The Power of the Pen?

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Does this mean anything to you?

I volunteered to help at the will call for the 19th Annual Art Show preview gala last night. We get some rich folks who are annoyed by waiting in line, no matter how short, for anything. Spending thousands for a pair of tickets buys you some privileges, no doubt, but it does not raise you above the laws of physics or supply and demand. Happily, most people are willing to understand that quick and simple procedures for ticket pick-up are meant to prevent chaos and that everyone needs a ticket, whether they buy it or it is given to them.

One gentleman last night with two tickets needed a third. He was dressed rather well, and he spoke perfectly good English, but he was hard to understand because his voice was raspy, like a harsh whisper. (I’m guessing he spent many of the last 60 years smoking prodigious amounts of tobacco.) So we were having a hard time understanding what exactly he wanted to do. His last name starts with C, so he went to my line, “A-L,” first. I explained that if he bought two tickets, and if he had both of them in his possession, he would need to buy the third. I directed him to another line where he could do so.

This isn’t what he wanted to hear, but he was disinclined to explain further. He stepped away and came back moments later, this time to another will call agent, saying evidently that a gallery owner had left a ticket for him. She had nothing under his name and directed him to the event organizers, also seated at the will call table, who had a record of every ticket.

Minutes later he was back, complaining to my companion that the organizers had been no help to him. Evidently he had visited the coat check, as well, because he had in his hands a dog-eared letter, which he unfolded and placed on the table in front of us.

“Maybe this will give you some insight into my character,” he said, proudly but not arrogantly.

The letter, printed on White House stationery and comprising two, maybe three very short paragraphs, was nearly falling apart. He had used it before.

“Sir, I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t have any tickets for you.”

“Do you know whose name is on that letter? See?”

“Sir, I—”

“Look: Who signed that letter?”

I sneaked a glance and saw a squiggle that I can see might have signified “George W. Bush.” Mr. C was getting indignant. Whatever anger he could muster came out as a stage whisper. Was he insulted that we weren’t bending to his will?

“Sir, I see that it’s the president,” she calmly explained. “But this has nothing to do with this event. I don’t have any tickets for you.”

“Well, I— What’s your name. I want your name,” he demanded.

“My name is printed on the card pinned to my chest,” she said, unperturbed. Was he going to report her? Have her fired from a volunteer job? You’re not allowed to volunteer here — ever again! Oh the shame of it! Be my guest.

She directed him back to the event organizers, and he angrily shoved off.

Who knows what that letter even said. I didn’t read it. I didn’t care. All it really proves is that he knows who the president of the United States is. I do too. And that’s not going to get you a ticket, no matter how rich you are.


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the untallied hours

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