There's Only Frustration In the Line

Brass Tacks

2:00 p.m. I take my place at the end of the line outside Holyoke Center to enter the lottery for tickets to the 350th ball. I should be out of here by 2:10 at the latest.

2:10 p.m. Okay, the line is a little slow.

2:20 p.m. The line is very slow and getting slower. A couple of my ticketless peers are forced to stand in the middle of Holyoke Street, dodging cars. Still, the people ahead of us only need to write down their names and i.d. number and leave. Assuming functional literacy for the general student body, the whole process should take only 10 seconds.

2:30 p.m. I brush the cobwebs from my pants, shoo the roosting pigeons from my head, and reflect on what seems to be my new permanent place of residence in front of Holyoke Center. Cambridge Trust sure does keep their sidewalks clean. Also their windows.

2:40 p.m. I consider asking the guy in back of me to hold my place while I get a newspaper, but he looks sort of shifty-eyed. I have the feeling that he covets my spot, which I am by now prepared to defend with my life.


2:41 p.m. I bite my nail. I tie my shoe. I make sure old shifty-eyes hasn't taken my wallet. I pull out a strand of my hair and inspect the follicle.

2:45 p.m. At the head of the line, in front of the Holyoke Center information Office, I see three more shifty-eyed types infiltrating the line by getting "frontsies" from their friends in more advantageous spots. I search my knapsack, find no weapons and try to hit them with a mind-ray.

2:47 p.m. Victory is within sight! I have reached Au Bon Pain, only yards from Holyoke Center. I listen intently as a freshman recites the entire Arabic alphabet for her enraptured buddies.

2:50 p.m. Cute girl on line ahead of me. I wittily compare this situation to waiting on line for tickets to the Dead. She asks who died.

2:55 p.m. The doors of Holyoke Center Information Office beckon. As I turn to smile nastily at old shifty-eyes, I find him charging past me. Shifty-eyes has made his move.

2:58 p.m. I throw a left cross to his jaw. He counter-punches, but now I'm in the door. Ahead of shifty-eyes.

3:02 p.m. I sign my name with one hand, holding shifty-eyes at bay with the other. I leave the building.

11:07 p.m. I realize that I don't have a date for the ball.