Journey to Ellen’s, Part III: The Riff-Raff Room

Catch yourself up on the Journey to Ellen’s Saga!

Part I: We’ve Got a Train to Catch!

Part II: Hurry Up and Wait

Around 11:30, it seemed that our wait was over. Excitement rippled through the crowd around us as a security guard instructed us to proceed in an orderly fashion through the front doors and follow a member of the staff to a set of elevators that would take us to Ellen’s floor.

Standing towards the front of the first line, only a handful of other potential audience members stood between us and the elevators. As we waited for the elevators to descend to our level, we were instructed not to take flash photography, to turn off our cell phones, and not to bring to the studio any weapons of mass destruction. We were then herded like cattle into the next available elevator.

Upon our exit onto Ellen’s floor, we came to the horrific realization that no one had bothered to check that we were still in the same order in which we had entered the elevators. We had lost our fantastic places in line! I could feel my heart sinking into my stomach as we went through a security checkpoint, which pushed us further back in line.

After handing my purse to a security guard, who checked to make sure that I carried no weapons of mass destruction with my lipstick, and showed her my ticket, I was handed a yellow index card with a number scribbled in black magic marker. Turning to my left, I searched the crowd for my friends, from whom I had been separated. It seemed like everyone who had been in line behind us had somehow made it into the room before us. Eventually I found the gang sprawled out on a cushioned bench near a set of doors.

“What number did you get?” Angela asked.

“36,” I replied.

My friends smiled. With the knowledge that we had all received numbers in the thirties, we had renewed hope of getting seats remotely close to Ellen.

We were seated in the Riff-Raff Room, the final staging area before we were finally allowed to enter the studio. Quite a large room, it was filled with several cushioned benches like the one upon which we sat, as well as a photo station sponsored by Celebrity Cruises, some television equipment, and a table selling overpriced Ellen paraphanalia. Occasionally, a short man with a lopsided goatee would shout on a microphone that it was great to have us there, and please purchase Ellen things, because spending money would make the show begin sooner. It occurred to us that we would be there for quite a while, so we tried our best to pass the time.

David decided to mill about, looking for an Ellen sweatshirt in his mother’s size. Angela and Krysta set off in search of the bathrooms. Kristen decided to take a nap. Ch and I played Speed with the deck of cards I had brought with me in my purse, snuggled closely against my weapon of mass destruction.

Incidentally, I hadn’t played Speed since I was in eighth grade. Once upon a time I was feared in the lunchroom when a game of Speed was initiated, so rapidly would I shame my opponent. Unfortunately, that was not the case in the Riff-Raff Room. I was a bit disappointed at how slow my reflexes had become over the past twenty years or so. It didn’t help that the cards were brand new and quite slippery.

After an hour or so, an announcement was made that, because the show’s stay in New York was sponsored by Celebrity Cruises, we would be served hors d’oeuvres by some of the wait staff that worked for the cruise. Since I had devoured my lunch before we even got to the studio, I was beginning to grow hungry, so this news was a relief. Slowly, men and women dressed in tuxedos made their way through the crowd, balancing trays of tiny little food and plastic glasses of sparkling cider. The cider never made it to our side of the room, but we did delight in the food. I particularly enjoyed the small puff pastry filled with cheese, as well as the miniature quiches and the flour-less brownies.

With the food and the game to entertain us, the time passed relatively quickly. Then it happened: a new person came on the loudspeaker, announcing our imminent movement into the studio. Applause and cheers filled the room. We were about to see Ellen! Our spirits soared along with the hoots and hollars that surrounded us.

“Okay, we’re about to start moving into the studio, everyone,” said the voice. “We’d like everyone with green cards to start moving towards the door through which you entered. Green cards, numbers 1 through 20.”

Wait a minute, we all thought. We have yellow cards. A collective frown came over my friends’ faces. We have yellow cards, and they have green cards, and they’re calling the green cards first, not the yellow cards.

“Well,” someone said, “How many green cards can there be?”

It turned out that there were a lot. We waited for the numbers to stop but the voice kept raising the number of green cards to join the line: 30, 50, 125, 200…

Once again, the sinking feeling overcame us. We just knew that we would be seated all the way in the back. The studio wasn’t that large, and they had already called at least three-quarters of the people in the room. Begrudgingly accepting our fate, we waited impatiently for our numbers. Eventually, when it seemed that there was no one left in the room but us, we were called.

Almost simultaneously, as we moved into the line that wrapped against the edge of the room, we heard another voice calling through what remained of the crowd: “Christin Barnhardt! Christin Barnhardt from Winston Salem, North Carolina! Please report to…”

We all turned to Ch, who had frozen. All the color had drained from her face, her mouth slightly open. Angela was the first to break the silence: “That’s you, Ch! Go see what they want.”

Ch looked as if we had told her to wade through a piranha-infested river, that it would exfoliate her skin. She began to stammer an objection, but was interrupted by the voice that called her name once more. She took a breath and marched purposefully towards the woman with a clipboard, while the rest of us were herded up a flight of stairs.

NEXT TIME: Look, Ma, I’m On TV!

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