by David G. Woolley
I'm a long time conference sign holder. I invented the sport. When I started holding signs that read "Hungry for Conference Tickets" the only other sign holders were hunkered down behind police barriers in the free speech zones. They were dressed in jeans and a black T shirt. I wore a white shirt and tie, didn't call anyone to repentance and church security allowed me free reign on church property to scare up some tickets. I got so good that between the parking lot and the front doors of the Conference Center I collected enough tickets for half the souls in the standby line none of whom had a clue about the art of sign holding.
These days us ticket sign holders outnumber the free speech sign holders ten to one and the new arrivals are getting more creative every year. Last conference I didn't even bother to compete on the same street corner with the three 18.9 year-old sign holders begging for tickets with their poverty plea angle written in pencil lead script on notebook paper with a sappy, tug on the heart-strings sign "Drove from California all night. Leaving on mission next week. Please give us tickets." As if all the new competition isn't bad enough, the no-sign-holder-for-tickets-allowed-on-church-property policy is sure to drive an experienced scalper to the Stake President for a handout. It's comforting to think that someone on temple square is thinking of us even if they're the ones with the high-tech communications devices hidden inside the ear canal. Can't they give a tithe-paying regular guy a break? There's simply no such thing as an easy ticket anymore.
Last conference the *do-you-have-an-extra-ticket sign holders hung out on the *street-corner-free-speech-zone with the *you're-going-to-hell sign holders. *(an asterisk is, once again, an excellent word choice to let you know that the topic for my next post is The-Incorrect-Use-of-Hyphens-in-All-Their-Glory).
It was during April Conference 2007 when I found myself (not figuratively or spiritually or even ecumenically, but physically found myself standing next to one of the unhyphenated, really big, yellow with plasticized rain protection, professional quality sign holders). He had a 12 x 14 3mm card stock double reinforced mortar board with felt backing. I had a sheet of typing paper. He had 132 point font Times New Roman. I had magic marker font. He had a ten foot pole with a shoulder harness. I held mine between my fingers. The light was red. The corner was crowded with hundreds of conference goers waiting to cross. I lifted my pathetic sign and asked my unhyphenated-go-to-hell-sign-holder-neighbor if he had any tickets he wanted to unload. He shook his head no before calling the crowd to repentance.
I lifted my sign higher and said, "You sure?"
He said, "The only ticket in there is a ticket to hell."
I said, "I'll take four."
Getting into conference is easier than getting into the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert. Its also easier to pull your bottom lip over your eyes. It may be because they don't televise it (the Christmas concert, not the lip pulling). I think its because Craig Jessop gave all my unhyphenated friends complimentary tickets. This year I plan on calling more conference goers to repentance.
Two Christmas concerts ago some of us die hard choir aficionados slept out in front of door #14 at the Conference Center on a snowy October evening to beat the Internet ticket rush and get front row seats. Craig Jessop told the choir about the ardent fans waiting all night in the snow. That was us. The men with the cool listening devices didn't kick us off Conference Center property. They figured the snow would do that, but we persevered. The following year church security changed the distribution policy. I like to think I had a part in forming the new rules. Internet ticket requests only. I also like to tell people I invented it (the Internet not the ticket policy). I think the new rules reflect a fear that the line for Christmas concert tickets is going to form weeks before the conference standby line.
Last October I opened ten windows to the Internet, pointed five other computers at the church website and when the appointed Christmas concert ticket request hour arrived all I got were four hours worth of "Due to high volume, we are unable to process your request at this time."
This year, despite the anti-gambling sentiment among ticket distribution personnel, concert tickets will be awarded by lottery. Beginning October 22nd the church website accepts requests. Two weeks later, after sign ups close, a random drawing awards lucky concert goers with tickets. I have a friend who always gets lucky. Three mouse clicks and she has her tickets. Hundreds of thousands of mouse clicks and I have no tickets. Do you think a lottery is going to change my luck? I'll likely get front row seats in gambler's hell next to my unhyphenated-yellow-sign-holding buddy before I ever get into the Conference Center balcony seating. My only regret is that my unhyphenated friend will be calling me to repentance for eternity.
I purchased an encryption code-breaking program. I can print unlimited tickets for any seat in the house and email them to everyone in my distribution list. If you happen to see one of those men with a cool listening device hidden inside the ear canal hauling a 5 foot 9, 160 pound, dark complected male out of the Conference Center holding a crumpled sheet of typing paper that reads, "Will Work For Tickets", don't judge me harshly.