“No matter how awful something is, you can always sell tickets.” ― Augusten Burroughs

She’s got a ticket to ride

She’s got a ticket to ride

She’s got a ticket to ride

But she don’t care.

She don’t care — do we? Do tickets matter any more? (Possibly.) Did they ever? (Yes, vitally — read on!) Have they lost their importance, their meaning, their allure? (Everything has — that’s just the nature of objects in time.) What endures?

It is unclear why visitors to Paris’s Cimetière de Montparnasse strew Metro tickets on the tomb of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, pictured here; it is just one of those traditions that has developed over the years. Some believe it may refer to a group of French Maoists that Sartre supported who gave away free tickets during a fare hike in the 1960s. In the same cemetery, Serge Gainsbourg’s gravestone is covered in tickets to honor his 1959 hit song, “Le Poinçonneur des Lilas,” about a Metro attendant (“Poinçonneur” means “ticket-puncher”); Francois Truffaut’s Montmartre tomb is similarly adorned, ticketed, in homage to his masterpiece Le Dernier Métro.

I want to be circumspect with my metaphorical extrapolation of tickets. A ticket does not really, in the final analysis, have all that much to do with a Caribbean cruise, a flight to France, or the experience of enjoying a Broadway blockbuster. Any connotative metonymy is loose. A few exceptions (that prove the rule) — Eddie Money’s “Two Tickets to Paradise,” the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride,” Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket — depict tickets that feature resplendently self-contained importance, agency, power, but much more commonly, a ticket is just a ticket.

Tickets today are less self-sufficient than they used to be because the world is more complicated. A mere ticket is no longer really a ticket to ride: you have to have your ID too, and you can’t just head out and ride spontaneously whenever and wherever you want because open and refundable tickets are prohibitively expensive, so you have to book a discount fare (for a specific predetermined itinerary) in advance. Transport companies find it convenient and profitable to manage passengers by charging nearly unaffordable tariffs for spontaneous travel, making a ticket less functional as a token of impulsive adventure, and indeed, more of an albatross around your neck. (I have to go to Boston this weekend? When did I make that reservation? What was I thinking?)

In movies from the 1960s, a pair of tickets in a cardboard sleeve comprised a standard prop in stories of romance and adventure: the well-groomed guy pulls back his blazer coyly to show that his inner pocket holds two tickets to somewhere, and as he tosses them on the table . . . they’re off. In simpler times, a ticket may have been a satisfying symbol for an actual getaway, but our contemporary infrastructures of travel, security, business, and technology overwrite the independence, the jouissance, that a ticket once embodied.

A ticket is fundamentally mundane — just a piece of paper (or, lately, a group of pixels forming a UPC or QR code), an authorization, a contract, a bit of necessary information representing one small piece of the time, energy, planning, and money that will get you to Avignon or Hamilton. Do not overread or fetishize the ticket; it will not repay the adulation. (In fact, as the astute reader may suspect, I am myself launching into exactly such a fetishistic overreading . . . but I am a trained professional. Don’t try this at home.)

Instead, consider the ticket as it is intended to be used: a means to an end, something that gets us to where we are going or what we want to do. But even that is overstated; a ticket doesn’t actually get you anywhere, a train or a plane does. It allows you in: it permits you past the gatekeeper, it reminds you where you are going and what you are going to do, and where you are supposed to sit; it facilitates the arrangement of dozens or thousands of other people coming to the same place at the same time. It keeps the social order: please retain your ticket even after you have been admitted in case someone else tries to sit in 3B or DD 121. The ticket is mostly, but not yet completely, pointless once you have shown it at the entrance (where it may be torn, or detached, or punched, or scanned, or just visually inspected), once you have arrived at wherever the ticket tells you to go. But it retains a small, residual function: proving that you have a right to be in attendance during the concert or journey — affirming you didn’t sneak in. Keep it crumpled up in your pocket in case you later have to prove your claim to your rightful place, which happens occasionally but rarely. On the way out you may dispose of it, or forget about it until it goes through the wash, recalled only when you see the dryer’s lint trap full of little crumply paperballs.

The ticket is mere bureaucracy, accounting, paperwork. And yet, once upon a time . . .

