The Time I Beat 1000 People

(Originally published on 9th May 2013)

Tallulah and I made a promise. Before our time in New York was over we would get to see The Book Of Mormon, and we would do it for $200 less than the face value of a ticket. Come hell or high water, apocalypse or plague of locusts (Or Cicadas, because – sidebar – that’s a real thing that’s actually about to happen here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/03/130329-cicadas-coming-sky-locust-swarm-animal-science/ ) we would see that show. It was a commitment, written in the stars and bound in blood and honour. If one of us fell in battle, the other would fight alone to fulfill our destiny, whatever the cost.

So, to cut an epic saga short, we saw Book of Mormon. It’s operated on a lottery system, so anyone passionate/theatrically nerdy/cheapskate enough – and in New York, that’s a lot of people – can turn up before the show and enter a lottery to win $32 tickets. Our first attempt at this ended in a mixture of disappointment and, in the logical course of natural progression, waffles and rowing.

A couple of weeks ago it was time for round two, and after a hard morning’s lie in, we headed to the bright, obnoxious lights of Broadway. This attempt was for an evening show so the crowd waiting outside was double what it had been before. I admit that in the past I’ve had a tendency to describe it like a fisherman talking about the one that got away – it gets bigger every time. Fortunately, I’m over that now.

So we stood outside the theatre with 400 other people waiting for the draw to begin. There’s a guy with a megaphone called The Lottery Dude, or Mr The Lottery Dude, if we’re going to be respectful. Mr The Lottery Dude has a tough job in that he has to keep everyone entertained while they wait, and at the same time enforce the rules like a megaphone-wielding headmaster. But he manages to keep 500 people happy enough, and that’s no mean feat.

The lottery is for 11 pairs of tickets, so tensions can run high in a crowd of 600 all waiting to hear if they actually have something to do that day or not. The draw got down to the last pair of tickets and the remaining 700 people in the crowd had all started to scan the horizon for nearby bars.

When my name was called out it was a surprise, and this was largely due to casual racism. Stay with me here. When we wrote our names on our cards we also had to write where we were from. Mr TLD, as a way to build up tension, always announces peoples’ towns, countries, states, whatever, first. I wrote ‘Great Britain’ on my card. So, when MTLD announced “From across the pond…” to the other 800 people, I naturally thought I was in with a shot. Then, when the other  900 didn’t seem impressed, he added “From England…”, which is not what I wrote. I thought ‘Oh, well’ and started mentally filling the rest of my evening’s schedule. Then when my name was called, my initial reaction was to think ‘How dare he assume I’m English?’. I mean, my very awkward reaction to being called out at all would probably have tipped him off (we were supposed to be exuberant and joyful and, well, last time I checked ‘joyful’ is an emotion, and therefore not something I’m culturally equipped to express in a public forum), but I was still tempted to Highland Fling my way up there in protest at this flagrant assumption. To clarify, I didn’t, on account of I would have gone arse over tit. But I was tempted.

After that I was ushered inside, presented with a badge to make it super-official, conversed with by easily the most superstitious person I’ve ever spoken to (“you know what? I picked up a penny on the subway over here. I knew this would happen…”), relieved of my money, and sent back out into the world a changed woman. For lo, I was a winner.

And that is the true and fascinating tale of how I beat 1000 people. The rest of the evening involved pizza and seeing the show. It was funny, and I highly recommend it.

Incidentally, I also went to the theatre the weekend just gone. I saw a play called The Nance. It starts off quite funny, but it’s set in a time when homosexuality is illegal and burlesque clubs are starting to come under scrutiny by politicians. As all of the characters are gay, or burlesque performers, or a combination thereof, this soon leads to a sad ending. And yet they sold nipple tassels on the merchandise stands. Which, incidentally, nobody in the play wears at any point. This might have been the single most misleading piece of merchandise I’ve ever encountered. Not that the play was bad, but I just expected it to be a bit more… Nipple Tassel-y…

Have I mentioned I’m the next Michael Billington?

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