The Roadshow, as I always hear the serious collectors call it, had been on my radar for the last few years. I have always had this vision of a large hotel conference room roaring with the excited voices of patrons clutching their heirlooms tightly, their hopes and dreams almost visible in thought clouds above their heads. When thinking of what it might be like to attend, I pictured a day filled with table-perusing, the exchanging of stories between hard-core antique fanatics, and, with a little luck and prayer, finding out I had brought a real gem of a piece. How stinkin' great would it be to find that I had had the queen of all antiques sitting in my kitchen cabinet next to the jester of all drinkware--the Chuck E. Cheese mug?
I must have held my mouth just right for long enough. Last spring, my best friend and I were fortunate enough to score tickets to Antiques Roadshow in Birmingham, Alabama. So, off went! I felt a little like Little Red Riding Hood with my goodies tucked in a bag and on my way to visit grandma. We were excited to say the least. I can't speak for her, but I feel like her vision matched mine. We looked forward to quite the day. As I said before, I expected bustling, sharing, camaraderie...all that jazz.
The good folks at the Roadshow give you a specific time to arrive. That might have been my first signal that things were a little, say, rigid. Our time was approximately crack-of-dawn o'clock. This, we could handle. We wanted a full day and looked forward to it. Besides, when we had satiated ourselves on the Roadshow experience, we would be able to visit the local shops. It was going to be great! We set out and made the almost four-hour drive from West Tennessee to Birmingham.
We had left home so early it felt as though we arrived the day before. Encountering very little in the way of traffic and making only one detour (another blog about how we almost time-warped into the apocalypse via my Durango), we walked in the requested thirty minutes earlier than our ticket time. Again, very specific the instructions were. Still good, though. Still excited. And still very hopeful.
The organization was evident from the time we entered the building. We wound our way through the maze of ropes tied to poles and chairs (very handy for those with a long wait) to almost the front of the line--more icing on our cake-of-a-day. Now, don't get me wrong, I love some organization. I teach. Organization is my life. But today I wanted to fraternize, get tips, and pore over the goodies. I wanted to make contacts, ogle the paintings, envy the flaking gas station signs, and covet the first edition books. Still excited. Still hopeful.
Gates, as it were, opened right on time. We were literally ushered inside and to a table. Our treasures were given a glance. Super-nice guides handed us new tickets denoting the next place we were to stand to await actual entrance. See, we hadn't really entered the Roadshow yet. We had been analyzed. The whole Roadshow experience still lay ahead of us. Our new tickets directed us to Ceramics and Paper. More organization. We stood outside what I can only imagine looked like the most wonderful antique-lovers' carosuel from above. It was a huge area petitioned in a circle and obscured from the view of the lobby and maze-like room on the outside. We could hear the buzz inside. This was where would mingle and, maybe, our own priceless gems would be ogled by our brethren. Still very excited. Oh-so hopeful!
When our time to enter came, we were directed by a staff member to enter the circle of life. When I say we were directed, I mean that. There were staffers as far as the eye could see. You could not get lost, nor could you waste time. Fellow enthusiasts were lined up before us, all with that glow and that sparkle of anticipation in their eyes. Then, things began to whirl in the carousel. We were whisked out of and into the cordoned off area one time for each of the four items we held and from one table to the next. Our items were handled, explained, valued, and handed back to us. Three of our four pieces were worth slightly more than we had hoped and only one less. Now, let the perusing begin! Still excited!
The last staffer to guide us away from the lines of other waiting hopefuls pointed us toward the exit.
Our appointment was 8:00 am. Our Antiques Roadshow experience ended at 8:19 am, or as I like to call it let down o'clock. No fraternizing. No ogling. No poring. I looked at my best friend. I'm pretty sure the thought cloud over my head read, "Are you freaking kidding me?"
Hers just said, "Whaaa??"
The Roadshow experience had, though, given us an entire day to look for more gems in and around the area. We just had to wait till the shop owners rolled out of bed to open the doors to these treasure troves.
So...I have an email from Antiques Roadshow. I have new tickets. We shall see if Little Rock trumps the organization of Birmingham. Maybe, if we are lucky, it won't. I'd really like to ogle.
Hey, if it's a bust, Little Rock may still hold some excitement. I hear there are venomous snakes hanging out in the streets there now.