The etymology of the word “ticket” reveals that, erstwhile, the ur-object possessed a vastly nobler significance. The Luxembourgish word — inscriptioun — that is still current in their language today retains a delightfully overwrought sense of a ticket’s important textual authority; but beyond the sheer cliffs of that quaint duchy, what’s past is past. In Romance languages, the word (le billet, il biglietto, el boleto) derives from the Latin bulla (knob), as in a Papal bull — a seal certifying official documents. They did not take their tickets lightly, the Europeans. In his 19th-century Dialogues philosophiques, Ernest Renan existentializes:

L’univers est un tirage au sort d’un nombre infini de billets, mais où tous les billets sortent. Quand le bon billet sortira, ce ne sera pas un coup de providence, il fallait qu’il sortît.

(“The universe is a lottery with an infinite number of tickets, but where all the tickets will be drawn. When the right ticket appears, that will not be a stroke of Providence — the winner’s turn was sure to come.”)

The English “ticket” evolved from the same root as “etiquette,” though the relationship between the two concepts is not immediately apparent. The 16th-century form was “etiket” (in its beginning is its end, as an etiket becomes an e-ticket — but I am getting ahead of myself). The French “etiquet” meant “a little note, breuiate, bill, or ticket; especially such a one, as is stucke vp on the gate of a Court, signifying the seisure &c of an inheritance by order of iustice” (OED). The German word “stechen” lurks in there as well (stech/tiq/tik): to stick, fix, like “a little note or notice affixed to anything, a label.”

The etiquet was a note attached to an object detailing its contents, or a written note recording work undertaken. It was a soldier’s billet; and — here’s where it dovetails with our contemporary sense of manners and propriety — it prescribed rules of ceremony and behavior at court. Imagine a “crib note” reminding you to use your smaller fork for salad and your handkerchief for nose fluids, or advising how to address the Marquise de Quelquechose: that would be an etiquette ticket. The word fused the concepts of short notes/documents/labels with protocol, ceremonies, codes of manners and polite behavior.

Today anyone, highborn or commoner, suave or boorish, can get a ticket. Still, there is a (barely) lurking sense of aristocratic order, hierarchy, morality in some connotations. A traffic ticket indicates that you have transgressed against proper automotive etiquette: weaving across lanes while driving 20 miles over the speed limit is not comme il faut; it endangers social stability and the common good. You hope the political ticket you support will reflect excellent leaders, full of noblesse oblige and moral rectitude (though good luck with that).

But tickets are now fundamentally plebian. There are a lot of them, and we cannot, as in simpler times, look to these tickets for guidance on how to behave, how to proceed in our world. In a babel of tickets, their moral authority has become dissipated, debased. Today, they are the stuff of banality. You drove too fast. You parked too close to a crosswalk. Here’s your coat. Here’s your car. Oh yeah, you might win five hundred million dollars — sure, hold on to that ticket.

‘That’s the ticket!’

So effuses actor Jon Lovitz in a well-loved “Saturday Night Live” recurring sketch:

Hello, my name is Tommy Flanagan, and I’m a member of Pathological Liars Anonymous. In fact, I’m the president of the organization!

I didn’t always lie. No, when I was a kid, I told the truth. But then one day, I got caught stealing money out of my mother’s purse. I lied. I told her it was homework — that my teacher told me to do it. And she got fired! Yeah, that’s what happened!

After that, lying was easy for me. I lied about my age and joined the army. I was thirteen at the time. Yeah. I went to Vietnam, and I was injured catching a mortar shell in my teeth. And they made me a three-star general! And then I got a job in journalism, writing for the National Enquire … er, Geographic! Yeah. I was making twenty thousand a ye … month! In fact, I won the Pulitzer Prize that year! Yeah, that’s the ticket.

And then my cousin died — Joe Louis — and I took it hard. Maybe too hard — I tried to kill myself. Yeahh . . . I did kill myself! Sure! I was medically dead for a week and a half! It was a woman that brought me out of it — Indira Gandhi! Yeah, right. And she told me about Pathological Liars Anonymous.

Oh, you’d be surprised how many famous people belong. In fact, at one of the meetings I met my wife — Morgan Fairchild! Yes, I’m a changed man now, and all because of Pathological Liars Anonymous. Why, I — I even have my picture on the cover of Newsweek magazine. Yeah. Every day! Yeah. That’s the ticket!

The expression, a 19th-century American colloquialism, means “the correct thing; what is wanted, expected, or fashionable” — perhaps evoking a lottery ticket with the winning numbers, or even that older European sense of courtly etiquette. But at the risk of transgressing the wisdom of E. B. White (“Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging”), Tommy Flanagan doth protest too much: that is not the ticket. His tickets are counterfeit, erroneous, ridiculous; they are, exactly as advertised, pathological lies. They will not get anyone in anywhere; they will not work. In a world of irony, just because you say you have the ticket doesn’t mean you really have the ticket.

The text of the ticket

Those of us who are of a certain age will remember walking up to a ticket window to request, with the briefest of conversation (“one, please”; “early show”) a brightly colored scrap of heavy paper, one by two inches rectangular, printed on what is known in the trade as simply “ticket stock,” with perforated edges so it can be torn off a ticket roll.

Its prose was concise, straightforward, minimalist, stinted. With a brashly unadorned literalism that is for some reason inconceivable today, it might say, simply and epiphanically, “ticket.” A run-of-the-mill ticket to a movie or a party might proclaim little more than “Admit one,” or “General Admission,” or “Drink Ticket,” or “Keep this coupon.” A raffle ticket would say “raffle ticket.” A movie ticket might list the name of the venue: Columbia Drive-In, or Piedmont Auditorium. Or it might be more generic: “Cinema,” “Theatre,” “Matinee.” A ticket for a carnival ride that cost 50 cents would most likely contain the follow text: “50 cents.” Tickets were gems of brevity.

Roald Dahl parodied the generic minimalism of the ticket-as-text with the over-the-top incontinent absurdist maximalism of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which the tickets say:

Greetings to you, the lucky finder of this Golden Ticket, from Mr Willy Wonka! I shake you warmly by the hand! Tremendous things are in store for you! Many wonderful surprises await you! For now, I do invite you to come to my factory and be my guest for one whole day — you and all others who are lucky enough to find my Golden Tickets. I, Willy Wonka, will conduct you around the factory myself, showing you everything that there is to see, and afterwards, when it is time to leave, you will be escorted home by a procession of large trucks. These trucks, I can promise you, will be loaded with enough delicious eatables to last you and your entire household for many years. If, at any time thereafter, you should run out of supplies, you have only to come back to the factory and show this Golden Ticket, and I shall be happy to refill your cupboard with whatever you want. In this way, you will be able to keep yourself supplied with tasty morsels for the rest of your life. But this is by no means the most exciting thing that will happen on the day of your visit. I am preparing other surprises that are even more marvelous and even more fantastic for you and for all my beloved Golden Ticket holders — mystic and marvelous surprises that will entrance, delight, intrigue, astonish and perplex you beyond measure. In your wildest dreams you could not imagine such things could happen to you! Just wait and see! And now, here are your instructions: the day I have chosen for the visit is the first day of the month of February. On this day, and on no other, you must come to the factory gates at ten o’clock sharp in the morning. Don’t be late! And you are allowed to bring with you either one or two members of your own family to ensure that you don’t get into mischief. One more thing — be certain to have this ticket with you, otherwise you will not be admitted.

(Signed) Willy Wonka

The modern corporate iteration of the ticket seems like something dreamed up by George Orwell in collaboration with Michel Foucault: the corporations that control most of the tickets for anything you would want to do have ominously authoritarian names like TICKETRON and TICKETMASTER. These companies project an unabashedly totalitarian message: Don’t fuck with us. If you want to do anything fun, you will be interacting with our corporation. And expect to pay a lot of money for the privilege.

Their tickets have bar codes, and ads, and lots of rules and legalisms. They are embarrassments of random prolixity. They list the weather, and tell you where you might rent a car. They suggest restaurants they think you might want to eat at. Tickets are big business. Most commonly, tickets today are printed at home from PDFs. This is more convenient, perhaps, than getting your tickets from a ticket window, but the transaction suffers for the deprivation of the look, the feel, the iconicity, the objectness of the once-upon-a-time plain old ticket.

