1. Trepidation: After landing on the Kennedy Center website, the first waves of emotions mixed alarm with excitement. At exactly 8 a.m., my randomly assigned spot in the “Hamilton” ticket-buying queue was No. 15,887. Fifteen thousand, eight hundred and eighty-six ticket-seeking souls were ahead of me. Efforts to improve my odds by logging on to other devices failed; No. 15,887 was my best hope.
2. Extreme vigilance: The website projected an expected wait of “over an hour.” I kept a hawkish eye on my phone during my morning routine, checking at 30-second intervals while showering and getting dressed. Patchy Internet service on the Metro added drama to my morning commute.
3. Reality dawning: With 14,634 people ahead of me at 9:10 a.m., I settled in for a long morning. Hopes for scoring coveted $99 tickets faded. Assured that I wouldn’t lose my place in the queue (and due to respect for my employer), I left my phone unattended for a while. Three hours later, there were 6,544 people ahead of me. Off to lunch. When I returned, things had finally started to move.
4. Exhilaration: On the website, a cute, little walking stick-figure man trapped in a red rectangle marked my progress in the queue. I was glad to see him moving at a faster and more confident clip; the end was in sight. There was a palpable breakthrough at the 1,000 mark. Within moments, the queue dwindled from 766 people ahead of me to 633, then 581. To support my memory, I jotted down my user name and password and rehearsed my wish list of dates and show times. My friend seeking a ticket was on standby.
5. Shock and recovery: Awash in adrenaline and fully focused on my smartphone, I had fewer than 100 people ahead of me in the queue. Suddenly and inexplicably, the little stick-figure man stopped in his tracks. On the website, a deeply troubling message: “The queue is on pause.” Unfair! Outrageous toying with my emotions! Text messages to my friend fired off as fast as my thumbs could tap them, full of uncensored grievance.
And then it happened.
A sublime moment and a welcome message: It was my turn, and I was being redirected to the Kennedy Center log-in page.
6. Sheer panic: Once I was finally “in,” I saw a 15-minute timer already down to 14:01. My preparations began to fail. I forgot answers to the who, what, when and why questions but had the presence of mind to adjust the ticket pricing, scrolling as far away from the $625 ticket price as I dared. With 12:38 remaining, I frantically hit “whatever date is available.” I called my friend to check if she’d be available on Sept. 1. She had no idea but urged me: “Buy! Buy!” There were up to four tickets allowed per household, and I needed only two. An irresistible temptation to hoard struck me. I chose to buy four tickets, then balked at the voracious price tag — more than $900. Fearfully, I released the four tickets from my cart, only to find it impossible to return to buy the two tickets I needed. Embarrassment and desperation mounted when I was back to my online shopping cart with two tickets inside, dates unknown.
7. Courage and fulfillment: With 2:33 remaining, I clumsily thumbed in my credit card information. Unable to check the date of the tickets and afraid to revert to the earlier screen, I took a leap of faith. Closing my eyes, I clicked “submit.” Moments later, a marvelously life-affirming order confirmation appeared. Never mind that I paid twice what I planned. My Hamiltonian escapade had reached fulfillment, and I basked in joy and gratitude shared with 15,886 other ticket holders.
To those who snagged $99 tickets through the online Kennedy Center “Hamilton” queue: Congratulations! To those who paid more than they wished but less than they feared: I am with you. And to those who missed the news that “Hamilton” ticket sales for the public began on March 26: Take consolation in being able to pay your bills this month. Or take your chances as No. 163,886 in the queue.
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