by Beth Burrell

I recently had the chance to see how spontaneous I could be in my life and how nimble on my feet. In a wholly unexpected turn of events, I learned late one afternoon that I’d won two tickets to the blockbuster Broadway musical Hamilton in New York City.

I don’t live in New York City. Of course having never won anything in my life, the first thing I did was scream. Then I realized the true test of my fanaticism. Could I make it in time? The show started at 7 pm and I live just west of Philadelphia. This set in motion a cascade of steps, any one of which could have jeopardized my seeing the show. But I was determined.

And so was my older daughter, who does live in New York. For several weeks, she had entered both of our names separately in an online ticket lottery – designed to make the impossible-to-get-tickets-for-show a little more possible.

The odds of winning are slim – by some accounts 10,000 people enter each day for a shot at 21 front-row seats at $10 apiece, and can choose one or two tickets. (The first attempt at an online lottery crashed last January when 50,000 people reportedly entered at once, forcing organizers to return briefly to the old system with hundreds of people snaking down the theatre sidewalks and into the streets.) My younger daughter had just asked recently why we kept trying. You know thousands of people enter, Mom? It’s so pointless.

Nevertheless, her scrappy, older sister kept at it no matter whether we had evening plans, sure that like her, I’d drop anything for Hamilton. I’d hardly given it a thought because it would never happen. I knew having been a parent for 25 years that many things can happen in an instant, but they’re usually in the category of an ER visit.

At that moment, I was on a conference call at home that was wrapping up around 4 pm when I checked my email, expecting the usual Broadway Direct lottery notice – Unfortunately, you were not selected to receive tickets for tonight’s performance of HAMILTON. Please try entering again for a future performance….And better luck next time!

This time, somehow missing the YOU WON! in the subject line, I opened the email and read –

Congratulations! You have been selected as a winner of the Official Digital Lottery.

Here are the details:


May 5, 2016 7:00 pm

2 ticket(s) at $10 per ticket

Balance due: $20.00

 My heart skipped a thousand beats. I read it again. Was this a scam? It continued on, saying I had one hour to pay for the tickets. How could I NOT go? Only two days earlier, the show had been nominated for 16 Tony awards, breaking all records. And just the month before, composer/creator Lin-Manuel Miranda won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for the show. It’s sold out for months ahead and the only way to get seats is to pay a fortune on sketchy websites – or enter the ticket lottery.

So I scrambled. In less than 10 minutes I was out of the house with nothing more than jacket and purse. I knew I’d never make it to New York by car in rush hour so I drove directly to the Philadelphia train station without a train ticket.

Upon arriving, I learned all trains were sold out except for one seat on a 5:18 pm train arriving New York at 6:53 pm. I’d never make a 7 pm show time but I bought it anyway. Just as I was exiting the counter, the agent said, “Wait, a seat just opened on the 4:57. Do you want it?” I grabbed the new ticket, rushed to get in line, and sat in an adrenaline-pumped state of disbelief, looking at my watch every few minutes. The train was late arriving New York’s Penn Station at 6:35 pm, and I was the first to jump off, sprinting to street level, then running most of the 13 blocks to the theatre, barely pausing for red lights.

Out of breath, I arrived five minutes before show time, my daughter grabbing me on the sidewalk and leading me to the ticket booth inside (where I needed my driver’s license to claim the tickets). I frantically slipped it through the window opening and the man handed me an envelope with two $10 tickets. Congratulations, he said, grinning.

My daughter and I made our way to the front row where all lottery winners were already seated. Two seats sat empty. Front row, center. As three women stood up to let us in, one said – We knew you had to be coming. It was just a matter of time.


I took a deep breath and tried to slow down my heart. I reached for my daughter’s hand. I thought about the things I’d left behind I needed to do. There were a million things I hadn’t done. But they could wait.


Here’s how to enter the Broadway Direct lottery:

Image: Steps at Penn Station, NYC by John Budacovich via Flickr.

This post originally appeared on The First Day.