The Standby Camaraderie

I have been applying to work for Rick Steves since I was in college, long before Seattle was ever a seedling of an idea in my brain.  Needless to say, I have been shut down on numerous occasions.  Yet Rick Steves’ books are the Bible of travel guides in my mind.  As someone who prioritizes travel above nearly everything else, the dream of working for the person whose books I throw in my suitcase every time I take a trip to Europe is a lofty goal.

I don’t frequently like to bring up when I’ve been rejected by a man, and in any other circumstance I would never allow myself the opportunity to be shut down over and over again, but I still keep an eye on his job openings in Edmonds, Washington, in hopes that one day I will be the perfect fit for some job the company has.

A terrible quality picture I know, but it was a wonderful talk on Cuba nonetheless.
So when I learned that Rick himself was coming to Town Hall in Seattle to give a talk on his recent trip to Cuba, I was dedicated to securing myself a ticket to the sold out event.  I have been interested in traveling to Cuba for a while now, and who better to get some travel tips from than the man who has written some of my favorite travel guides.

A friend of mine and I developed a game plan.  I rushed home from work, wolfed down some dinner, and hopped in her car to get downtown early in order to grab a standby ticket.  We ended up being the fifth and sixth people in the standby line, which we figured gave us a solid shot at getting into the venue.  After all, we did make the decision to get there about an hour and a half before the show started to heighten our chances of getting tickets.

My friend parked her car while I secured our space in the line.  That’s when I watched a bus turn into a concrete barrier, causing a deafening pop and smoke, and then it continued on as if nothing happened.  I yelled, “Oh Shit!” as soon as he hit the wall, displeasing numerous surrounding Seattle-ites, but the man behind me yelled the same thing, so I knew we at least had some good company in the standby line.

I figured it would be a chilled out crowd.  The wait would give my friend and I a chance to catch up.  What I didn’t account for was that it would be cold outside and the fact that the cold turns me into a hateful human being.  I had been freezing all day:  when I rushed out the door to catch my bus, missed it and waited thirty minutes for the next one cursing with wet hair; sitting in my office all day with my coat on because for whatever reason it didn’t seem to be warming up; and then in the Rick Steves line for an hour and a half.  My friend learned quickly that I was cold, as I kept obnoxiously reminding her of this fact every ten minutes.

But I powered through.  I caught up with my friend as the line predominantly made up of senior citizens lengthened, and a woman seeming important came out from the warmth of the building.  I figured she was announcing that we could go indoors to wait, but no, instead she simply walked by counting us and then walked back inside.

The worst part of the line was when people who actually had tickets walked by and asked, condescendingly, “Oh, is this STANDBY?” to which one of us had to confirm to a complete stranger that we did not have tickets.

After the fifth time, I was losing patience with the subhuman feeling of being in the standby line, as were the other members of the line in front of me.  I overly loudly said to my friend that we were being treated like second class citizens the next time it happened.  Then we started chatting with the other people in line around us about how ridiculous it was the way people were acting when they found out we weren’t the “real” line.

I have a weak spot for some general camaraderie, or a mob mentality that is used for the greater good.  It’s a weird thing to enjoy, I admit, and I’m no stranger to being the instigator in situations like this and then letting everyone else do the hard work.  So stirring up the line by discussing that we were subhuman was all I really needed to do to rile them up to react to the next person.

A woman walked up and said, “Oh is this standby?” and I uttered, “Look at her point her finger at us.”  The line was cracking jokes about how we still had our humanity.  The woman clearly felt bad and quickly avoided eye contact and walked back inside.  That’s when I noticed the Rick Steves superfan creeping up in the line behind us.

My friend and I had been bantering with the guy behind us (the same “friend” I had made by swearing about the bus incident) about our status as standby, when we were joking about how we should have brought a flask.  I was only partially joking about that.  I would have loved a flask in that moment.

The superfan was an older guy who crept up and announced that you could get a beer for three bucks at the bar across the street.  He seemed not to get some of the jokes, and I didn’t understand how he had pushed his way to the front of the line when he clearly was the line buzzkill.

That’s when people started offering us their extra tickets.  As you would expect, the man who was rolling solo in the front position took the first ticket, nodded to us, and then left us to our own devices, as he was no longer part of the second class community.

The second time this happened, Superfan ran up the person who was handing the ticket over to the woman in the front of the line, pushed her hand out of the way, and tried to force a five dollar bill into the seller’s hand.  He was quickly dismissed, and now the line felt awkward, because as much as I like Rick Steves, this wasn’t like I was trying to buy scalped tickets for a Rolling Stones concert.

The next time it happened, he pushed through to the person, and ran inside, bypassing everyone else in the line.  The guy who was standing in front of him said he would rather give up his spot than wait in line with that brand of crazy any longer.

There was a running joke of how quickly people were forgetting that they were a part of the Standby Camaraderie as soon as they were handed a ticket.  I vowed we would not be the same way.  That’s when someone handed out two pairs of tickets, meaning my friend and I had earned our entry along with the two girls waiting in front of us.

The girls in front yelled, “Let’s go,” to us, handed us the tickets and we followed them in, quickly forgetting all about my standby status now that I was granted citizenship as a real person.  Then we felt the entire line start following us inside.  I got flustered with the tickets, and a gust of wind blew them out of my hand as my friend yelled, “Not everyone, just us.”

The amount of embarrassment in shutting down the entire line was rough.  Kneeling down to pick up our tickets off of the ground in shame while they looked on in disappointment was a little extra salt in the wound.  We had, in fact, forgotten about the line just as soon as those tickets became ours.

I sheepishly sat down in my seat, feeling bad about leaving the bus guy outside, but not that bad, because after all, I had secured my position inside.  I enjoyed the warmth, and listened to one of my favorite travelers give a great presentation on Cuba, only fueling my fire to not only make it there sometime in the near future, but also reiterating that maybe someday I will be working for this company.  Then standby drama will be a thing of the past.


2 thoughts on “The Standby Camaraderie

  1. Cuban sandwiches are delicious. It’s always good to travel to a destination that has food named after it. Philly, Yorkshire, Buffalo ….. Just saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Standby is tough but a life’s necessity.
    Your tale reminds me to be nicer to those in line wherever that line is.
    After all it is just some poor guy who didn’t get the ticket on time.

    Liked by 1 person

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