Oh No, Bono!
When my friend Christine of Ape Culture contributor fame emailed me to ask if I would wait in line overnight with her for the New York U2 book signing, I was hesitant until she pointed out that the books were reselling on Ebay for over $1000. I imagined that if I could sell my copy of the book, I might be able to cover the expenses of my Habitat for Humanity trip to Hungary next April/May. Putting the funds to a humanitarian cause made me feel a bit better about spending 20+ hours in line, and I arrived at 7:00 PM to sit on the sidewalk outside the Union Square Barnes and Noble.
Upon arrival, I signed a list someone had unofficially started and got a large "64" written on my hand with a Sharpee. As the 64th person in line, I would no doubt make it into the signing, as it was reported that 150 people would be allowed in. I had always known Christine was a bit U2-crazy- a fanatic even, but as I sat waiting for her to show, I chatted with the people around me who redefined my idea of what a U2 fan could be. One woman had been to 16 U2 shows - on this tour alone. She pointed out people in the line that she had seen at various shows and told stories of people she knew who were pulled onstage or got to meet the band. Another woman had flown in from Florida just for this signing and would be flying home immediately afterwards. Since they were the 63rd and 66th, I doubt they were even the most fanatical! I decided not to tell my only U2 story about the time in high school when my friends and I went to see this movie Rattle and Hum, which turned out to have no plot, so I fell asleep while my friend Allan tried to throw popcorn into my shirt. I didn't think they'd relate so much.
Christine showed up shortly after I did, and we staked out our claim on a little corner of the sidewalk. Right behind us, the line broke off for the entrance to Sephora and resumed after the entrance. Later in the night, a girl showed up and tried to cut in line and when we wouldn't let her, she just sat in front of the doors. The woman who should have been next in line didn't put up a fight then, or even later, as the girl's friends all started to show up. There were probably eight of them, and they definitely didn't fit the U2 fan profile. I overheard one of them admit that someone was paying them $300 to stay there all night. She and her friends proceeded to talk very loudly into the night, disappearing a few times to go get drunk, while my "neighbors" complained incessantly, saying that there should be a quiz about U2 to make sure only real fans could get their autographs.
One of those non-fans, an Eminem wannabe, started to get really feisty and began picking fights with another guy. Every time he got angry, he'd whip off his shirt to show off his pasty, doughy stomach like some alien form of intimidation. An obese guy in a stained sweat-suit, known as "Jerry Springer Guest" to Christine and I, tried to break up the fights, but I think his drugged-up state limited his effectiveness. An older guy in his 40s who looked nearly homeless kept trying to draw Christine into conversation, but to no avail. The cops came by twice but, unfortunately, did nothing to help out the rest of us peace-lovers. The ruffians stayed.
Apparently, we had room for more discomfort, as it started to get pretty cold. One of the women in line went to get coffee to warm up, but then promptly spilled it on my pillow. I picked up the pillow and revealed 4 cockroaches who scurried away. Some time in the night, a woman wearing pajamas came to try and cut in line saying she had the number 54, so she should be able to cut in between us, but we wouldn't go for it. Apparently, she went and found another person up ahead who let her cut. She wasn't the only one- we saw the line ahead get a bit more dense through the night.
Barnes & Noble changed the time that we would get our wrist bands from 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM. As the golden hour approached and people began to stand, they started to get cranky. A B&N representative came by to say only 100 would get in, and we feared there might be a riot because there were far more than that who had waited all night. Even when we were told we were definitely in the group getting in, we were wary of our "luck" and still complained about the "cutters". We saw Jerry Springer Guest was in line well before us but decided to let it go.
They opened the doors, and we all slowly worked our way forward. Someone clipped a plastic band around my wrist and herded Christine and I to the sales counter to purchase our books, then up a series of escalators, through a few bag inspectors and back into a single-file line, where we clutched sweaty green index cards with our official number on it. Our "friends" we had made through the night dropped us flat, when it took us too long to buy our books, so Christine and I ended up getting stuck between new strangers. Most of us sat down to get comfortable, though there was one guy who refused to even sit up the whole time we were waiting. Every few minutes, we were asked to stand up and tighten our line to make room for more people at the end, but the guy remained sprawled. I think he was seriously hung over from his night outside, so I worried he might have to vomit and target my hard-earned book.