Tickets of Life and Death

In 1989, 96 English football fans died and nearly 800 were injured in Sheffield’s Hillsborough stadium (a neutral venue) at the FA Cup’s semi-final contest between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The cause was a crush of fans entering the game under incompetent crowd management, though for years English authorities had blamed the fans for drunken rowdy behavior; in 2012, finally, a commission found that lack of police control was the cause. Stephen Whittle had a ticket to the game that he was unable to use because of a work commitment, so he sold it to a friend, who died in the crush. Twenty-two years later, out of grief and guilt, he killed himself; his father called him the 97th victim.

When John Henry Stubbs, a 69-year-old father of ten from Orlando, Fla., won $50 on a lottery ticket, he asked his friend Joseph Robinson to claim the cash at a nearby store. Instead, Robinson came back only with a beer for himself. Words ensued. Stubbs was upset and slapped Robinson, who walked away but soon returned with an ax and murdered Stubbs in front of a dozen friends playing dominoes.

Michigan resident James Bush, 20, was riding his motorcycle to his parents’ home for dinner in 2015 when a police car cut in front of him and he crashed into the vehicle. The officer had decided to write a ticket for a minivan that did not have its lights on; the driver was in the opposite lane and the policeman made a sharp U-turn cutting horizontally in front of oncoming traffic. “He drove his vehicle so recklessly as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern as to whether injury would result,” according to a lawsuit filed by the family of Bush, who died in the accident.

Robert Saylor, a 26-year-old Maryland man with Down syndrome, was at the movies with a health care aide in 2015 watching Zero Dark Thirty. When it ended, Saylor didn’t want to leave the theater, hoping to see the film again. The manager, frustrated that Saylor didn’t understand that one ticket was good for only one viewing, called three off-duty deputies who were moonlighting as security guards. The guards forcibly evicted Saylor from the theater, refusing to listen to his aide, who had already contacted Saylor’s mother in an effort to defuse the situation. As the conflict escalated, the police threw Saylor to the ground, piling on top of him as they attempted to handcuff him. His trachea was fractured and he died of asphyxiation; the autopsy listed his death as a homicide.

Paul and Jacqueline Abbott, from Netherton, West Midlands, were described by neighbors as being “Elvis mad” and regularly attended conventions and tribute acts together. They had plans to attend a performance of an Elvis tribute band one evening in 2015, but when Paul discovered that Jacqueline had sold their tickets on eBay they argued, and police said Paul picked up a hammer and struck Jackie twice; she died of catastrophic head injuries. “One resident said: ‘She was really into Elvis, there was loads of pictures of him around the home.’”

Is it just coincidental, or not, that tickets are at the heart of all these tragedies? What does the ticket mean here? These are bad tickets, dysfunctional tickets, perverse tickets. Instead of getting people something, or getting people into something, people lose; people die. A ticket is a double-edged sword: used properly it offers a payoff; used improperly it triggers a deprivation, a tragedy. Remember — tickets were originally designed to prescribe behavior and modulate etiquette. In these crazy times, perhaps tickets instead signal our inability to control behavior, manners, norms.

Racist Tickets

Generations after the heyday of American Chinese laundries, a buffoonishly obtuse racism endures, centered on the laundry ticket. In 2005 a New Jersey woman was seeking child support from her ex-husband for her daughter’s college tuition, but when she failed to prove that her daughter was enrolled as a student, Judge Fred Kieser Jr. chastised her: “no tickee, no laundry.” (Later admonished by a committee on judicial conduct, he said in his defense that he did not believe the comments were inherently racist: “The litigants were African Americans and the racial slur, I think, was a slur against Asians.”)

It’s an interesting case-study in racism, in that most (non-Chinese) people are oblivious to its offensiveness and its semiotic depth as a mockery of Chinese/Asian engagement in American culture. The slur seems simple, and perhaps at first glance not immensely hateful. Starting with the first wave of Chinese immigration to American in the mid-nineteenth century, Chinese people ran many laundries, and when customers brought in their laundry they received in exchange a ticket that showed ownership thereof. If they came back without the ticket — that damned small piece of paper, where did I put it? It’s so tiny and trivial to me! — they simply couldn’t reclaim their laundry. But it’s mine, they might protest. Well, I don’t remember you, the laundryman might respond. Exasperated, the customer might grouse, I guess we all look alike to them . . . just as they all look alike to me. Still, how annoying that this Chinaman is being so strict, so legalistic, so rule-bound, so suspicious, so unwilling to interact with us in a normal, trusting, American way. (The customer doesn’t consider that maybe the laundry worker is afraid he is being tricked, or that whoever eventually finds the ticket will bring it in and expect to get the laundry back, and then where will he be? And perhaps he has reason to be distrustful of unwritten rules; perhaps he has been burned before trying to play the game as a subaltern.) And to top it off, why can’t they even pronounce our words right?

