My friend Nan and I have attended the last two years and had no trouble getting in. But judging by the buzz on social media, we knew that signing up was going to be a race against the clock this time.
We texted each other, trying to prepare ourselves for disappointment just in case.
“I hope we get in!”
“What will we do if we don’t get in?”
“I don’t know. I hope we get in!”
Clearly, we both had a hard time imagining not attending Booktopia.
Because Nan is a teacher and not on a computer all day, I was put in charge of registering us. But like a runner who had been training for the big race for months, I felt confident that I was up to the challenge.
By 10am on Wednesday I was ready to go. I had my credit card out. Nan’s relevant information — address, phone number and email address — was written on a piece of paper and sitting beside my keyboard.
I clicked on the link, just to see if I could get a glimpse of the route before everything got crazy, but the website wasn’t live yet.
I distracted myself with work and returned at 11:00, just in case the event organizers had forgotten to set their clocks back the weekend before.
The registration still wasn’t live, but I hit refresh a couple of times over the next fifty minutes, in between pretending to work, just in case they snuck in an early start time.
By 11:50 I gave up all pretense of working and sat on the site, obsessively hitting refresh every 30 seconds or so.
I could sense the other Booktopians gathering at the starting gate around me, fingering their credit cards, eagerly awaiting the starting pistol.
Only seventy-five of us would cross the finish line. Would I be one of them?
I had been waiting so long that it took me a moment to realize that the registration had changed from “not available” to being open.
I forgot all about the competition and took off.
The race started at a steady, but comfortable pace. Payment method, my contact information. Easy stuff.
“Do you work in the book industry” I wish!
“Would you attend an Thursday evening event?” Maybe.
I was starting to feel a bit cocky as I loaded Nan’s information, reading from the handy-dandy list I had prepared. This was a cinch. Why had I been so worried?
Then I hit a road block: her zip code. I hadn’t written down her zip code.
My heart started pounding. How could I have been so foolish?
I knew other registrants were racing past me as I hurried to open a new browser window and search the post office website.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHAT IS THE ZIP CODE IN MILTON!!
I finally found it, finished filling out the form and hit continue, preparing myself for the next leg of the race.
The screen just sat. The little “working” buttons flashed at the bottom of the screen, telling me that the computer was thinking about it, but nothing moved.
I started to sweat. What do I do? Wait? Hit refresh?
MOVE, YOU STUPID COMPUTER!
For the first time the very real possibility that I wasn’t going to succeed crossed my mind. Were we going to miss Booktopia because of a bad internet connection?
After a frantic few moments, I let the page sit and started over again in a new window.
The contact info was a breeze the second time around since I knew what to expect. I entered everything in record time, even Nan’s zip code.
When I hit continue this time, the new page popped right up.
As I typed in my credit card information and the billing address my optimism returned. I could see the finish line.
Then red type flashed on my screen. Invalid city.
What?! I double checked the information. That’s my city. What do you mean it’s invalid?
I DON”T LIVE IN AN INVALID CITY!
I took a deep breath. I hadn’t made it this far to have a dumb error message trip me up.
I retyped the city, this time spelling out Junction instead of using the abbreviation Jct.
I raced my cursor to submit and slammed my finger on the enter button.
“Payment accepted” appeared at the top of the page and, at the same time, an email entitled “Registration confirmation for Booktopia 2013: Manchester, Vermont” appeared in my inbox.
I threw myself back in my chair, arms raised triumphantly over my head.
Still breathing heavily, I announced “We’re in!” to my small office.
One of my employees grunted his congratulations without looking up from his keyboard. Another asked, “In what?”
Certainly marathon runners are met with more fanfare when they cross the finish line.
But what do runners have to show for it when they are done with the race? Exhaustion and dehydration? The right to brag about a time that only other runners truly understand? The knowledge that they are strong and healthy?
I like my prize better. I get to go to Booktopia.