The Summer of our Discontent

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Last Saturday morning at 5:30a.m., two Vassar friends, Crimson writer Jun Li '10, and I headed

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Last Saturday morning at 5:30a.m., two Vassar friends, Crimson writer Jun Li '10, and I headed to Central Park. We decided to wait for free tickets to the Public Theater's latest Shakespeare in the Park production at the Delacorte—Twelfth Night with Raúl Esparza, Anne Hathaway, Audra McDonald, and Julie White. It's a thing to do in New York City during the summer on a limited budget. The culturally-aware, unpaid intern gets in line. A very, very long line.

5:30 a.m.: My first alarm goes off. Then the second and the third. I wake up and so does Jun. We brush teeth, hair, and map out our route to the Central Park entrance near 81st Street.

5:47 a.m.: That cooler we filled with five bottles of water, two bags of cherries, Boursin, non-gluten salsa, chive-and-onion cream cheese, and a zillion ice cubes? Felt like a great idea when we packed it back home. Now It just feels like I'm dragging all of Brüno’s wardrobe down Fifth Avenue.

5:50 a.m.: "It's definitely this way," I say. We drag beach chairs and Food Emporium bags toward 81st. A guy selling old photos of New York in plastic covers shakes his head. He points farther downtown. "That entrance's better," he says.

6:00 a.m.: On one Park pathway, a guy walks up behind us. "Are you going to the theater?" he asks. "Yeah," we all say. He takes big steps, leaves us in the dust. O, what men dare do! He makes a left turn. "Shhh," I say as we bear right.

6:07: a.m.: We reach the Delacorte, and no one's in line. What luck! "Good Morning," I say to a NYPD officer. "Line starts on Central Park West," he says. He's so not going to let us cut.

6:12 a.m.: Near the theater, we watch a parade of people walk by, dragging air mattresses and blankets and cardboard boxes and yoga mats. Definitely the slept-on-the-street-overnight crowd. We stare.

6:13 a.m.: People walk, we stare.

6:15 a.m.: Still staring.

6:22 a.m.: Staring.

6:23 a.m.: We decide to look for the end of the crowd and walk toward Central Park West. "Hey, Harvard," someone yells, "back of the line." (Jun's wearing a Harvard sweatshirt). O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!

7:15 a.m.: A Public Theater representative yells: "That's the end, right there." No chance for tickets, now. A crowd of people—including us—shrug shoulders and kick the dirt. Most pack up, disperse. Jun spots a friend and I encourage her to wrangle his extra ticket. Hey, it's a tough world and the lone wolf survives. No luck.

7:18 a.m.: The troop is in low spirits. We decide to salve the wound of this failed mission with breakfast. We set up camp in the sun. Bagels and cream cheese all around. What's done is done.

7:22 a.m.: Jun and I read embarrassing books (I've got Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, she's got New Moon). One Vassar friend listens to music, another flips through Marie Claire. We learn that New York City ranks 16th out of 20 on the magazine's "Top Cities for Single Gals on the Prowl." Seattle's number one. Good to know.

7:32 a.m.: In the moments since we’ve left the line, it’s grown into the “Stand-by Line.” The desperate pray for cancellations while waiting for last-minute tickets. We give it a shot. "What are you waiting for?" Three older men in too-short running shorts, tank tops, and sweatbands approach. We explain about Shakespeare in the Park, about people sleeping overnight on Central Park West. "Oh," says one man. "the neighborhood's going to the dogs." Another adds: "Four pretty girls should never sleep on the street."

7:40 a.m.: People continue to ask us about the wait. But I've got some serious reading to catch up on. Ron just got splinched (sorry, Book 7 spoiler).

8:00 a.m.: We give this stand-by line thing up as a bad job. It's meant to rain tonight, anyway, and we shake our fists at the heavens and pray it pours so we can rationalize our disappointment. Damn that Annie Hathaway and her Devil-Wears-Prada popularity!

Emily C. Graff ’10, a Crimson senior magazine editor, is a history and literature concentrator in Currier House