Kind of creepy to be walking around White Plains at 4:30 in the morning. No lights on, no cars, no people. I felt like I was in a zombie movie. And, really, at that hour, I'm sure I looked like I was in a zombie movie.
But that was what I had to go through to get myself to the Prudential Center on time. Take the Metro North train into Grand Central, grab a shuttle to Times Square, hop on the subway to Penn Station and then take yet another train to nobody's favorite destination... Newark, New Jersey. That's where the hopefuls were gathering to wait for a chance to be on Simon Cowell's new show, X-Factor.
On one of the trains, there was a good looking kid in back of me who talked openly about a great number of things. How X-Factor was going to be different from American Idol, how worthless his agent was, how badly he had to take a shit, and how he left his other outfit in the bag on his lap. "THIS?!" he said. "No way, man! I'm not wearing THIS!!! I'm gonna change when I get in there."
A seventeen year old Thomas Jane/Justin Bieber hybrid with (probably) a squeaky clean boy band in his past, an agent... and a costume change. And, this wasn't for the audition, mind you. This was just for the registration. The auditions would be held the following day.
I was convinced right then and there that this dude would make it onto the show.
The little bastard.
I've heard a variety of different estimates for the crowds on that Wednesday. Fifteen thousand, eighteen thousand. The Star Ledger estimated twenty thousand, but, if I were to offer up a guess, I would have to go with 16,428. Give or take a dozen Rhiannas. And I'm certain that a strong majority of those folks were standing in front of me by the time I arrived at 6:40 am. In the rain. It was crazy. And it was the longest line I'd ever stayed in without the promise of a roller coaster at the end of it. Instead, if I stood my ground, I would walk away from that endless ordeal... with a wristband.
I suppose it's inevitable, in a line that long, that you would come to learn a good deal about your neighbors. I certainly did. It was truly comforting, in a way, actually, as-- y'know, while we all had different backgrounds and all came from many different places, we were able to find quite a bit of common ground. Most of the people around me, for instance, shared a love for laughter, a passion for music of course, and, most importantly, more than anything else, a fervent desire to smack me in the face with their gigantic and pointy umbrellas.
That we were so sardine-packed a crowd made most of this fairly forgivable, but after awhile it really got to be ridiculous. About every third minute there was a thunk on the top or the side of my head. Thunk! ...Thunk!!! .....THUNK!!! Thunk, thunk!!! I felt like the whack-a-mole.
Through the magic of my iMac computer, I was able to recreate what I think is something of an accurate representation of said events, without, unfortunately, the many, many hours of thought-provoking swear words that were swirling about inside my head...
All this was so much more than bearable when compared to the woman I was stuck behind for the better part of three hours. "I don't understand why this line isn't mooooooving!" she whined. On and on and on, and without taking a breath, she rambled, "Why do they have us WAITING out here like this?! Don't they know it's RAINING??? This isn't right! It's NOT RIGHT!!!!! They shouldn't have us waaaaaaaiting out here like this!!!! ...In the rain??? In the RAIN??????? It's not right!!! It's just! Not! Right!!!!! ......I just don't understand why this line isn't even MOOOOVING!!!!"
I JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WON'T SHUT YOUR FREAKING CRYBABY PIE HOLE FOR TWO MOTHERFREAKING MINUTES IN A ROW!!!!!!
...is what i wanted to say. But I didn't. Because I am a gentleman.
Also, I wanted to preserve my delicate vocal chords. Because I am a diva.
At any rate, sometimes it's just better to scurry away from people like that. And, to be fair, it very, very much was a long ass wait. FOUR HOURS after we stepped into that line, we were finally-- finally!!! FINALLY!!! --told by a man in a headset that it would probably only be another two more hours before we walked into the building... And then he complained to the group standing next to me that there weren't enough people stabbing me in the cheekbones with their umbrellas.
Two and a half hours after that I was in the building, about to receive my very own wristband! This nice young woman fastened it on for me and told me that I had to keep it on my wrist for the entire audition process. "But, don't worry," she said, "you can still shower with it on."
And... I dunno, something about the way she said it kind of bugged me. I mean, I know I was probably just being paranoid, but I couldn't help but wonder if that was something she mentioned to all of the contestants, or just the people with scraggily beards. There was just something in her eyes that made me think that she wanted to tell me more...
"In addition to bathing, you could also brush your teeth with your wristband on... And, just so you know, your wristband will not get in your way should you decide to ...(ahem!) change your socks. Oh, and, I should probably tell you, too, that your wristband will most likely not fall off if you want to just go on ahead and apply a little deodorant tomorrow, so... m'hm..."
I didn't really appreciate it at the time, but on the train ride home I started to see it as a welcome reminder to get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow was the audition. Kind of a big day. Best not to show up looking like a ripe zombie.
The five things i fell in love with today...
1) I don't believe in omens. Which is good, because before I walked out the door that day, my house key somehow managed to flip its way off of my key ring. Pretty weird, actually.
2) I've never been a Simon Cowell fan at all (at ALL!), but I did begin to understand him a little more after listening to a 14 year old in line butcher Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" for twenty minutes.
3) My scraggily beard. I kind of miss it today.
4) I recovered some dude's wallet on the subway early that morning and he seemed genuinely touched that a stranger returned it. Made me feel good. And it made me wish I believed in karma.
5) Best thing I'd heard in line that day, bar none... "It's CHICKEN!!! Chicken ain't meat! Chicken's a bird!"
Song of the night...
"Umbrella" by Rhianna
Movie of the night...
"Leonard Cohen: I'm your man"