing to stand in line for, and how long. For instance, a reasonable person might agree to wait over an hour for a Hamilton ticket but not an ice cream sandwich. I, seasoned in waiting ridiculous lengths of time for things of much less worth than an ice cream sandwich, must say I’m far less discerning with what’s advertised after “free.”
As it turns out though, despite my lack of standards, even I have my limits.
Group Chat, Monday Night
Friend 1: Best bud Joe Biden’s coming to town and you can get free tickets starting at 8AM at the student activity center tomorrow
Me: Oh nooo
Friend 2: ?
Me: Just early
Because it’s one thing to squander your time, lost in the crowd and wondering if any of your effort will pay off—that’s the full college experience, after all—and another thing to wake up three hours earlier to do so. Even for Joe Biden.
Tuesday morning was just one colossal mistake. Stepping outside at 7AM, I felt like I’d opened the door to a different country. The humidity instantly drenched the fabric of my shirt. The muggy skies were still reluctantly lightening, as though even they wanted me to go the hell back to sleep. At Starbucks, sweat dripping down my temples, I ordered a latte, forgot to specify that I wanted it iced, and felt so stupid that I picked up my piping hot order and played it off like I was on some sort of heat cleanse.
Friend 3: Hey so I just got here and the line is insane
Friend 3: I would get here as soon as possible, not 7:30. Apparently people camped out yesterday
At this point there was so much moisture on my skin I probably looked like I’d gone swimming. I also couldn’t tell where the moisture was from: the humidity, the heat, sweating from fear, the steam from my hot coffee, or unshed tears. Possibly all of the above.
I began to awkwardly skip-run, that unbalanced gait when you don’t commit to either skipping or running and end up slower, more tired, and physically and emotionally unstable.
Friend 3: I left. I’m at 425 and they just told us they only have 260 tickets. If you plan to go, go to the LBJ library where it’s open to the general public and has more. Opens at 9
The LBJ library was a fifteen-minute walk from the student activity center and over twenty minutes from my first accounting class at 9:30. Deciding that I would remember seeing Joe Biden over writing adjusting journal entries (which is how I justify all my bad decisions), I resigned myself to going. My other friends, of course, had long since abandoned me.
I ran all the way to LBJ. Over 10,000 steps and a couple flights of stairs later, I finally found my friends, thirty people from the back of the line and exhibiting zero shame for having ditched me for just the chance at Joe. I probably should’ve been offended if it weren’t so understandable.
9:10, the line began to move. We jubilantly rounded the corner of the building.
Friend of Friend 1: Uh… Why are people leaving?
Me: *both hopefully and morbidly* No good reason…?
Employee: If you don’t have a red ticket, you won’t get a ticket!
We looked down at our hands, as though expecting tickets to have materialized between our fingers. But they were empty.
Employee: But hey, now that you’re here, come check out the exhibits in here! They’re spectacular.
The crowd began to disperse.
Employee: *calling after us* You can also standby outside the event the day of for more chances at free tickets!
Me: … I’ve been burned once.
I resisted the tug of “free” and continued forlornly down the steps. Even if this experience was ultimately just divine justice for the audacity of considering skipping accounting, at the very least, I figured, waiting to not get Joe Biden tickets sounds much more socially excusable than my record of “$5 ice cream sandwich.”
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