A Chinese laundry ticket is nothing more than a small piece of paper that serves as a claim check linking each customer with his laundry items. It has nothing to do with the actual provided services, yet the laundry ticket came to be a source for ridicule of the Chinese laundryman. Whites could not decipher the Chinese characters the laundryman recorded on the ticket to itemize and price the washed clothing articles. To whites, these “chicken feet scratches” symbolized alien and inscrutable Oriental ways. It is not all unreasonable for the laundryman to require the customer claiming laundry to present a ticket because without it, locating the customer’s clothing is made difficult. Furthermore, someone might claim clothing that did not belong to them. But no Chinese laundryman would have used the phrase, “No tickee, no washee,” or its other forms, “No tickee, no laundee,” or “No tickee, no shirtee” to make this point. The phrase is just one example of the way whites often fabricated pidgin English terms to make fun of the difficulty Chinese had in pronouncing English.

The phrase’s first recorded occurrence appears in Archer Taylor’s 1931 book The Proverb, though Terry Abraham finds a 1903 story, “Uncle Josh in a Chinese Laundry,” that depicts a similar scenario: “Uncle Josh is visiting New York and inquires about laundry services. He is directed to a nearby Chinese laundry: ‘So I told him I’d like to git him to do some washin’ fer me, and he commenced a talkin’ some outlandish lingo, sounded to me like cider runnin’ out of a jug, somethin’ like — ung tong oowong fang kai moi oo ung we, velly good washee. Wall I understood the last of it and jist took his word fer the rest, so I giv him my clothes and he giv me a little yeller ticket that he painted with a brush what he had, and I’ll jist bet a yoke of steers agin the holler in a log, that no livin’ mortal man could read that ticket; it looked like a fly had fell into the ink bottle and then crawled over the paper.’ Not recognizing the ticket as his claim, Josh cannot produce the ticket when he calls for his laundry. . . . In spite of the laundryman’s protestations, Josh assaults him, and runs off with somebody else’s shirts.”

The art of the ticket

Schwitters began collage when he became involved with the Dadaists in Berlin; he collected and used rubbish such as bus tickets and newspapers. In 1912 Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque began to paste objects onto the surfaces of their works, using physical fragments of their quotidian experience, such as newspaper articles and ticket stubs, to dismantle the time-honored conception that a painting is a mere porthole through which reality might be viewed. For Picasso and Braque, and for the collagists who would follow them, the role of art was to embody life, rather than just to document it.

The movement known as Synthetic Cubism involved incorporating scraps of everyday materials (newspaper cuttings, tickets, tobacco wrappers etc.), marking a move away from the austere intellectualism of Analytical Cubism, towards a more relaxed and whimsical set of aesthetics. The theory was that, by introducing physical elements of real life, paintings would become more “real.” In addition, the use of commonplace bits and pieces of daily rubbish was a deliberate attack on the superior image and high-mindedness of fine art. The inclusion of these items suggested that art could be made with scissors and glue as easily as with brushes and paint — a liberating and most unconventional approach for those days.

Contemporary and postmodern artists have taken the small, incidental tickets that Picasso and Schwitters tossed quietly into their compositions and have run amok with a ticketicity that knows no bounds.

The art collective Ghost of a Dream transforms discarded lottery tickets into the very stuff you might’ve bought had you not lost. Think of it as a public service.

They’re building new dreams out of spent dreams. The value of the lottery tickets matches each item’s actual worth. That way you know you could’ve bought the real thing had you just saved your money. Good news for those of you who frittered away all your hard-earned cash on the lottery and never, ever won: Now you can turn old tickets into dream homes! Cars! Tropical vacations!

Nina Boesch is a Manhattan-based artist and designer from Bremen, Germany. In 2001, after being introduced to the NYC subway system, Boesch became inspired by subway riders who just dropped their used and expired MetroCards in the subway stations.

She thought of an artistic challenge that would not only clean up the platforms but also bring new life to an everyday object most consider trash. She started repurposing the old disposed tickets she found and turned them into collages.

