Ever since the beginning of July, when the sixth Harry Potter book first appeared on my radar, I had a pipe dream of being in a bookstore at midnight on July 15th. I pictured it as some sort of twisted New Year’s celebration; at the stroke of midnight, bookstore employees, dressed as Harry and Hermione, would whip aside a shiny black cloth with stars and moons on it, revealing a towering pyramid of books. Bells would toll majestically, people would shriek, kiss each other, jump up and down, and drool and/or swoon.
And then a mad rush would begin. People would swarm the cash registers, waving money and credit cards and babies in the air, pushing, even tackling each other, if need be. I pictured people gasping for air as the crowds overwhelmed them, and then dropping under the feet of thousands of Harrys, Hermiones, and Dumbledores, forgotten until a custodian stumbled across them as he cleaned up the bookstore in the wee hours of the morning.
Unfortunately, I’ll never know what it was like to be at a bookstore at that moment. I arrived after 12 midnight, and was too scared to ask any of the people there what it had been like at midnight.
On July 15th at approximately 11:47 p.m., I persuaded my mom to go with me to a Harry Potter extravaganza, by convincing her that J. K. Rowling had done wonders for the literary world, and that we should be there to witness people celebrating the joy of reading. Needless to say, as my mom is a writer herself, my literary pep talk worked, and we sped off into the night.
We finally arrived, out of breath, at Barnes and Noble…at 12:03 a.m. I was upset that I’d never know what it had been like at midnight, but I immediately forgot about my broken dreams: through the doors of Barnes and Noble, I saw a bookstore full of people dressed in all sorts of miscellaneous Harry Potter paraphernalia.
There were people of every age (including a 50 year-old Harry Potter sporting Harry Potter glasses and a forehead tattoo — I wondered what his boss would think if he saw him) in Harry, Hermione, and Ron garb and even full dragon costumes (I’m only assuming it was a dragon. It could have been another creature, but I’m not a Harry Potter buff who can tell you not only the name and species of the dragonish creature, but also its mother’s maiden name as well).
As we squirmed our way into the thick of the crowd, I warned my mother to avoid eye contact with the enthusiasts, but I soon discovered that this would be difficult: it was the place to see and be seen. I caught my mom waving to someone she knew, and I saw several groups of kids I knew from school.
Surprisingly, the selling of the books was incredibly organized. It reminded me of boarding a Southwest plane, with different groups being called out and people stepping up in a methodical manner, except instead of boarding a plane, they were receiving their long-awaited bundles of joy. I snickered to myself, thinking that all of these people would probably be too tired to even begin reading the book.
I soon began to feel out of place because there wasn’t any reason for my mom and me to be there other than to observe the spectacle. We weren’t even going to buy a book, because heated family debates over who would read the book first, me or my brother, hadn’t resolve themselves, and my parents insisted that it was ridiculous to buy two copies of the same book. The thing is, neither my brother nor I are Harry Potter freaks. We just wanted to read it. (In case you are wondering, my brother ended up reading the book first, a gallant sacrifice on my part.)Though I’m not a Harry Potter fan, as we left the bookstore, I remembered the literary pep talk I’d given my mom earlier that evening, and I realized that I was actually extremely impressed with what J. K. Rowling had done to the world, for better or worse.