Random Ephemera

Ticket Scalping for an Astrophysicist? Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Houston Appearance Sells Out

I was excited at the prospect of seeing astrophysicist and all around super-smart guy, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson this Wednesday at Jones Hall.  Tyson is appearing in Houston as part of his lecture tour, for what will surely be an interesting evening with the award winning scientist and author discussing his views on science and exploration of our planet and outer space.

I've been busy lately, or procrastinated, depending on who you ask, and when I went online to order a ticket on the Society For the Performing Arts website,  I was dismayed to discover the event is completely sold out.

Sold out. Not a seat available for a lecture by an astrophysicist. Granted,Tyson is probably one of the most famous scientists in the world right now, due to his high profile on television and radio, but I was surprised to see a lecture by a scientist sell out. Quite a few thoughts went through my head considering this unexpected turn of events, and here are a few of them.

4. He's a Rock Star.

 Neil deGrasse Tyson is a rock star of the scientific community, one of those rare people who can make extremely complicated ideas accessible to a large audience, and make science entertaining as well as informative. The author of 12 books and appearing in numerous television shows including Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Tyson has made astrophysics and science in general exciting to millions of people. In 2000, People magazine called him "The Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive" and in 2007 Time magazine honored him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Clearly, the man gets people's attention. Since he's a rock star of science, I got to thinking...

3. Maybe I could Find Tickets Elsewhere.

And by "elsewhere", I mean from a scalper... A "Ticket Broker" - One of those "services" that buys up tickets to popular events and then gouges the hell out of the original price, hoping to lure in suckers like myself who couldn't find a ticket anywhere else. I've never understood how those sorts of businesses were legal, vaguely remembering that scalping tickets used to be illegal, or at least was seriously frowned upon when I was a kid a few decades ago. Nowadays it seems like reselling tickets to an event has turned into some pseudo legit business model, but it still rubs me the wrong way.

I remember standing in a line of thousands of people in the parking lot of The Astrodome one night more than 20 years ago. It was the "system" in place to get tickets for an upcoming Rolling Stones tour I was planning on taking my parents to, otherwise there is no way I would've been there. People had gotten numbered wristbands over the preceding week, and had gathered in the line to wait for a lottery number to be called. The number would determine where the front of the line began, and my luck turned terrible when the number belonged to a guy about ten people behind me. I'd been in that line for hours only to end up in the back of it.

It was that experience that led me to my first "ticket broker", some shady place in a strip mall that had Rolling Stones tickets, which unsurprisingly cost almost as much as the car I'd driven up in. It was that unpleasant experience that was on my mind as I searched for a rocket broker who had seats to see Dr. Tyson.

Fortunately with the Internet at my fingertips, I quickly found a service selling tickets to the Houston event starting at $199. Since the lecture had already sold out when I began my search for tickets, I don't know what the original face value was, but noticed the same service was selling tickets for a future appearance on the tour in Newark starting at $50. I'll assume that they were originally a lot less than $199 when tickets for Dr. Tyson's Houston show originally went on sale.

2. Life, Like The Universe, Isn't Always Fair.

At almost $200, tickets are a little costlier than I can afford right now, so I had to pass on  Tyson's appearance this Wednesday, feeling very much like the dinosaurs that were wiped out when a huge comet collided with our planet millions of years ago. Unlike those long extinct thunder lizards, who met their demise through an unkind twist of fate doled out from outer space, 

Thinking about the fact that tickets to a science presentation had completely sold out, and only a few were available through ticket brokers for many times their original cost, did make me smile a little. Why?

1. It's Pretty Cool That An Appearance By A Scientist Can Be This Popular.

Yeah, it's unfortunate that I'll be missing Tyson this Wednesday, but it's also really thrilling to realize that such an event could sell out to begin with. It's a exciting realization that so many people here are interested in attending a presentation by one of the world's most acclaimed scientists. Perhaps it's fitting, since Houston is one of the places that birthed the country's space program, and I like to think that many of us still look toward the cosmos with a sense of awe and wonder. Tyson is one of a small group of scientists that make the mysteries of our universe engaging in a way that's accessible to a wide audience, and I'm glad he can sell out a venue like Jones Hall - Even if I still dislike ticket scalpers.  
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Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.