GoogleIt Mail IT Print IT PermaLinkHarry Potter And The Parking Lot Of Peril
01:25:20 AM
Written By : Richard SchwartzCategory : 1. Life
Location : Nashua, NH

Returning to Barnes & Noble a short time after midnight, I parked a couple of hundred yards away in front of the Shaw's supermarket in the Royal Ridge Mall. Barnes & Noble is not in Royal Ridge. Barnes & Noble's own lot had been full for hours. The modest lot of the adjaced strip mall, where I had parked a few hours earlier, was full. The lot of the small plaza with the Blockbuster Video and Panera restaurant was full. About half of the spaces in front of Shaw's were full. After midnight.


Barnes & Noble had it all figured out. Almost. In addition to the wristbands, everyone had been given a color-coded flyer. Entrance to the store was choreographed in groups according to the color. I was in the pink group, the third to be let in. I only had to wait in the parking lot for about fifteen minutes, but during that time I realized the one logistical error Barnes & Noble had made.


The first group in consisted of the people who had come quite early, many of whom had stayed for the duration instead of going home after getting their wristbands. They had come with their children. They had come with their lawn chairs! These were also the first people to leave. These were also the people who were parked in the Barnes & Noble lot, where hundreds of other people were waiting, not really in lines. It was more like packs.


The people who had gotten in and out of the store, who had their books and their posters and their other prizes, naturally wanted to get in their cars and drive home with their kids... to put the kids to bed, and to read as much of the book as possible before the kids woke up and absconded with them.


The packs of people were in the way. They were trying to figure out -- by the dim light of the half moon, the store lights, and the street lights -- which people in which other packs had the same color flyer. Pink can look very much like purple in such circumstances. Being in the right pack seemed like it could be important, because nobody really knew how long the wait would be, and nobody really wanted to be caught in the wrong place when their color was called.


Fortunately, The Wisdom of Crowds prevailed. Cars were let through, a little grudgingly perhaps, but their headlights had helped a bit with the color discrimination so it seemed that the favor should be returned.


When the pink group was allowed inside the store, we were ushered toward the rear. Store employees were acting much like those folks in the Dolphin dining room at Lotusphere, directing traffic with all the authority they could muster. Unlike at Lotusphere, however, people in Barnes & Noble at midnight actually figured that there might be a penalty for disobedience, so nobody strayed from the allowed path.


Our group was directed into the CD department, and snaked around the perimeter of the room in a long line leading to the registers. It had taken me far too long, however, to find the pink pack, so I was one of the last in this group. The line moved, but slowly, and in a half hour I was just half way there. At that point, however, the traffic directors reappeared and told us that the front registers were now all clear, and so those of us toward the end of the line could move. I was out of the store with the books within two minutes.


While waiting, I had noticed that the purple and the green groups came in after the pink group. If the fellow who was giving out the information when I got my wristband was correct, pink was the third group of two hundred fifty, so purple was the fourth and green was the fifth. The green group looked pretty sparse... definitely not a full two hundred fifty.


When I left, there were still people in the parking lot. Not much of a pack at this point, but still a small number waiting to get in. I suspect that they may have been non-wristband wearers who just showed up at midnight and had to wait until all the folks who had followed the rules... (as if we had actually known them in advance!)... had gotten our books. Doing the math (and trusting the information I had been given), there were more than a thousand people at this Barnes & Noble. I thought about taking a quick drive, just a quarter mile South, to see what was going on at Borders, but I went home to read instead.


I read chapter one, The Other Minister, before posting this.

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