“Do you know that there’s still a chance for you?” – “Firework,” Katy Perry
I often hear from people that the reason they don’t enter writing contests or competitions is because of the sheer numbers out there doing the exact same thing.
“What are the odds that I’ll win?” they say.
Let me tell you a little story…
Last night, I took my 12-year-old daughter, Helena, to see Katy Perry in concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was her first concert at the Garden – a huge arena with so much history, both for me and for New York. I was excited. For me. For her. I knew the seats weren’t the greatest; I mean, they were okay. Section 311. Pretty high up there, but at least we were close to the stage.
I could tell immediately that my daughter was disappointed with the seats the moment we entered the arena. She didn’t come out and say so, because she’s such a sweetie, but I could read it in her face.
We weren’t sitting for more than two minutes, before she said, “Hey, I just saw there’s a contest where you can win a seat upgrade.”
“Oh, really?” I said, not paying it much mind. I was imagining what my daughter would say to her friends about the concert and whether the bad seats would leave a bitter taste. I was also thinking about the ensuing conversations that were bound to take place between us about how “we’re not always going to be able to sit close to the stage.”
“I missed the number you were supposed to text,” she said disappointedly and stared at the neon lights as they changed from one announcement to the other. Finally, she took out her phone, chanting the number under her breath so she wouldn’t forget it and punched numbers into her phone.
“You should do it too,” she said when she was done, “so we increase our chances.”
I may have rolled my eyes. I don’t think I did. I happen to be a very optimistic person, but I mean, what are the odds? Still, I dutifully took out my phone and inputted the numbers Helena told me and got a reply immediately that said I needed to go to a website.
“You have to visit a website? You can’t do that on your phone,” I told my daughter. She doesn’t have a smartphone. That meant that her entry was invalid.
Plus, now I was wondering what my daughter had gotten me into, probably signing me up for a slew of email lists and Madison Square Garden newsletters. But I filled out the form anyway, which, luckily, was short and plugged in my name, email address, phone as well as my seat section, row and seat number from memory. I pressed “submit” and was thanked by the website, which said they’d let us know if we’d won at 8:40 p.m.
I looked at my watch. It was 7:20 p.m. It seemed like a lifetime away.
“We can enter four times,” Helena said. “You should do it again, in a little while. You know, space them out.”
“Okay,” I said. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was thinking. I was thinking I’ve told my daughter all this time that, as Woody Allen famously said (or I think he did), 80 percent of life is showing up. You know, you gotta be in it to win it, something I just said to my 9-year-old the other day when he entered a school contest. But, again, what are the odds?
So I took out my phone a few minutes later and entered again and got an error message. I then somehow managed to un-enter the contest by accident and had to reenter one more time. After that, I got a string of error messages every time I tried to enter again.
“This thing is not letting me enter more than once,” I told her.
“That’s okay,” she said, the gleam in her eyes dimmed slightly at the prospect of having to stay in the seats I purchased.
As the first opening act changed to the second, and the place was rocking with screaming tweens and teens, I noticed on a phone being held by the dude sitting in front of me that it was 8:40 p.m. I took out my phone and saw that the green indicator light was blinking, which meant I had a text message. Let’s face it: It could have been from anyone. I had been texting my husband and friend Viki all evening. I clicked and read the following:
MSG INSIDER: YOU
WON 2 SEAT UPGRADES!!!
Please be in your seat by 8:50 pm.
A Guest Services Rep will be
with you shortly.
I was stunned. I couldn’t speak and just held up my phone in front of Helena’s face, blocking her view of the stage. I watched her eyes go down the screen and then her jaw drop.
“I think we won,” I said in a whisper. “Oh, my god!”
Within 10 minutes, a young man and a young woman sidestepped their way up the crowded nosebleed stairs and stopped at our row.
“Dina?” he asked.
I nodded. The people around us didn’t know what to make of it. For all they knew, we were scalpers who had gotten caught with fake tickets.
“Let’s go,” he said. “I just need to verify your ticket information.” Ticket information that I typed in from memory, not even bothering to doublecheck…
I handed him the crumbled paperwork from my pockets.
He looked at it with a flashlight and said, “You’re good.”
For such a big, loud room, all of a sudden it felt quiet. There was no fanfare. No spotlights. Just Helena and I following two strangers down these treacherous steps and then down escalator after escalator to a lower floor.
As it finally dawned on me that this was actually happening, I asked the young woman, ““How many people won this?”
She looked at me strangely and said, “You. Just you.”
“How many people entered?” I asked.
“Oh, about 10,000,” she said with a smile.
And then came what is probably the greatest moment of the evening for me, and that was when the young man and woman led us back into the arena and I heard Helena scream out, “OH, MY GOD!!!!”
Our seats were right by the stage. Five rows from the floor. I looked up to where our old seats had been, somewhere in the darkness up there, and shook my head. I was still stunned.
We took a couple of publicity shots and then the pair wished us well and left us.
“Thank you, thank you!” Helena said, hugging and squeezing me. She was so happy.
“No, thank you, baby,” I said.
My daughter had reminded me of something very important and something I really do believe down to my core – that there’s always a chance, as long as you believe in that chance and do what you can to make it happen. Whether it’s a writing contest, an elementary school competition or a chance to win free upgrades.
And the concert? One of the best I’ve ever seen.
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon.