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“Are there any single tickets available for tonight’s show?”
The ticket lady sighed and pounded on her keyboard behind her Plexiglas window. She lowered her reading glasses down to the tip of her nose and looked as if she couldn’t believe it herself.
“We have one ticket, obstructed view and standing room. $250 bucks,” she said in her New York accent to my Minnesota ears. “You want it?”
It was 2002. The Producers was the show to see and this was my best shot. Two hundred and fifty dollars to stand behind a post after a 10-hour-day at my unpaid internship at an advertising startup.
That summer I lived in the NYU dorms, I spent all of my non-existent money on theater tickets.
Most nights, there was one stray ticket that theaters were happy to sell cheap to a college girl with a debit card and frizzy hair. Not the case at The St. James Theater on West 44th Street, home to The Producers. You couldn’t get this ticket at TKTS and it was years before you could buy resold tickets online. Night after night, The St. James was my first stop to see if there was a ticket for sale. And night after night, the same ticket lady would turn me away. Until now.
This was it. $250 between me and Nathan Lane. $250 between me and standing for three hours in high heels that I’d been wearing since 7 a.m. $250 between me and the show. Well, $250 and a post that would obstruct my view.
I hesitated. I was earning exactly zero dollars. How could I justify spending this? But, ever so slowly, I pulled out my debit card and slid it towards the ticket lady. Just then, I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“Did you say you are buying a ticket for tonight’s show?” I was face-to-face with what was noticeably a Jewish mother. When you’ve lived with one your entire life, they are easy to spot.
“Yes. I’m about to buy a ticket to tonight’s show.”
“Don’t. Come with us. My husband got sick at the last minute and we have an extra front-row ticket. Please. Sit with us.” She held out a smooth stub and I stood there stunned.
We walked to our seats and as the lights were dimming, she leaned over and said, “Do you know what beshert is?” I nodded. Clearly my frizzy hair had given away my Jewish identity. The orchestra started and for three hours, I smiled. Seeing so much more than a show that night but seeing that sometimes, the best money you spend is the money you never had to spend at all.
I never got the woman’s name. Since I’ll likely never be able to repay her, the best hope is paying it forward. Someday, I’ll be able to offer a spare ticket to a lowly intern with bad hair to the hottest show in town.
Debra Arbit, a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” recently started her second business, (athenastrategy.co). She enjoys writing when she’s not wiping peanut butter off one of her three young kids’ faces. She can usually be found asleep on her couch in Minnesota with Alex, her husband of almost 10 years, by her side, 15 minutes after Broadway’s curtain time.