My son was on vacation with relatives and due to start summer camp over the weekend, and suddenly all of the plans to get our copy on its US release date had fallen through, for a wide variety of unplanned reasons. The choice was to either go ahead and wait for it from a previous online reservation, or start from scratch and venture out into the night and try to get it from one of our local retailers... at about 10:15 pm on Friday night. A friend was visiting the area, and after about thirty seconds of deliberation we decided to give in and venture forth on a quest to obtain a copy at midnight on Friday, so we ventured forth.
Luckily bookstore and retailers abound in Eastern Pennsylvania, so it seemed to be more a matter of choice than chance, so we thought, so into the car we went in search for the book that was said to be the best selling book of all time by retailers such as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Borders. They had already reported that more orders had been placed for this book than for any other in history, and American publisher Scholastic had announced an unprecedented initial print run of 12 million copies.
We took off for the double-decker Barnes & Noble near Oxford Valley Mall and there found lines of happy Muggles of all ages celebrating the event. Some had been reported to have been there since early Friday morning. We also found that we couldn't pull the old "I just want to go in and get a cup of your coffee" trick. After talking to a number of people and store personnel there, who reported that they had more than enough books to go around, we decided to take a look at Borders, which was just a couple of miles down the road.
At Borders, there were no lines outside, but there was a huge party going on inside that immense store, so we went in, hoping to get a reservation for a copy of the book. Ran into a few friends who wanted to chat and party, but we were on a quest. We tried to get our reservation, but no such luck, as we were told that they had already sold out, though one employee said that there "might be more later" due to people not coming in for their already-reserved copy. That sounded rather vague.
At this point it seemed to be wise to go back to Barnes & Noble and get whatever reservation they were offering, even though it seemed that we were now following some zigzag pattern just to buy a book. We drove back over our previous route, parked and walked to the entrance where we were cheerfully offered a wristband which guaranteed that we would get our book, so this seemed great. The wristbands were being issued in alphabetical groups on a first-come-first-served basis, with each group having a vague number of people. One person said that there were hundreds in each group, and our blue wristbands indicated that we were in group "V" which meant that we might be there when the sun came up, as ours would be the 22nd group of "hundreds" to be let in.
We looked at each other and laughed, deciding that we may as well stick it out, but already feeling a bit tired, it was time for a large cup of coffee... but we still couldn't get into Barnes & Noble due to the fire marshal now restricting the number of people who were allowed in the store. Feeling confident that we would at least get a copy, we went back to the car and then drove down to Borders once again. The store was even more jammed than before, and the people were having a grand time as midnight approached. We went to the coffee line in the back of the store and waited.
The coffee line was moving slowly, but that was OK since we knew that we were going to have to wait for our copy at the other store. That might have been fine except that when we were only about three people away from getting our now-necessary beverages, they shut down the coffee service, apologizing that their water was not functioning, of all things.
We left, and another quest for coffee began, which we finally located at a local Wawa 24-hour convenience store. Then it was back to Barnes & Noble shortly before 1:00 AM, coffee in hand, where we found that they were just admitting people with wristband marked with "I", the 9th group. That meant that we were going to have to wait for 13 more groups to go in. Resigned to the fact that we might be waiting for a couple more hours, we decided to make the best of it, chatting with others around us who had broken away from the formal lines.
We were standing watching the after-midnight socializing, when behind us a young women (whom I won't name) commented that she was amazed at the lines with all of the people waiting when the Borders Express within the Oxford Valley Mall still had over 200 copies available for anyone to pick up. Since our quest had already taken a few strange turns, I asked her what she meant, and she replied that she worked that store and she had heard about the long lines and had come down to see for herself. I was skeptical until she pulled out her employee ID badge. At this time a few other people heard her words and began to sprint for their cars. I kissed her on her cheek, thanking her profusely as she giggled, and we headed quickly towards our car.
We pulled up to the food court entrance of the mall as she had suggested, and joined a few more people with whom we had been standing at the other store, all of us entering together. We made our way past the darkened food court, then left and down to the brightly lit Borders Express. As we entered, an employee walked up and just handed me our new copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and said to be sure to ask for our free poster when we paid for the book at the register.
So that's how we ended up with our copy of the book and the promised poster at exactly 1:11 am, and at 40% off as well. And now you know why I've referred to this as our own "Harry Potter and the Zigzag Quest."
My son knows, and can't wait to get back to start reading it...