Magazine article The New Yorker

Tick-Tock

Magazine article The New Yorker

Tick-Tock

Article excerpt

New York used to be a city of queues--movies, concert tickets, the Department of Motor Vehicles. Now technology sorts you out. A good line is hard to find. Even some nice old-fashioned lines, such as the one for Shakespeare in the Park, have been corrupted by the practice of people paying other people to wait in their place. That's not a line. That's a caste system.

The best honest line in town, these past few weeks, has been the one for gaining entry to "The Clock," Christian Marclay's video installation at Lincoln Center. "The Clock" is a twenty-four-hour montage of movie scenes containing references to the time of day. Last Wednesday, at 11:07 A.M., sixty-four people were waiting to get in to see it. The line doubled back on itself, along Broadway, just north of Sixty-second Street. A sign near its tail estimated that the wait, from that point, would be an hour and a half, but you could never predict when space would open up inside. The average viewing time was an hour, but, if you wanted to, you could sit in there all day, watching the time go by.

11:14 A.M.

A woman stepped out of the line. This was her second visit to "The Clock." The first time, she waited forty-five minutes, and watched for an hour and a half. "I've been waiting thirty minutes," she said. "If they're accurate in their predictions--and I know they're not, because they underestimated it the week before last and then they overestimated it last week--but, anyway, if they're accurate, then I'd end up getting in at the same time I did last week, and so would see the same part of the piece again. How stupid is that?" She'd spent fifteen minutes making this calculation and had decided to bail. Her name was Robin Lynn. She teaches English to immigrants. While waiting, she'd thought about how the students in her 4 P.M. class, who had fled troubled places like Burma and Ivory Coast, might react to "The Clock." "My time does not have the seriousness of intent that theirs has," she said. "I consider myself lucky to be able to waste my time waiting in line.

"Here's the most interesting thing about me," she went on. When the Beatles made their first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show," in 1964, the first closeup of an audience member was of her. "They held the camera on my face for four or five seconds. You'd have thought that the show was about me. …

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