Harry Potter: lots of driving and no sleep for the final midnight release


In 4th grade I was the biggest Harry Potter fan. I had gotten the first three books as some sort of present (Christmas? Birthday? Funsies?) and, though I struggled through the first one, quickly became quite obsessed with the characters. I subdued my impatience for the 4th book by simply rereading the first three numerous times (much to my parents consternation that I wouldn’t move on to another book). Waiting turns out to be an integral component for any Harry Potter fan. You had to wait for the next book, the next movie, the next interview, the next hint of what would come next. I grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione – always a little younger than the characters of the book which made hoping that my upcoming middle and high school years would be filled with just as much excitement slightly plausible. On my 11th birthday I really expected an owl to barge through my chimney or Hagrid to come stomping down the door. The fourth and fifth books my mom pre-ordered from Amazon and the two of us would wait patiently on the doorstep all morning, looking up excitedly at the sound of any diesel engine, hoping it would be an approaching UPS truck. The sixth book I begged my uncle to drive me an hour from Christmas Cove Maine to the nearest bookstore in Damriscotta. I took an old broom, some marker for a scar, and a sheet folded over a rope for a makeshift cloak. Together we admired the decorations, costumes, and foaming green punch, counting down excitedly until midnight. I hurriedly read the first chapter at the bookstore and sat in wondrous happiness all the way home. The final book I went to another midnight party with my family at Prince Books in downtown Norfolk. For the whole night and next day all I did was read – I actually don’t even remember eating or sleeping. When an old friend randomly stopped by, it was literally painful to talk to her for an entire hour as I anxiously awaited the outcome of a Gringott’s bank heist. I flew out to Madison, Wisconsin, was picked up by the organizer of my meteorology camp, and had her drive me to her house to finish the final chapter before I could carry on with the start of camp. The movies have been slightly less memorable as my obsession waned – but I still made every single midnight showing.

I was in the middle of the latest field session, in the middle of the woods with no cell or internet service – but there was no way I was missing this. After all the years of waiting for the next book or movie, there would be no more waiting after this. This was it. The end. The finale. There were no excuses for missing such an extraordinary event. Sure I could see it later in the summer, but why tarnish such a perfect record and see a movie without the same anticipation and dedication of the crowds I have come to love. The closest movie theater would be in either Forks or Aberdeen. Despite filming the entire twilight series in Forks, online there appeared to be no movie theater. So it was Aberdeen – a place not listed on Fandango and who refused to reserve tickets over the phone. My coworkers cooked dinner at the “Promised Land” campground and I drove an hour south to buy the tickets before they sold out. The mall the theater was in had three cars in the parking lot. The place felt like that Will Smith movie where’s he’s all alone in NYC: stores were brightly lit and open with no customers walking around and seemingly no staff behind the counters. The classic elevator music played loudly in the background. I finally ran into human life on the other side of the mall where I bought my ticket from the movie theater concession stand, because there wasn’t enough staff to man both the concession stand and the box office. Walking back, I ran into one little 5ish year old girl, playing alone in the middle of the mall. When I walked past, she looked up and began following maybe 5ft behind me. Great, now I was in some sort of horror film. Someone with a clown mask and knife is definitely about to come around the corner and stab me to death – that, or the whole town is filled with zombies. But alas I made it to my car safely with the ticket tucked into my wallet. I grabbed a bag of marshmallows for the guys (who am I kidding? They were for me…) and drove an hour back to the campground.

Two days later, our surveying had only brought us further north. Now I was two and a half hours away from the theater in Aberdeen. I had just completed three ten hour days in the field (in the pouring rain), with at least another four or five before we went on another break and it was pretty much guaranteed that I would be getting no sleep tonight. I left quickly after we finished work, making the guys set up my tent for me and text me the directions to the latest patch of flat area that would be our campground for the night. The whole way there my phone, suddenly delighted at having service, was buzzing with texts from the east coast proclaiming excitement over the beginning of the film. When I arrived at the mall, the number of cars had certainly multiplied. I am aware of the demographics of Harry Potter fans, but was still a little taken aback that every single person was white, a little overweight, and incredibly awkward. For a while people in wizard robes were shouting spells at each other with sticks, while a seven year old dobby with no shoes but lots of socks ran around in circles in the lobby, an elderly Mad-Eye sat quietly in the corner with his wife, Professor Trelawney, and a teenage Goyle ran around shouting “I am Goyle” with the same fervor Leonidas gave to “This is Sparta.” I acted like a homeless person again, getting stares as I changed my clothes, washed my face, and brushed my teeth in the first bathroom with plumbing I had seen in days. Refreshed, I marched out to a still chaotic scene, wondering when some sort of line would form. The costume contest had finished at 30 til, but they still hadn’t let us in at 10 til. Though order was attempted with some sort of ticket numbering system, chaos eventually ensued and I found an excellent seat in the back of the front row section. Texts of people getting out of their movie on the east coast began to trickle in and I couldn’t stand waiting anymore. The people around me were considerably less enthused: the girl next to me began weeping into her boyfriend’s arm about some friend and a pair of shoes and the girls in front of me kept texting the whole movie, gossiping about some girl sitting three rows back who was rude for not sitting with them. But I didn’t care. The whole movie I was transfixed. I quietly wept throughout the whole thing as various characters were killed and then laughed or shouted or clapped when something heroic happened. I didn’t want it to end. But it had to at some point. I watched every single credit roll by, even though I was the only one in the theater, and then silently got up and filed out into the darkness.

The drive home I was filled with sadness which slowly was overcome with sleepiness. I stopped midway through my drive at around 3:30 am and took a nap in my car next to the Pacific Ocean, looking out onto the moonlit beach. I woke up a little later and continued driving, cursing the terrible directions I was given and missing the pizza box sign the guys had left me. Eventually I found the gravel pit, the only dry spot in the region which was filled with tiny rocks and a sprinkling of overturned and rusted cars. At 5:30 am I crawled thankfully into my sleeping bag and promptly passed out. Though we normally wake up at 6am, the boys let me sleep til 7 and made me pancakes. I did work the full day that day, but every now and then a spontaneous nap would occur in the middle of a survey (usually on a log) – only to be interrupted by the pelting of rain or a stadia rod poking my side.