Space, Place and the Agent

Unlike the brazen negation of ticket protocol seen recently at the Olympic Games in Beijing, where touts openly flaunted their wares in public spaces under the not-so-watchful (or not-so-caring) eye of security personnel, the question of black market ticket scalping at professional sports events in the west is far different, since the law and its corresponding penalties are far more strictly observed. The following is an exchange that took place at Yankee Stadium in New York on August 29, before the Yankees hosted the Toronto Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game set.

Are the "courtesy rules" of this protocol that lies outside of protocol understood and respected by all?

Yankees Ticket

Agent: Hey, you need tickets?

sportsBabel: Whaddaya got?

A: Oh, I got everything. How much do you want to spend?

sB: What are your lowest tickets?

A: I got Main Reserved for seventy.

sB: (Winces.) That's an awful lot.

A: Here, I'll show you the tickets.

sB: (Notices a police officer ambling towards them.) Um … why don't we take a little walk this way?

A: (Notices the cop himself.) I like your style, man. Thanks for hooking me up. (They walk a few feet away.) Here's the tickets, here's the seats. Seventy bucks each.

sB: C'mon, the game's already started … the second inning's already over!

A: Okay, I can go down to sixty.

sB: Hey, wait, these are obstructed view tickets. I don't want obstructed views. What else've you got?

A: Well now you're getting into the good seats.

sB: How much?

A: Hey, these are MVP Boxes! Okay, here's what I can do: I'm taking a beating on these tickets tonight … I just want to get my money back … I'll give you these two for a hundred each. (Face value of tickets is $90 each.)

sB: You can do better than that. The game's already started, I kept you clear from the cop. C'mon, sixty bucks each.

A: I'll do eighty for you … these are good seats, man! I'll show them to you on a map …

sB: Seventy.

A: Lemme show you the map …

sB: Seventy.

A: Okay, seventy.

(sB pulls out cash.)

A: That's one-forty for the two.

(sB hands over a Benjamin Franklin and two Andrew Jacksons.)

A: Nice doing business with you … here, take one of my cards … my name is Doc. (Passes business card and shakes hands.)

sB: All right … thanks.1

* * *

What is interesting is how space and place morph over time for the exchanges engaged in by the agent. Clearly there is the time pressure of the exchange as the game begins, after which the utility of tickets for a consumer rapidly approaches zero. The job of the agent is to extract as much of the rent possible until that zero point is reached, but how to know? It is a complex interplay of the immediately sensed (visually sizing up what a consumer might spend, haptically sensing the crowd outside the stadium deplete as the game begins) and the foldings of experience and reflection that together embody the precise (though coarse) calculus required to maximize profits every night.

But we witness this morphing on an even more microtemporal scale as well. The agent is able to be successful in his enterprise (and they are almost exclusively male) only with an intimate understanding of the stadium and its surroundings as place — familiar landmarks for navigation, patterns of light and shadow that facilitate or disguise a transaction, an understanding of how flows move as they depart the B, D and 4 trains — yet the agent wants to move in the freedom of smooth space. This is made apparent when the police officer — a different agent, this time of the State — who moves on fairly circumscribed paths and who wants to maintain the security and striation of place, approaches the temporary autonomous zone of the ticket scalping transaction.

These perturbations of space, place and time, both major and minor, mutate the parameters of exchange in very particular and rational ways. Once the process has moved outside of place to space, both parties in the exchange must be multi-sensually attentive to these rhythms in order to maximize gains. This may be particularly difficult for the consumer in the west, who has had the ability to detect and respond to these rhythms atrophied by the hygienic places of everyday consumption.

1 This narrative is certainly not a perfect transcript of what transpired during the transaction. Certain events were remembered clearly, while others have been brushed together by the mind to form a complete portrait. And memory of the exchange is almost certainly challenged in retrospect by the fact that the seats ended up being great and the experience wonderful. That said, the purpose of articulating the discussion between sportsBabel and the Agent is not to decide a "winner" of the negotiation, but rather to illustrate the rhythmical nature of exchange in smooth space, which the odd lapse into fiction does not compromise in the slightest.

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