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May 6, 2022

Waiting-in-Line Man

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Yesterday's wonderful in-depth Guardian story by Adam Gabbatt profiled Robert Samuel (above and below), a 46-year-old former mobile phone salesman, whose job it is to sit in line for other, mostly wealthy, people.

Pre-pandemic he earned up to $80,000 a year, and he formed his own company called Same Ole Line Dudes.

Below, the Guardian piece.

'A five-day wait for $5,000': the man who queues for the uber-rich

Robert Samuel's business has put him at the forefront of cultural events — and shines a light on the state of capitalism in 2022

At 5 a.m., it's as dark as it ever gets in Times Square, where massive digital billboards never stop blasting light into the sky, illuminating city blocks across midtown.

The square is among the most-visited tourist attractions in New York City, but at this time it's deserted, save for five people standing outside the Winter Garden Theatre.

This is where the Guardian finds Robert Samuel, a 46-year-old former mobile phone salesman, whose job is now to sit in lines for other, mostly wealthy, people. It's a strange career, but one which has given Samuel a front row seat at some of the biggest cultural events of the last decade — and a job which perhaps sums up the state of capitalism, and inequality, in 2022.

The job entails Samuel sitting, or standing, or sometimes sleeping, in lines: waiting for theater tickets, iPhone releases, and once for someone to die as part of a macabre French art exhibit. Depending on the gig, Samuel then relinquishes his place to his customer or buys them tickets for in-demand shows.

On this cold Thursday in April, despite the time, Samuel is chirpy and energetic. Wearing a hoodie and a baseball cap, he unpacks a tiny tent and a camp chair, (below)

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and settles in for what will be an hours-long wait to buy two tickets for The Music Man.

The show is the hottest ticket in town, largely because Hugh Jackman is playing the lead role of Professor Harold Hill, and to get a seat fans have to get down here early. Or they pay Samuel, who has been doing this full-time for nine years.

The weather is 46ºF but it's nothing compared with what Samuel refers to, with a mix of dread and reverence, as "the Hamilton line."

"It was zero degrees one day," Samuel says. "And the inside of my tent was frozen with frost. I was able to scratch and write lines. That was, I think, the coldest I've ever waited."

It was worth it though, because Hamilton, the wildly popular Lin-Manuel Miranda musical that has broken records since it opened in February 2015, is really what made Samuel's line-sitting career.

May 6, 2022 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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