Ticket cases: the fine print

When we take a ticket, we do not usually think in great depth about what we are letting ourselves in for — we do not ponder any melodramatic complications that would lead to physical injury, financial loss, legal proceedings, and so forth. We should.

In English contract law, “ticket cases” address disputes arising when a person receives a ticket (or some comparable document with terms). If s/he retains the ticket, then s/he is presumed to be bound by those terms; whether or not s/he has read the terms is irrelevant: using the ticket is normally analogous to signing a document. Ticket case law concerns whether a given ticket is indeed legally considered to be a contract, and often adjudicates contested exclusion clauses (common notations on tickets warning that one party will not be responsible for certain happenings).

Parker v. South Eastern Railway (1877)

Mr. Parker left a bag in the cloakroom of Charing Cross railway station, run by the South Eastern Railway Company. On depositing his bag and paying two pence he received a ticket. On the front it said “see back.” On its back, it stated that the railway was excluded from liability for items worth £10 or more. Mr. Parker failed to read the clause as he thought the ticket was only a receipt of payment. However, he admitted that he knew the ticket contained writing. Mr. Parker’s bag, which was worth more than £10, was lost. He sued the company. The question of law put to the court was whether the clause applied to Mr. Parker. At trial the jury found for Mr. Parker as it was reasonable for him not to read the ticket.

Chapelton v. Barry UDC (1940)

David Chapelton went to a beach with his friend, Miss Andrews, at Cold Knap, South Wales. There was a pile of deckchairs. A notice next to them said, “Barry Urban District Council. Cold Knap. Hire of chairs 2d. per session of 3 hours.” It also said tickets should be obtained from attendants. Mr. Chapelton got two chairs from an attendant, paid the money and got two tickets. He put them in his pocket. On the ticket was written, “Available for three hours. Time expires where indicated by cut-off and should be retained and shown on request. The council will not be liable for any accident or damage arising from the hire of the chair.” When Mr. Chapelton sat on the chair it gave way, the canvas tearing from the top of the chair. He was injured. The County Court judge held the council was negligent but that liability was exempted by the ticket. Mr Chapelton appealed. The Court of Appeal upheld Mr Chapelton’s claim. He held that there was a valid offer when the chairs were on display, accepted when picked up the chairs from the defendant. Therefore, the ticket was merely a receipt of the contract, and the exclusion clause could not be incorporated as a term, because it was too late.

Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd (1970)

Frances Thornton, who was a free-lance trumpeter of the highest quality, had an engagement with the B.B.C. at Farringdon Hall. He drove to the City in his motorcar and went to park it at a multi-storey automatic car park. A sign gave the parking charges: “5/ for two hours: 7/6d. for three hours,” and so forth. Inside the garage, a sign read: “All cars parked at owner’s risk.” Mr. Thornton entered into the garage. The motorcar was taken up by mechanical means to a floor above. Mr. Thornton left it there and went off to keep his appointment with the B.B.C. Three hours later Mr. Thornton came back. He went to the office and paid the charge for the time the car was there. His car was brought down from the upper floor. He went to put his belongings into the boot of the car. But unfortunately there was an accident and Mr. Thornton was severely injured. The car park argued that the judge should have held the matter regulated by the ticket contract, not tort law. The Judge has found it was half Mr. Thornton’s own fault, but half the fault of the Shoe Lane Parking Ltd. The Judge awarded him £3,637.6s.lld. The more onerous the clause, the better notice of it needed to be given. Moreover, the contract was already concluded when the ticket came out of the machine, and so any condition on it could not be incorporated in the contract. Because the ticket was issued automatically, and not by a clerk, Mr. Thornton had no chance to look at the conditions (“All cars parked at owner’s risk”) and accept or reject them.

Musical tickets

McCartney and Lennon’s titular protagonist, “She,” is self-aware, unfettered, independent, all of which is bound up in her “ticket to ride.” Or perhaps her ticket is to Ryde, a village on the Isle of Wight where Sir Paul had a cousin who ran a bar (which he and John had visited) — McCartney offered this gloss ex post facto, perhaps truthfully, perhaps not. Lennon offered a raunchier explanation of her ticket to ride: he said it referred to the cards indicating a clean bill of health that Hamburg prostitutes carried in the 1960s. (Paul and John had also ridden to Hamburg many times — certainly they had taken train rides there, and “ride” is British slang for sex, which they also did.)

