"They're sealed, just like the proficiency test!" a girl declared as a dolly loaded with boxes of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was rolled down a bookstore aisle. ...
It was about 11:45 p.m. at the time, and I had been in the store maybe 20 minutes, soaking up one corner of the festival that was the release of the last Harry Potter novel.
I had managed to get through the day basically spoiler-free, if only because I remained insistently in denial that a plot hint I overheard was based in fact. There was something of a drag in the evening, since getting the book at midnight meant being out way past my usual bedtime. The bride and I spent some of the time rewatching "The Bourne Identity" in prep for the third Bourne movie, and watching the village fireworks from our front yard.
About 11:15 I headed to the Borders where I had preordered the book and picked up my order number earlier in the day. Traffic was OK. But as I drew near the parking lot, I didn't have to see that it was full; there were rows of cars visible in the lot of the closed-for-the-night Home Depot behind it.
Pulled into Home Depot, strolled over to the store -- and panicked. A line of people snaked through part of the parking lot, and I couldn't see any sense or order, just people. But I saw others going into the store and wandered inside. People like me, with wristbands already acquired, were filling almost every aisle of the place. The line, thank goodness, was of people who had preordered books but waited until the last minute to get their wristbands.
And they were going to be waiting for some time to get their books; that supposedly random distribution of wristbands earlier was random only in terms of when you decided to show up. Colors and numbers were given out in order; most of the people around me in line Friday morning would again be around me in line Friday night.
I passed some time browsing, or seeing where browsing had already occurred (magazines scattered on book piles, a floor stack of a Tim Russert book spreading from where it had been knocked over, people sitting on the floor reading books and magazines). Also noting the array of costumes: wizard hats, naturally, and robes, neckties and glasses, even a guy in a Quidditch shirt with "Diggory" on the back. Wide range of ages, including among the costumed folks, and then a lot of us in civvies, just waiting to get our books.
The store had a challenge keeping aisles clear so the books could be brought from the warehouse to the cash registers, but people seemed for the most part fairly relaxed. It may have been the most mellow lineup I have been part of since waiting for Grateful Dead tickets in 1972.
New Riders opened, with Jerry Garcia joining them. Pig Pen was still alive. But that's another story.
Not long before the books came out, the store PA asked the folks with orange wristbands and the numbers 1-100 to line up -- at Track 9 3/4, of course. A line of silver duct tape marked the path to the cash register. On the dot of 12, the line began moving, and moved very rapidly. There was some confusion about when the second group (silver) should join the line but it got sorted out. I was number 13 in the second group, 163rd overall, and I was walking out of the store with my book and a souvenir poster by about 12:45.
Others still stood outside, in line for their wristbands. A group of smokers sat along one store wall, cross-legged and chatting. Others clustered here and there. Looks as if about 1,000 customers will have been served before the night ends. Fine by me. I've got mine.
Now here's the thing. It's about 1:23 a.m. as I write this. The book is calling to me. Do I read or do I sleep? I'm leaning toward the latter. Still, as Warren Zevon said (and a new biography of him is titled), "I'll sleep when I'm dead." Nonetheless, I also sleep when I'm alive.
Maybe a couple of pages ...