Waiting in Line

So I open the paper at 6:45 a.m. on Saturday morning and read an article about 3,000 free tickets being distributed at 9:00 a.m. for a free skate in January on the Bruins rink that's been set up at Fenway Park. My son had been begging to go to the game so I have visions of placing these tickets in his and his sister's stockings and receiving a big thanks from them on Christmas Day. I really could have been the good and resourceful Dad with that one.

But the first dilemma was my weekly visit to see my mother. I usually do this on Saturday or Sunday morning. I knew it was going to snow a lot that night, so I should go see my mother that morning. Something told me to go early for the tickets and go see her later or skip the visit for this weekend so I could be early on line and then something tugged me the other way to go visit my mother as a dutiful son.

I raced from breakfast with my mother at her assisted living place back to Dorchester. Now the question was which community center on the list in the paper to go to. I figured the Murphy School in Dorchester was the wrong choice as that area might be the epicenter of Bruins fandom. They probably had been lining up there at 3 a.m. in the morning. So I chose the Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan and got there at the 9 a.m. starting time for ticket distribution. Unfortunately, lots of others had that strategy and I was on a long line that soon got long behind me too. I was hopeful, but the guy behind me kept saying, "I know they're going to run out of tickets right there," as he pointed to someone five places ahead of us.

Then the Community Center worker announced, "We're all out of tickets but you can still sign up for the waiting list.” No promises about whether this waiting list meant anything or not. A lot of shoulders suddenly slumped a little and faces grew disappointed. Then he said as a consolation prize, the Chinatown Community Center's ticket distribution opens at noon. For a moment, I plotted strategy of leaving for Chinatown and making a miraculous sweep through the South End to find a parking space and rush to the head of line to get the tickets. I quickly gave that up as I was thinking that a few other hundred people were thinking that and it wouldn't work out. Also, I knew I always had Christmas shopping I could do.

Well, I did get to talk to two people, the hopeful women in front of me and the pessimistic guy behind me. I did wander back in the line at one point to talk with Tom Gannon, the irrepressible civic leader and city worker. And after signing up on the already long waiting list, I saw Eileen Boyle still in line. We discussed the latest news about UMass buying Bayside Expo and Eileen worrying about access to residents to the waterfront there through all the students. We also talked about the foreclosure problem and her take on it and work I was doing on it.

Lines. Lines. Lines. I started thinking about different lines I'd waited on successfully and not over the years. The Project DEEP tutoring program in Dorchester has a long line early in September and the first person comes at midnight. I came at 8 a.m. and hoped it was good enough. As I get older, I complain a little that lines for tickets for concerts and ballgames should have lotteries where you mail in a request rather than it goes to those who wait on line for hours. The Red Sox did that one year back in the 1970s but not since then I think. I appreciate the dedication of those who wait but grumble that they usually don't have families to be responsible for.

Well, then I started day-dreaming for a good outcome. If the Kennedy Library could stay open five hours extra to allow the tens of thousands to file by Senator Kennedy's casket last August — including me at 2:00 a.m.— maybe Mayor Menino would pull the rabbit out of the hat and enable all us poor souls on the waiting list to get tickets so we could give a treat to our kids.

I don't know if he can, but I soon happened to run into one of his aides while Christmas shopping. I did describe the experience I'd had that morning and my wish that the Mayor would come up with something for all of us waiting list people.

A few days later, I read the sad news that some scalpers stood in line for these tickets and then have brazenly tried to scalp them on EBay and other places for high prices. No shame for these guys who should do some hard time in Purgatory or Hell for such a sin. But I somehow imagine the scalpers didn't bother to wait and get on the waiting list, so helping out all those folks who did is a likely deed that won't be abused by any waiting list people. Why do I think now that this won't happen?

Lew Finfer is a longtime community organizer who lives on Adams Street.