The Boss was in town today, holding court at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Twelve-hundred ticket-holding fans lined up around the block for hours in the rain for the chance to meet Bruce Springsteen for 15 seconds.
“It’s a dream come true, 15 seconds with Bruce,” said Debbie Shamanow of Northeast Philadelphia. “Seeing him in concert is one thing, but if you get to sit next to him, to thank him for what he’s given you for 30, 40 years, it’s worth standing in line for hours.”
Freehold, New Jersey, native Springsteen has just published his autobiography called — what else? — “Born To Run.” Everybody at the Library paid $33 for a signed copy of the book and — more importantly — a chance to stand, one-on-one, in his presence.
“Hey, I drove up from Virginia this morning, left at 4:30 and got here in about 3 ½ hours,” said Robert Smolinski, the patriarch of three generations of Springsteen fans. He came with his grandchildren in a stroller, his daughter-in-law and son, Jason Smolinski, who confirmed the whole family are bonafide Bruce fans.
“They watch YouTube videos of his shows,” said Jason. “A little young for the concerts, so this is their opportunity.”
Many had grand ideas about what their 15 seconds with Bruce would be like. Some brought gifts of cookies, whiskey, even song lyrics for consideration. The Boss, however, was not accepting gifts.
Alberti Engeli, a Spaniard now living in Philadelphia, had a little dialogue worked up in his mind.
“I’m gonna say to Bruce, ‘Today is my birthday!’ Bruce is going to say, ‘Happy Birthday!’ he said. “To get a Happy Birthday from Bruce is worth to stand in rain.”
Once inside the library, people were corralled into a waiting area where they had to give up their bags — like airport security — and hand their phones to a library employee who would use it to take a photo.
“Lifelong dream. Knock it off the bucket list,” said Jim Adair, fan for 42 years. He got choked up as he got closer to the front. “Goosebumps are setting in. Who would think I’ve got a little bro love going on.”
The promise of 15 seconds didn’t really happen — each interaction was rushed to completion in about 5 or 10 seconds, when the fan was hustled to the exit.
Nancy Benson of Ridley, Pennsylvania, came out elated.
“It was so quick, so nerve-wracking, but it was terrific. Worth the wait for 40 years,” she said. “You have a couple seconds to say something, so I said, ‘May I kiss you?’ He said ‘Yes.’ I don’t know what happened after that.
And, so, left with a “Human Touch,” 1,200 Springsteen fans scattered through the wet “Streets of Philadelphia,” thinking: “I’m On Fire.”