On being ... priceless
Last week a friend and I went to a taping of a well-known Canadian talk show. The show attracts interesting guests from all walks of life. The taping we attended featured a Billboard-topping Canadian singer, a venture capitalist, and the first couple voted off “Battle of the Blades”, a popular Canadian reality show. (Yes, Canadians like reality shows too and, not to be outdone by the U.S., last year the CBC premiered this uniquely-Canadian show -- it features former NHL players teamed with well-known women figure skaters in a pairs figure skating competition.)
Though my friend and I hadn’t ever watched an entire episode of the hour-long talk show, we thought going to a taping would be fun. What clinched the deal was the fact that ordering the (free) tickets on-line was a breeze. I thought we’d have to order tickets weeks, if not months, in advance. Instead, we got tickets for a show later that week.
We were asked to be there promptly at 2:45 p.m. So, at 2:40 we joined about 30 others who were already in the check-in line. At about 2:50 we noticed a second line forming and we speculated that that line probably was for people who hadn’t pre-booked tickets. (The day before the taping the guests were announced on-line and, given the popularity of the Canadian singer that was scheduled, I figured people who hadn’t pre-ordered tickets might have shown up in hopes of their being space.)
When we finally made it up to the check-in person, we were asked to sign in and then join the other line. Apparently that other line wasn’t for the ticket-less -- it was just where you stood after signing in. We dutifully joined that line and waited. Finally, at about 3:30, a bunch of us were ushered into a freight elevator to be taken up to the studio. Well, taken up to the floor the studio was on. There we joined another line. We didn’t get into the studio until about 4:15. By then -- despite my best efforts at staying cheery -- my enthusiasm had diminished quite a bit.
The first segment featured the singer performing two Christmas songs (this was being recorded for airing December 24th). After finishing the second song they decided to re-do the first song because we were, well -- too polite and quiet. On the second take we were urged to let loose, sing along if we wanted, and clap and cheer louder. I guess our efforts were good enough that second time because after that we were ushered back into the hall to wait so they could remove the drums and piano and re-set the seats for a normal interview. When all was said and done, we finally left the studio at about 6:15.
While we were in line and I felt myself getting antsier and antsier, I thought about how I used to be much better at handling such waiting. Indeed, I have many fond memories of my sister and I buying inexpensive lawn seats at concerts and getting there hours early to scope out a prime place and spread our blanket and wait. Mind you, in those days no one frisked you on entry and they didn’t mind if you brought in a sandwich or something to munch on along with your blanket. Nowadays, if you and your blanket make it through the security search, the best you can hope for is concession stands with junk food costing top dollar.
There was a time, too, when friends and I used to think nothing of waiting in line at sold-out documentaries and shows in hopes of snagging one of a handful of rush tickets that might be released minutes before the show starts. I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point a few years back I guess we came to the realization that if there’s something we want to see we should try to get tickets in advance. And, if we don’t manage to get them, we’re fine with that because we realize there are lots of other enjoyable ways of passing time.
On the way home from the taping my friend and I agreed that the guests were entertaining and all, but I don’t think either of us would rush back to attend another taping. And, I think it’s fairly telling that the next day, when another friend asked me how it was, my first comment had to do with the long wait, rather than with anything the guests said or did.
Since then I’ve been thinking more about my impatience that afternoon. I won’t deny that as we were waiting a voice inside my head kept chiding me with: “you get what you pay for” and “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. And yet, I’m not one of those who goes through life thinking “time is money”. Indeed, I realized long ago that one of the best things about working for myself is the fact that I don’t have to account to anyone else for my time. (Measuring things in tenths of an hour, as I used to have to when I practiced law, is enough to drive anyone crazy and it’s even worse if you start believing that those tenths are worth $X at your charge-out rate!)
Ultimately I think my growing impatience with lineups is a sign of age. Though I didn’t have anything particularly pressing to do that afternoon, I couldn’t help think that life is short and my time could have been better spent than standing in line.
Ah well, I guess I’ll just have to chalk it up to a first hand reminder of something MasterCard has been telling us for years: there’s a difference between free and priceless.
© 2009 Ingrid Sapona