And so it came to pass, finally finally, that Linda (who flew all the way from Denver just for this event) and Maggy were heading off to Gammage Auditorium in Tempe to see The Book of Mormon from those kick-ass fourth row center seats that have been mentioned more than once.
Counting backward to accommodate a lengthy commute, parking in the lot the moment it opened at 5 PM, a rickshaw bicycle ride to PF Changs where we had dinner reservations at 5:15, a leisurely dinner and then another rickshaw bicycle ride back to Gammage—in plenty of time to find our seats and visit the restroom—we needed to hit the road by 4:15. And it was by-the-book perfection every step of the way until the moment we hit the doors of the auditorium and the ticket agent scanned our paperwork. Something about the three-second hesitation as she looked down at her device made my heart skip an irregular beat.
Looks like these tickets were for the 2 PM matinee today.
Linda looked at me. I looked at Linda. I stared at the paperwork the agent politely handed back to me. No words were coming from my mouth—possibly a gasping WHAT? I can't remember because my mind felt like a white-out in the middle of a howling storm. The agent broke the spell by telling us to check with Customer Service to see what they could do. So off we went, nearly completely around a very large very round building, with me telling Linda I felt like crying and then calling out to the Human Fuckup Lifesaver Angels (they have angels for everything, it's best to be specific): Okay, you guys, we really need a miracle, here!
Customer Service had three things to say:
1. The only option at this point would be last-minute discounted tickets for $52 each
2. The last two tickets were sold an hour ago and there is not one seat left in the entire house.
3. No, you can't get a refund or a partial refund. Your tickets are for a show that's already closed out.
Before we walked away from the window, I wanted to ask her if there was any way in the universe that Linda and I could just get in there and hover in midair over the crowd, toward the back maybe. Any way of making something like that happen? Like a utilities bucket or a sky chair kind of thing? I know it sounds ludicrous, but that's the image that sprang to mind.
So off we went, back around the very large, very round building in the general direction of our car—my mind still lost in a stupor and my heart unwilling to let go of the idea that we were totally, completely, hopelessly screwed. That there would be no show for us that evening, that Linda had come all this way just to be disappointed (as in dropped from 50 thousand feet to the ground type disappointed), that this time I had really done it—and no amount of Golden Magic Dust could ever save this total shit show.
Linda managed to laugh and said she thought that asking me if I had the tickets before we left was enough. She never thought about asking to see them a day or two ahead of time. Linda is a detail-oriented Virgo who looks over her tickets not just once but three or four times before a major event to make absolutely sure she hasn't misread or missed anything. What a really smart, grounded, practical thing to do—especially in those rare cases where the purchase occurred two years earlier. That would be the paperwork to pull out and read over very carefully, not just fold up and stuff in your purse pocket.
About half-way around the building Linda mentioned the outside chance that Stub Hub might still have tickets. All news to me, but she managed the office of a major construction firm for years and was constantly pulling rabbits out of hats—including last-minute tickets to sold-out events. Linda is not only the Stub Hub queen, she has lightning fast keyboard fingers on a very tiny iPhone.
Really? That can actually happen? I encouraged her to check—check! At this point we have nothing to lose. So off she went into cyberspace with the hot bright sun glaring on her screen, navigating a mine field of passwords that were not accepted, emails to change the password, credit cards that were not going through, me hollering Use my Paypal! and more password issues. Linda finally resorted to using her own credit card on file followed by ticket download issues and more password snafus—until at long last we had them. Actual bar-coded TICKETS!
Being a Stub Hub virgin, it was just as unbelievable to me that these things were going to work as it was unbelievable that we were never going to get in the door. The entire experience felt other-worldly, like someone has slipped a little acid in my water bottle.
The ticketing agent scanned us through in a heartbeat and asked if we knew where Portal 10 was—a question my brilliant mind interpreted as "Can you count to 10?" so I said YES! And off we went. Turns out that finding Portal 10 is a bit like Harry Potter looking for Platform 9 3/4. You are never going to reach that place without a few very specific instructions. We ended up climbing so many flights of stairs that the woman in front of us was holding her chest and sounding as if she might pass out and fall backward.
At last we arrived in Balcony Section D, Row 3, Seats 56 and 58. Looking down at the stage far below, I had to give the Human Fuckup Lifesaver Angels full credit for placing us in seats that could best be described as hovering in midair over the crowd. My vision had become a blazing reality.
This particular tier was so small and so steep that no one in front of us could possibly obstruct the view—unless they were about 15 feet tall. To each side of our section were massive speakers that ensure state-of-the-art sound for the entire back and upper balcony sections of the auditorium. Main floor seats in rows as close as 15 can have some issues with auditory clarity, but not here. Best of all, I had spent all day drinking my 3+ liters of Hip Sobriety School water and the most remote, most accessible restroom in the entire venue was right outside our portal entrance. Before the curtain went up, Linda had an email notice about my Paypal payment to cover the cost of the show. God was in Her heaven and all was right with the world.
We didn't see the Book of Mormon from kick-ass fourth row center seats, but I have to say that I enjoyed this performance just as much as the one where I was sitting Row One Center and could see each bead of perspiration on the performers' noses. It was thrilling to be that close, to feel so intimately connected to everything on the stage. But this "hovering over" perspective was a different brand of thrill. We had a chance to take it all in—every stunning light show and every spectacular dance number. Not to mention the wildly vivid, indelible memory of the night's insanity that Linda and I will be adding to our vault of shared antics.
Years ago when my relationship with Bill was still new, my daughter Katie gave him the word: Whatever arrangements or reservations Mom makes, if you travel, if you go anywhere or do anything, you need to check it all over well in advance—or immediately if there is a 24-hour cancellation policy involved. This is your warning, and if you fail to do this, don't come crying to me about it later.
I told Katie this morning that I need to laminate little cards with her advice to Bill (who never followed it) and distribute them throughout my inner circle. She said it might be better if all of us came with Care Instructions the way clothing does, a little tag on our side that warns other people about our foibles, quirks, and idiosyncrasies. Situations to avoid, things better left unsaid, heat or cold or hunger alerts, areas of over-sensitivity or prickliness.
You can live as if nothing is a miracle or you can live as if everything is a miracle.