And so it was that I found myself standing in front of the El Con theater in the recent Sunday morning pre-dawn chill, having just missed being first in line. It was an act of parental sacrifice just shy of, oh, giving away a kidney. And it was still three hours before the sneak preview of the new Harry Potter movie would start.
Because my wife actually works for a living on the weekdays, and I have a radio show on Saturday mornings, Sunday is the only day that I get to sleep past 6 a.m. But this day, just before 7, I was pulling into the nearly deserted El Con parking lot. As I pulled into the parking space, a woman got out of a nearby car. She walked around a bit, then stopped to look at some McDonald's food that had been tossed out of a car by some late-night reveler. For a second, I thought she was going to pick it up and eat it. I felt like I was in a David Lynch movie.
I got out of the car and looked at the theater. There was no one there, so I panicked and checked the passes one more time. Right place, right day, horrible time. In the brief time that it took me to check the passes, Kyle and Megan slipped past me to gain the coveted spot of first in line, last in common sense.
They sat in blankets, opened up a laptop and started watching an earlier Harry Potter movie, one in which Richard Harris had played Dumbledore. This apparently is a matter of great importance to some people.
As the sun came up over the mountains, I struck up a conversation. The two were freshmen at the UA, she a nursing major, and he undecided. They had attended Sahuaro High School, where she was on the soccer team, while he swam. Both had taken Jeremy Harkin's English class, where the students are subjected to my columns, probably as some sort of aversion therapy.
Jeremy and I had both coached girls' basketball at Amphi High one year. He's a real student of the game, which means he's also among the ranks of those who consider me to be the coaching Antichrist. His JV team had a very good season, while my freshmen went undefeated. I think he gave up coaching forever after that.
By 8, there were probably 100 people in line. As I looked back at the line that snaked around the building and watched the steady stream of cars arriving, I have to admit that I experienced a sense of superiority. Some guy named Bill walked up near the ticket window and just stood there, reading the morning paper. I wanted to tell him that his Cloak of Invisibility wasn't working and that we could still see him. Then I saw the look on Megan's face. I wanted to warn the guy that she wasn't a nurse yet and so she wasn't bound by that "First, do no harm" thing.
At about 8:30, this guy drives up in a car, delivering the film. He carries two of the film boxes to the theater, but leaves a third on the curb by his car. I thought about grabbing it and making a walk for it. There had to be some Internet idiot who would pay big money for it. But then my wife and son wouldn't get to see the movie in its entirety. Of course, I realized, THEY WERE STILL AT HOME, ASLEEP! By that time, the guy had returned to retrieve the third box, rendering my Seinfeld-like crime stillborn.
People from the radio station that was doing the promotion arrived, and about a dozen of their family members and friends just strolled on in. The 500 people in line started thinking the exact same thing at the exact same time, and suddenly, the radio people started developing boils all over their bodies.
Ana and Alexander finally showed up. I introduced them to everybody in line. I felt like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day when he introduced all of his Punxsutawney pals to Andie MacDowell.
As it neared 9, a teen movie reviewer showed up with his dad and just about every kid in his freakin' neighborhood. The person inside yelled out that he had to be on a list, and that even if he was, it's a pretty good bet that all those other kids wouldn't be. The dad pleaded his case, but then the manager came outside with The List. Even the reviewer wasn't on the list. The dad tried again, but the manager wouldn't budge. She must have worked for the MVD at one time in her life.
I think Bill, who was still standing there reading the same page of the newspaper he had been for the past hour, witnessed the exchange, because he started to drift away from the ticket window. Just then, the windows opened, and Ana and Alexander were gone. Bill tried to turn around, but the line was in lockstep, and he was assed out. As Ice Cube, who will portray Dumbledore in the next movie, would say, I guess it was a good day.