If the Beatles’ ballad is liberating and empowering, the next-most-famous ticket song, Serge Gainsbourg’s “Le poinçonneur des Lilas,” is the antithesis: a slough of existential repetition, boredom, and meaninglessness: “Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas,” the song begins: I’m the ticket puncher at Lilas — “Le gars qu’on croise et qu’on n’ regarde pas”: “The guy nobody looks at.”

There is no sunshine in this Metro station.

Strange vacation.

To kill the boredom, in my vest,

I have extracts from Readers Digest,

And this book says to me,

That life is just a ball in Miami,

All the while I’m working like a slave,

Down in this cave,

They say work’s better than the dole

But all day long I just make holes

I punch holes, little holes and more little holes

Little holes, little holes, always little holes

I make second class holes

And punch first class holes

I punch holes, little holes and more little holes

Little holes, little holes, always little holes

Little holes, little holes

Little holes, little holes. . . . .

I live down in the bowels of this planet

I have in my head

A carnival of confetti that even gets between my sheets.

Under this white tile sky

The only things that shine are insect’s eyes.

Sometimes I dream, I go into a daze

And in that phase

The railway platform is a quay

A boat is coming to get me

From this hole, little hole where I make little holes

From this hole, this little hole where I make little holes

But the boat is sailing

My daydream’s always failing . . . .

I’ve had enough,

I’ve had it with this bullshit

Down in this cess-pit

I’d like to get out in the trees

They can keep their cloakroom keys

One day will come I am sure

When I will get away to something more

Take a car, a plane, a train

No matter what

But if the time I have is cursed

I’ll have to leave this place feet first

I punch holes, little holes and more little holes

Little holes, little holes, always little holes

I think I will trifle

with a great big rifle

and make a hole, little hole, one last little hole

make a hole, little hole, one last little hole

and then they’ll put me in a hole

where I will hear no more of holes

Never again make little holes

Those little holes, those little holes.

The music itself, perversely bouncy, seems at odd with the self-loathing and emptiness of the lyrics, though old videos show that Gainsbourg’s performative sneer embodies the anger one would expect from this screed.

Ticketless tickets

Save the world: lose the ticket.

In honor of Earth Day, Klever Logic, an industry-leading parking technology provider, is proud to introduce a Ticketless Valet Module for its award-winning Flash Valet solution. The Ticketless Valet Module gives parking operators the ability to offer their customers the option of replacing paper tickets for SMS texting ticketing instead. Valet personnel will have the ability to issue tickets via text from the Flash Valet App. Instead of a paper ticket, parking guests will enter their mobile number into the Flash Valet App and shortly thereafter will receive a text with ticket number and instructions for retrieving their vehicle when ready to leave. All they have to do is reply to the text to request their car. Or present their phone with SMS Text Ticket. . . . Over the next month, for every location that signs up for the Ticketless Valet module, Klever Logic will make a donation to the “Plant a Billion Trees Project” run by Nature’s Conservancy, a non-profit that helps plant trees and restore forests around the globe.

When I ask my teen-age son to “tape” a tv show for me, he knows I mean that I want him to record it on the DVR (whatever that is), but he has absolutely no technological memory of what a tape has to do with that. A similar fate awaits the ticket. My tickets are now mostly on my phone instead of in my pocket. They are in my wallet© instead of my wallet. Ticketless ticketing: the phrase unsettles my sense of how objects exist in the world, but this is not the first time it has happened, so I am able get my head around it. I appreciate the warning, “ticketless,” so I do not grope around in my pockets and folders in search of something that no longer exists, a self-consuming artifact. There will probably be a time in the not-too-distant future when ticket agents, ticket scalpers, et al. will have to rebrand themselves into something more au courant, and I cannot quite imagine what that will be. The idea of the “ticket” will become indelibly tainted with the stench of print-ness, the archaism of the hard copy, and yet another object will vanish from our physical world to be reconfigured in some ethereal iteration that is more efficient for ticket-takers (and probably also for the IRS and cybermarket researchers and Russian hackers and the National Security Agency).

Oh well. That’s the ticket.

testPromoTitleReplace testPromoDekReplace Join HuffPost Today! No thanks.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.