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New Year’s Eve in Times Square - By Jamie Goldmann

Bill and I are not big New Year’s Eve people. We generally go out for Mexican food prior to 6:00pm, home by 8:00pm, and in bed by 10:00pm. When was the last time we made it to midnight? Oh, maybe ten years ago. Last April or May, I told Bill, “You know what would be really wild? To be to be in Times Square on New Year’s Eve!” Quite the contrast, but we decided it could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

You weren’t allowed to have backpacks in Times Square, so we packed a couple of disposable bags complete with feet and hand warmers (those of you who hunt know exactly what these are), gloves, face masks, beef jerky, snack snicker bars, goldfish crackers, and a couple bottles of water. We also brought a blanket with us. Oh, and don’t forget the cell phones and digital camera.

We left our hotel around 10:00am on December 31st and took the subway to Times Square. We walked out of the subway station and we’re in Manhattan - tall buildings, lots of people, camera crews, and “big city buzz.” I told Bill, “I think this is it!” We walked around, checked out one of three M and M stores in the nation, and went to the bathroom for the last time (around Noon). Now it was time to “find our spot.” Bill had researched the best places to stand, so we headed towards those cross streets. We were able to get within one block of his estimation.

We stood at this location for about an hour and a half, talking with people, watching the police organize the barricades, and watching the crews create the stage for the evening’s activities. We then heard rumor that we are going to have to “clear the streets.” Literally, there were shoulder to shoulder people for blocks. Our immediate neighbors agreed that there were too many people to move … wrong … the NYPD are able to do just about anything. We walked down the sidewalk so tightly scrunched you ended up walking sideways for almost a block. What the police were doing was forming a “pen.” They literally were going to pen you into a block. They created linking metal barricades from curb to curb, and from one intersection to another. After arranging the interlocking barricade, they moved two barricades to the side and positioned policemen at the pen “check-in” point. Each person had to pass through the police-monitored check-in point to be let into the pen (street block). Once inside the block, you found the best two-foot by two-foot of street pavement and that was your new home for the next nine hours! We were able to see the ball straight ahead and the stage at the end of our block. We greeted our neighbors, and took in the excitement of safely arriving in a location that you could see the ball clearly. It was made clear to us that if you were going to leave your pen, you would not be let back in. Rather, you would have to walk down the sidewalk to the next block that was being penned (which could be ten blocks or more as the night went on) and start the process over.

The real action began around 6:00pm when fireworks went off and signified “six hours to go.” A big screen was below the ball so you could see what was happening around you. There were large speakers at the end of each block. Nivea was a huge sponsor of this year’s celebrations, and they gave people within possible camera viewing free blue hats and long blue balloons. Each hour the countdown continued and fireworks went off on the hour to let us know we were one hour closer. They also had a countdown clock in view that was over twelve hours when we arrived and was counting down, second-by-second.

It appeared that people hit a “wall” with about four hours to go. A variety of feelings go through your mind; there is still quite a wait; I hope I don’t need to use the restroom; I am getting hungry and thirsty; my feet are starting to hurt; my nose is a bit cold; and, is this really worth it? However, if you have made it this far, you should be able to hang in there a little longer!

By the time we reached the two-hour countdown, we knew we were going to make it. We were pacing ourselves on water as well as salty snacks to avoid any restroom issues.

Within the hour … well … you know what happens … it’s all on TV!

All in all it was a very organized, well-mannered event. It was patrolled as each block was penned, and it appeared that there were policemen assigned to each block. You couldn’t have alcohol, and those that smuggled it in would need a restroom if they drank too much. Therefore, the alcohol issue was almost non-existent, at least in our block.

People talked, played cards standing up, enjoyed the music, contemplated, watched the bright lights on the billboards, and stood … and stood … and stood.

When the ball dropped, it was total celebration as you see on television. You celebrated in your two-foot by two-foot location for about ten minutes, and then people started leaving. Policemen lined the streets and it was very orderly.

We were able to find the subway entrance a few blocks from where we were, caught the first train, and walked into our hotel at 1:07am.

What was the highlight? I think to achieve a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This won’t become a yearly tradition, but I am thrilled that we did it!