I got the call the night before.
"So what time do you want to meet to get our spot in line?"
asked my friend.
"I'm hearing some people are planning on arriving as early as 5
o'clock in the morning, so how do you feel about 4 o'clock?"
"Hmm," responded my friend thoughtfully.
"It all comes down to how badly we want it."
"How badly do we want it?" I asked nervously.
"We want it BAD. Like 3 o'clock bad."
"Three o'clock in the MORNING??"
"I'm in," I finished dejectedly, resigning myself to a sleepless
And thus I showed up at 3 a.m. this past Monday to wait in a
line. This was not merely to get tickets for a rock concert or some
sporting event. My purpose was far nobler than that.
I was in line to get three of the last remaining spots for our
local Chicago Park District summer camp.
Every year, Park District registration occurs online first. As a
mother to three sons, I have found that registering multiple
children online for in-demand camps is pointless. Programs fill up
within seconds of going live. Parents are left frustrated,
desperate, and, in my case, standing in front of a fieldhouse in
the middle of the night praying not to pee.
I was prepared. My friend who waited with me is a Chicago
policeman, so safety was not a concern. I packed my favorite lawn
chair and dressed appropriately for the cold overnight hours. Most
importantly, I fought the urge to buy that extra-large Dunkin'
Donuts coffee. There would be no vacating my spot for a resulting
potty break. This was to be cut-throat. Those faint of heart and
full in bladder would simply not make it.
As time passed, a few more early birds trickled into line. We
grilled each other on preferences (morning or afternoon spots, age
groups, and type of camp). We quickly figured out who was certain
to lock in spots and who would be wait-listed. When one line member
suggested to another line member that he ought give up and go home,
the man responded without missing a beat:
"Nah. Someone could die."
The crowd cracked up. Only people with a sense of humor and
irony stand out in the middle of the night for summer camp.
The line started taking on a party atmosphere. Friends and
neighbors chatted, gloves were shared, and coffee runs were
ultimately made. Someone suggested that next year, the crowd head
straight over after some pints at the famed Western Avenue pubs.
We'd be happy, impervious to cold, and completely incapable of
filling out our forms correctly.
I cringed when I saw my in-laws arrive in a spot most likely
destined for the dreaded wait list.
"Oh Marianne," coaxed my sister-in-law, trying to convince me to
relinquish my #2 spot, "you DO want us to attend Jack's First
Communion next month, don't you?"
It wasn't easy, but I held firm. And I reduced my First
Communion headcount by four.
Following a short six hours in line, I was able to register all
three kids for camp while turning down offers of money, free
babysitting, and carpool services.
After all, I have integrity.
And a strong desire for summer afternoon naps.
Like I said, I wanted this BAD.
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.
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