Now I like U2, but only in the same way I like David Bowie and The Who; I am familiar with their music and greatly enjoy it, but I have absolutely no idea who plays what instrument or even who the band members are. Therefore, I decided to actually browse the book I had just purchased. Did you know there is a guy who is called"The Edge"? (OK, so you did - everyone does. Whatever.) Crazy! And he's pretty cute too- wish I'd known about him sooner so I could have nursed a schoolgirl crush on him.
As we thought we were nearing the golden hour, a VH-1 VJ began interviewing who she felt were the more interesting looking fans: a man who donned a replica of Bono's sunglasses, a pregnant couple, and a few others. The woman in front of us dodged the camera since she had called in sick from work. By the time we had been waiting for 3 hours in the store, we all started to strain to see if anyone we might know was hanging out at the other end of the room. I heard the people near us gushing about seeing some guy named Dallas. I turned to Christine, who shrugged, "I don't know who he is". I was filled with a newfound admiration for my friend - she had finally solidified my impression that she, though a fan, is not quite a fanatic. I asked the woman behind me who Dallas is. She studied me with a hint of pity in her eyes, "He's Edge's guitar tech." Oh. Whoopee!
Our wait was still not yet over. We were made to wait well past the 1:00 PM "showtime" and were not exactly happy about it. Out of lack of things to do, Christine and I watched about eight Barnes and Noble managers try to hang a sign behind the desk. They gave up after an hour because they couldn't figure out how to deal with the extra 3" of length. Several more times, we were asked to move forward, further squishing us, except for, of course, the drunken sleeping guy who refused to do anything but lay full-out, taking the space of four people. Everyone alternated between squatting in our very cramped quarters and standing to relieve our back pain. Several of the hip-hoppers opened up their lawn chairs but security seemed reluctant to enforce their own condensing requests.
Finally, we heard cheers as U2 arrived in the back of the room and began to make their way forward. In a rare lull in the cacophony, someone yelled out "You're late!!!" to laughs and cheers from everyone around. Hoards of photographers blocked our view and corralled the quartet into a display area where they posed until the rest of us started chanting "Books! Books! Books! Books!" They broke off, and the event was finally under way!
Soon, we were shuffling towards the Holy Grail of the day. Barnes and Noble event staff took our bags and cameras from us one by one as each fan was herded onto the stage past first The Edge, then Bono, followed by Larry and finally Adam. I handed over my bag and my camera phone to my own staffer, turning it on for her- and just then, the low battery light lit up - not enough juice for a single photo. Luckily, Christine volunteered her camera and I instructed our staffer to focus on getting the photos of the band members- it didn't matter if I was in them. A few moments later, I was on!
I handed my book over to The Edge, opened to the assigned page. He smiled winningly at me and asked who to make the book out to, thrusting his hand forward to shake mine. I shook his hand warmly, asking if he minded making the book out "To Peace"? He asked, "The, ah, sentiment, or your name?" I told him that it was the sentiment I was after, so he wrote his dedication "To Peace" for me, saying that was a beautiful thought, then asked what my name really was. "Molly", I said, as he shook my hand once again. He was so charming -- how had I missed his existence all these years?
As The Edge passed my book on, Bono took it, and wrote a little message with the most damning words at the end. My attention had been redirected towards the photographers, so before I could stop him, he wrote "To Molly". I was powerless to stop it, as he quickly pushed my book on to the final two U2ers who silently, smilingly, signed only their names. In a haze, I was escorted out of the room as the reality of the event fully hit me.
A floor below, I ran into a guy I had been chatting with on line last night who said triumphantly, "I'm so glad they personalized everything, so those jerks couldn't sell on Ebay." Then he noticed the tears beginning to form in my eyes, and said, "Oh. Yeah." He rushed back to be with his more worthy U2 fan friends.
I slowly walked home, nearly crippled by tiredness, hunger, and an emptiness borne of unfulfillment. I was deflated. Beaten. My quest for Habitat funds left me empty-handed. After I got home, a shower perked me up and gave me a new thought. Maybe I'll keep the book. Maybe I can fund the trip in other ways, like, say, petitioning sympathetic Ape Culture readers who have a few bucks to spare. New hope sprang up in me, as I sat down to write. "When my friend Christine."
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