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AGGIE FLASHBACK: The Listeater Saga, Dec 9, 2004

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Twelve years ago, hundreds of optimistic Aggies camped out for 2005 Cotton Bowl tickets. Things got weird.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

"I am a piece of Texas A&M lore."

For most, this is a patently ridiculous open ended statement. The sort of thing that spans from "I was in the massive crowd at that big event," to "well, I was watching it on TV but it was really cool,” to "I was neither but I'm going to lie because we’re talking about sports in a social setting.”

But sometimes... sometimes the statement is literal. Quite literal. Disgustingly, horrifyingly literal.

On December 9th, 2004, I woke up early while camping out for 2005 Cotton Bowl tickets. I was name #37 on the list for ticket window #8.

This is my story.

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"Wait, what's that noise?"

Someone in our tent said this, but I’m not sure who. It doesn’t matter. I’m tired, and my city folk sleeping bag is laughably ill-equipped for the frigid December air. I check my sweet brick sized Nokia mobile, and the alarm hasn’t gone off. Something is up.

More noise. Which is odd, because it's early. Freakishly early. Early by student campout standards, even. So early that the first morning roll call, the one that kickstarts the student-run “ticket campout" process, hasn't even happened yet. As we pile out of the tent, we see a small disturbance at the ticket window... and there's an odd scene brewing. I can’t make out any individual words, but the kerfuffle has a nice "incredulousness slowly giving way to rage" feel. The volume steadily grows, which pulls even more ticket campers out of their tents to investigate. And what they see, what we see, what every waking soul at Kyle Field Plaza sees is as simple as it is infuriating:

Two people are in line at ticket window #8.

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At this point, I should probably explain student-run ticket pull proceedings circa 2004. In order to prevent a mass of students from physically standing in line for three days, a series of lists (one for each ticket window) were created to account for everyone’s order of arrival. Each name can pull X number of tickets (I think it was six for this game), and someone from each group must be present at roll call every few hours. The premise is simple: it’s enough to keep you from signing up and leaving for three days, but it doesn’t require people to miss classes and/or exams. A few hours before the ticket windows open, the lines are re-created based on the campers’ order of arrival, and everything generally goes pretty smoothly. Usually.

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So, back to the story: Our friends at the front of the line are chill. They won't move, and they refuse to acknowledge the lists, calling them “not University sanctioned.” (Technically accurate, for what it’s worth.) Onlookers are imploring them to simply add their names at the bottom of the list... which at that point was safely in range of receiving a ticket. But still, no action. When asked for an explanation, they deadpan: “We’re in line.”

Onlookers continue to trickle over and the scene continues to escalate, which eventually culminates with a disgruntled onlooker thrusting the list for ticket window #8 in front of them. And that’s when it happens. In a move that will forever be embedded in my mind, the girl, the more demonstrative of the two, takes the list out of this person's hand and EATS IT.

SHE EATS IT.

The crowd is stunned, and no one knows what to do. It's a record scratch moment from a campy 80's movie, but one where time, logic, and human decency have gone out the window. We’re getting closer to time to assemble the actual lines for ticket pull, and the very item that governs one of those lines is in somebody’s mouth. The campers, many of whom have been there for days, are absolutely livid. A somewhat dangerous situation is brewing.

Details are fuzzy here, but apparently the list was not swallowed and somehow made its way to our valiant Line #8 leader’s hands. (Note: Each ticket window has a ‘leader’ responsible for keeping order). He now has something to work with, and hastily (and still mostly by the honor system) the window #8 line is formed.

This does not pacify the majority of the crowd, however. They are still out for blood. A well-meaning onlooker communicates with the one now known as Listeater, before standing on a chair and confirming what we already knew (“seriously, she’s not moving”) with a fun little twist (“because she feels she’s justified with God”).

And that’s when we hit crazy level 37, friends. When the entire act was justified through the softly tossed, catch-all grenade of religion. For, as it states in the book of Ezekiel 12:12

And when the stone commandments were complete, they were eaten. And there was wailing and gnashing of teeth. Because, again, they were made of stone. Also, just to drive the point home, you should not eat lists of things.

Then, in a decision that would make Coach Fran’s two point conversion chart blush, The Listeater stands on a chair to address the crowd herself and is (predictably) immediately drowned out by a sea of boos. An item is thrown, but does not connect, and a riot appears imminent. I am simultaneously scared and fascinated. At some point in the proceedings, I look to my right and catch the line #9 leader taping his list to his chest. Subconsciously, I nod in approval. This act, the physical taping of paper to one’s chest to prevent ingestion, now passes for sensible. So sensible, in fact, that I start to wonder why nobody else has done it.

This is our world, now. This is where we live.

With things approaching critical mass, line leader #8 makes a stirring speech to the crowd to forgo violence and allow the culprits to remain at the front of his line. In short, he reasons that no one should go to jail, and that we should all just let them get their tickets and get out. It works. At this point, when added to his physical handling of the damp, chewed list, line leader #8 is probably eligible for canonization.

The ticket windows open, and the Listeater does indeed grab her tickets first. She and her friend exit to a chorus of boos, but nothing more. She does not attend the game (note: rumors abound that they may have attended after all. I certainly never saw them, and I made it a point to look).

During the remainder of the ticket pull, Coach Fran arrives with a bunch of donuts. And in the 7th oddest move of the morning, he is universally cheered. Because in that moment, we are blissfully unaware of our future demise. There is no Reggie McNeal Senior season, there is no land of McGee-led shortside options, and there is certainly no way that we're going through all of this for a hungover Cotton Bowl beatdown at the hands of a Chavis-led Tennessee defense. No... in this moment, there are only donuts.

I remember grabbing my Fran donut and surveying the scene, finally coming to terms with the ridiculousness of the morning.

I was on the list. My name was eaten.

I am a piece of Texas A&M lore.