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Ten seconds with Springsteen: Inside the ‘Born To Run’ meet and greet at Powell’s

I’m prone to injuring myself in stupid ways. In eighth grade I tried to make a half court shot in basketball without warming up in 54 degree weather and, unsurprisingly, threw my back out and lost a bet. During a high school tennis match, I once hit myself in the knee with my own racket so hard that I couldn’t walk for a few points, but the most embarrassing injury I have inflicted on myself was on Sept. 16 when I threw out my back (again) buying tickets online.

To be fair, I had just purchased a pair of tickets for my dad and I to meet and receive an autographed book from one of my heroes, Bruce Springsteen, at Powell’s City of Books in Portland on Oct. 4. In a fit of excitement, I jumped up and pulled something in my lower back, but meeting Springsteen was enough to dull the pain for at least a few hours.

Almost 1,000 tickets were sold for the event at $32.50 each, and as many fans learned the hard way, the tickets sold out in a matter of seconds. The initial sale on Sept. 14 was rescheduled after an overwhelming amount of web traffic crashed ticketing website, Eventzilla’s, servers. After migrating to new ticket host Eventbrite, the final sale ended as quickly as it began.

On Tuesday, fans began lining up as early as midnight for a spot in line at Powell’s. By about 10:30 a.m., the line was already halfway up Couch street, curved around 10th Ave. Doors were set to open at noon, but the line began moving smoothly much earlier. The Boss had arrived early.

The pre-signed copies of Born To Run were distributed first as a check-in system. Fans then moved outside into the intermittent rain showers, and found a place in the line which curved around 3 street corners, covering 10th Ave., Couch St. and 11th Ave. The line then moved through the outskirts of Powell’s from the main entrance, up the stairs and around the entire perimeter of the second floor, and finally up to the Pear Room on the third floor where the line snaked through every aisle of the bookshelves.

A signed copy of Bruce Springsteen's autobiography, 'Born To Run' which were distributed on Tuesday at Springsteen's meet and greet. (Craig Wright/Emerald)

A signed copy of Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, ‘Born To Run’ which were distributed on Tuesday at Springsteen’s meet and greet. (Craig Wright/Emerald)

Luckily, the line was run efficiently and smoothly. Employees were walking the line to make sure everyone was okay, and one even passed out fun-sized chocolate bars and plastic bags to protect the books from the rain.

Armed police officers were present throughout the store and scanned the line multiple times. Fans were not allowed to hold jackets, books, or reach for their pockets while meeting Springsteen, and each step closer to the photo stage was more closely monitored. Powell’s employees carted books and jackets across the aisles to pick up on the other side and you were told to keep moving in a highly organized fashion.

As we walked to the front of the room and were able to peek around the corner, Springsteen was standing there on a little stage, as fans were ushered up to the stage and quickly escorted out. A line of Powell’s employees met fans to grab their phones to take photos, and as soon as they left the stage, the employees returned the phones and cycled back to take more photos.

The entire encounter with Springsteen was no more than 10 seconds. I was expecting to be a nervous mess, but the excitement overcame the nervousness. My dad and I kept looking at each other like little kids on Christmas morning. For weeks I had debated what I would say when we met, but there was no time, and all the unnecessary stress was for nothing.

All I was able to say to Springsteen was, “Thank you for doing this. It is an honor to meet you.” My dad said something similar, and Bruce thanked us for coming. We shook hands, posed long enough for a Powell’s employee to snap four photos of my dad and I with dorky grins and then were led to the exit by security.

Writer Craig Wright and his father meet Bruce Springsteen at Powell's. After waiting for hours, there was enough time for a few photos and a brief hello. (Courtesy Craig Wright/Emerald)

Writer Craig Wright and his father meet Bruce Springsteen at Powell’s. After waiting for hours, there was enough time for a few photos and a brief hello. (Courtesy Craig Wright/Emerald)

Was it really worth driving nearly 250 miles round trip, missing two classes and waiting in line for almost three hours for the chance to spend few seconds with Springsteen? Absolutely. I was raised on his music, as so many others were, and the chance to look into his dark brown eyes and say thank you for the hundreds of hours I have spent listening to his music was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Springsteen is unquestionably one of the greatest live performers of all time. In August, at the age of 67, Springsteen and the E. Street Band set a record for its longest U.S. show, clocking in at three hours and 59 minute during a concert stop on The River Tour at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium. Days later, Springsteen beat that record by playing a 4 hour and 1 minute show in New York, marking the band’s second longest show ever — only surpassed by a 4-hour and six minute set in Helsinki, Finland in 2012.

Many fans demand the epic marathon sets whenever Springsteen comes to town, but for once, a 10 second cameo was more meaningful than an adrenaline fueled concert. The personal connection is something that not many mega stars allow access to, and it looked as if every fan who earned a ticket was thankful for the opportunity. It’s not often we get the chance to thank our heroes in person.

An employee at Powell’s estimated this was the largest event the store has hosted since President Jimmy Carter signed 1,500 books in July, 2015.

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Craig Wright

Craig Wright