Harry Potter: the waiting

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Creative Loafing Events Editor Leilani Polk is vacationing in Mexico. But that didn't stop our Harry Potter-loving staffer from sending us her account of acquiring perhaps the most highly-anticipated book since the advent of the printing press.

BY LEILANI POLK

In my mind, it was easy: I’d arrive Barnes and Noble on Tyrone Boulevard in St. Petersburg at 12:15 a.m. the Saturday morning of its July 21 release and avoid the midnight masses (which I optimistically thought would be slight enough that almost everyone would be gone by the time I got there). I'd cruise right to the counter, snag my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, and return home. Five minutes tops.

Of course, I vastly underestimated the Harry Potter fan base. Yes, I’ve followed the story with great interest, even crying at the death of Professor Dumbledore – one of the book’s main heroes and Harry’s mentor/father figure. But I’m no fanatic. The only reason I was picking up my reserved copy at midnight was because I was taking an early flight to Mexico the following day. I could have waited to get the book but I wanted something long and compelling to read on my leisurely week-long vacation, which would include much lounging by the pool (or on the beach). But lounging, as great as it is, gets boring pretty quick. Since I wasn’t positive I could pick up a copy at the airport, I made the decision to drop by one of the midnight release parties.

I drove up to Barnes and Noble at the exact time I planned. Much to my chagrin, the parking lot was packed. A large crowd of Potter lovers – at least several hundred – spilled from the entrance. I trudged to the end of the very long line, passing by knots of tweens and teens, some chatting animatedly, others strangely quiet and serious.

It was controlled pandemonium. Some people were camped-out on fold-up chairs. Those waiting in line seemed resigned to a fate of standing around while the ones leaving the store – some with single copies, a few with bags or cases – were breathlessly exclaiming in their cell phones or to their companions, or holding their book tightly to their chest and heading to their car in a fast walk. Some people were already reading the first pages of the book while heading to their cars in a slow walk, all of them sharing the same self-satisfied expression that people wear when they’ve acquired the one thing they want most in the world. A carload of kids drove by, all shrieking, “We got it! We got it!” It was some surreal shit.

I waited in line outside for about 25 minutes before making it inside, where the mass of people had been scaled down to an orderly line that snaked all around the store and eventually ended at the registers. Which meant I did a lot of random reading to keep myself entertained: The Book of Illusions. 101 Ways to Cook Tofu. How to Understand a Woman through Her Cat.

A display of stuffed animals (characters from children’s books) caught my attention and I played with a tiny Chihuahua and Curious George on the final leg of the wait. By the time I reached the registers, it was 1 a.m. and I was ready to hightail it outta there. I handed the visibly weary but somehow still pleasant clerk my card, grabbed my book, and made my way wearily back to my car.

A huge display of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows greeted me at the airport book store the next day. I grumpily ignored it.

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