I was at Bookmarks in downtown Winston-Salem a few nights ago, lovingly running my fingers down the spines of freshly shelved hardback books and trying to decide which biography of Alexander Hamilton I wanted to take home with me. The two candidates were War of Two, an in-depth analysis of why he and Aaron Burr hated each other, or the cleverly named Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernaw’s meaty, 832-page biography that is bigger than the average newborn.
I never expected to swoon over one of the founding fathers (although John Jay could rock the s*** out of a receding hairline) but, because I am a woman in her early thirties (shh, just go with it), I am legally required to be obsessed with Hamilton right now. I understand that, if I am ever stopped by a police officer, I will be taken into custody if I am not singing “The Schuyler Sisters” in my car. That’s fine. I’ll own it, because Hamilton the Musical is extraordinary and its composer — playwright and title-character originator Lin-Manuel Miranda — is a once-a-generation genius.
And if you recently heard a high-pitched squealing sound in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, one that caused your oven clock to reset itself and your dogs to throw themselves against the walls, it was me, right after I got tickets to see the show in New York City.
A friend and I were in the city for one night, and we’d all but given up on our chances of scoring seats. There’s a daily 46-ticket lottery, but we had a better chance of being named White House communications director than we did of winning, despite the fact that we registered and obsessively checked our emails until Gmail itself said, “Give it a rest, nerds.”
As the 2 p.m. matinee approached, we headed toward the Richard Rodgers Theatre just in case, fighting our way through crowds of people standing on Times Square sidewalks, taking pictures of an oversized Olive Garden. We were constantly looking at StubHub and other reselling sites, but most seats were still selling for stacks (and stacks and stacks) of Hamiltons, Jacksons and Franklins. But then the prices started falling — and everyone else with their fingers hovering over their own refresh buttons noticed. It took several attempts, but we somehow found two tickets at just over face value. (And if we had been murdered and thrown into the dumpsters behind the Disney Store, it would be because we told someone that our Hamilton tickets were almost face value.)
After elbowing at least 100 people who were Snapchatting an American Eagle billboard and another 50 who wanted to give us their mix CDs, we made it to the theater. It was 20 minutes before the show, and the line already stretched down the sidewalk and swung around the side of the building. We inched forward, listening to a man in a NetJets hat who was either bragging or complaining about how much he’d paid for tickets.
“We bought these seats a year ago,” he said. “It better be worth it.” (That attitude is problematic on so many levels, because no one should ever decide the value of art based on what it cost you to experience it — but what do you expect from a man with a NetJets hat and a pair of pinky rings?)
we had all of our stuff in our backpacks. That meant there were four-dozen things that the security staff could pull out and slowly scrutinize, like they were appraising my bra for an appearance on “Antiques Roadshow.”
Anyway, since we were heading straight to the airport after the inevitable standing ovation, we had all of our stuff in our backpacks. That meant there were four-dozen things that the security staff could pull out and slowly scrutinize, like they were appraising my bra for an appearance on “Antiques Roadshow.” We anxiously looked at our watches as a man in a polyester vest shook my makeup bag beside his left ear. When we reached the ticket taker and were just a few feet from finally being in the room where it happened (“The room where it happened, the room where it happened”), he shook his head. “I can’t take e-tickets,” he said. “You’ll have to go to the ticket office.”
We ran to the opposite wall and I passed my phone to another man in another vest. “Who’s Daphne?” he asked, reading the original purchaser’s name off my tickets.
“I can’t take this,” he said, as my intestines fell out of my body. “I need a paper ticket.”
“But… I can’t…paper,” I said, making no complete sense.
“There’s a FedEx on the eighth floor of the Marriot Marquis,” he said, pointing toward the door, and toward the hotel, which was at the end of the block. It was 10 minutes until showtime.
“I AM NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT!” I said, grabbing my phone back and running down a sticky, crowded sidewalk toward the hotel. We literally skidded across its slick tile floors, mashing the elevator’s up button with both hands and simultaneously hissing, “Comeoncomeoncomeon,” as each floor lit up on the display.
We ran into the FedEx and I hurriedly shook one of the computer terminals to life, trying to log into my StubHub account as quickly as possible. There was one employee in the store and, either because of or despite the fact that he probably sees this same scenario two-dozen times a day, he was zero percent willing to help. Hamilton and his country might be young, scrappy and hungry, but this dude was none of those things.
“Our internet is down,” he said, slowly stretching out the syllables as the rest of my internal organs shut down.
He told me I could email the tickets to him from my phone and he could print them in the back. I pressed “send” and he moved toward the printer at the same speed that Neptune circles the sun. After 17,000 years of waiting, while the ice caps melted and a dozen animals evolved, he produced two black-and-white copies. “That’ll be 50 cents,” he said. I threw a dollar on the counter and we were out the door before he’d finished telling us that he needed exact change.
We legged it back down the street, pausing so security could examine my toothbrush bristles again, and handed over our already sweaty paper tickets. We’d just settled in our seats in the very top balcony when the lights dimmed and my lungs inflated for the first time in 20 minutes. Needless to say, the show was incredible and it far exceeded my already ridiculous expectations for it.
At intermission, the woman beside me told no one in particular that she hoped Hamilton didn’t die in the second act. “I’ll be heartbroken,” she said, wringing her hands. I didn’t know how to give her the bad news.
But I thought about her the other night, hoping that she was in some other bookstore, carrying a couple of massive biographies around, too.