Well, have you?
I was supposed to do something completely different Friday night, but I postponed those plans with the hope of going to at least part of the Harry Potter festivities in Harvard Square. I ended up staying far later than my original intention, but I would say it was worth it. I planned to meet a friend there, then ran into quite a few others. One of them wanted to buy a book, so we all stayed around to get in a bookstore queue with him. Then another one decided to buy a book.
At midnight, people began coming out of the bookstores delightfully holding their new copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows high over their heads. Some people were even whooping with joy and jumping up and down. We saw quite a few turn to the end of the book, begin reading, then start laughing. There seems to be some kind of joke on the last page for people who want to read the end of the book first. I have yet to see the last page, but J. K. Rowling doesn’t seem to be the kind of author who would kill a character at the very end of the book. (If you really want to find out who dies and don’t want to wait to read the book, you might be able to find that information out by visiting Wikipedia.)
As you might imagine, quite a few people dressed up like Harry Potter characters—children, teenagers, and adults. Television news crews interviewed costumed fans and videotaped people reading the book. It was far more crowded than usual, but not the most crowded I’ve ever seen the square. (Harvard Commencement day and a few of the street festivals draw bigger crowds.) The police even closed the main road through the square intermittently, which surprised us a little because it’s one of Cambridge’s main thoroughfares.
The queues at the few bookstores selling the volume, as expected, flowed down the sidewalks and often wrapped around the block. One newsstand that doesn’t usually sell books was even selling copies.
We eventually joined a line at one of the landmark bookstores because it seemed far shorter than some of the other lines. After standing there for about fifteen minutes and making some progress up the block, a bookstore employee walked over to us to ask to see our vouchers. It was then that we learned the line was for people who had already purchased the book and just needed to pick it up. She directed us inside to buy a voucher. The line to do that was quite short. Just as we reached the counter, another employee walked up and handed a box—specially decorated with a Harry Potter logo—to the cashier with the instructions that she could just sell the books over the counter. My friends were able to skip the steps of buying a voucher to go back outside to wait in the long line. They chose not to shout and hold their books over their heads when they left the store. When we looked at the line where we had been standing, we realized we would have only progressed a few feet. By now it was after 1 am and very much time for our friends to go home to begin reading.
Many people were sitting around the square reading the book. I joked that in a few hours, police patrols would begin finding people with their noses buried in the book’s pages, asleep.
One of the highlights of the evening for me was buying ice cream from the proprietor of one of my favorite local ice cream parlors: Toscanini’s. Since the branch in Harvard Square closed because of building issues, he and a coworker were selling ice cream and coffee on a folding table near a bookstore. (I overheard him tell someone ahead of me they’re in the process of trying to find another location near the square.) The flavors had Harry Potter themes. I wanted the Butterbeer Almond (Guinness ice cream with almonds), but since they had already sold out, I had Sirius Blackbottom (blackbottom pie ice cream). A friend ate The Flavor That Shall Not Be Named, which was a combination of chocolate, chocolate, chocolate cookies, chocolate chips, and some more chocolate. There was also Hogwarts Espresso, for those people who need help staying awake all night reading the book.