Halfway through my 2005 Wheels trip there was a somewhat large event in the lives of the kids on the bus. The 6th book in the Harry Potter series would be released. It was a big deal for them - most of these kids weer 14 or 15 years old, which meant when the first book arrived in the states they were only 9 or 10. The most obsessed kids already had arranged for their parents to buy the book and overnight it to them on the trip at our next stop in Los Angeles. However we were in San Francisco for the weekend. Los Angeles was on Monday - an eternity away, considering the book came out on Friday.
By some stroke of luck there was a Wal-Mart and Barnes & Noble in the plaza adjacent to our hotel and Saturday night I agreed to take any of them who desperately wanted to on a walk over to the stores. I told the eleven kids who came that there was almost certainly going to be no copies available - fans of the series had been waiting for this day for two years. Anyone who wanted to read it the night it came out would have reserved a copy ahead of time and there wasn't going to be random excess stock.
We walked to Wal-Mart first to find empty shelves and employees who laughed when I asked if they had any extra copies. Upon arriving at Barnes and Noble it looked something like the Filene's Basement wedding dress sale. It was definitely more people than I had ever seen in a book store at 10:30 pm on a Saturday night.
I approached the customer service counter with trepidation. I had already been laughed at once for asking if there were copies available. By some incredible dumb luck, the woman handed me three copies of the book that were left behind at the customer service desk. She said people had reserved the book at this location then later canceled because another store had a better release party. I asked the woman to please hold the books for me because I had eleven kids who were interested in buying them, now I just had to figure out who got to.
There was a brief thought of a trivia contest or some Potter related skills competition, but in the end we needed something quicker. I went back to the desk and procured a sheet of paper. I ripped it quickly into eleven pieces. On three of the pieces, I wrote "You can read!" and the remaining eight I wrote "Sucker!" Each piece was folded up and put into my hat. The Potter fans lined up and each picked a piece for the right to purchase this $30 book. Before anyone could open their paper, my friend Mordy, who had been visiting with our group for the weekend, switched his camera to video mode.
One of the kids jumped up and down even though he did not win. Another later revealed he had no interest in the book at all, he just wanted to see where everyone was going. Yet another defeated girl willed herself to purchase the audio book version, which was made up of 17 discs and clocked in at a monstrous 19 hours.
There were a few catches for the winners of the contest. Those who now had the book were not allowed to stay up for the entire Saturday night and finish it. The book was 672 pages long and we had a full day of San Francisco sight seeing the next day. It would be easy to tell if one of the kids had forgone sleep to be the first one finished.
The other stipulation was that whoever finished first was to turn the book over to me so I could read it next. It might have offset the first clause but I was willing to wait. As it turns out, one of the girls was finished before the drive to Los Angeles. I took my time and probably finished it in a weeks time, being lapped by several of my kids in the process.