Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Wrong Direction

One Direction started their US tour at Mohegan Sun last night. Two of my three girls had tickets to attend, thanks to a friend whose name shall remain a secret. You see? Only the spoiled and privileged were able to get tickets to this concert. You either had to know someone or be willing to plunk down (at one point) $900 per ticket. That’s how crazy people were for this show and I probably should have known that that craziness would have set the precedent for a nutty night.

It all started with Josie, Frankie and their cousin, Abby, all dressed in their homemade t-shirts ready to go. We go to Bea’s Hall-Conard (town rivals) lax game first. I glance over and see the girls, sitting in the bleachers, so excited for their evening with Zayn, Harry, Niall, Liam and Louis, each girl with their boy’s name scribbled in fabric paint on the back of their t-shirt.

Tim arrives to the tied game and we watch as Hall pulls ahead at the tail end of the second half. At some point, we decide to take two cars down to Mohegan. I declare that I will “follow him.”

As we're leaving the game, excitement building, the clock ticking, I get nabbed by the police for "rolling through the stop sign" at the 3-way there. Shaken, I blame Tim whom I am "following". He has pulled over to the side right in front of me, waiting, probably laughing at me for getting a ticket. I tell the officer that I am sorry, that I was following my husband, that we are trying to get to a concert. The police officer says, "Yeah, well, HE rolled right through it, too." And then he calls for back up. 

I listen as the officer screeches to the other officer in total disgust, "Yeah, they're husband and wife, on their way to a concert!"

So, now Tim and I are sitting on the side of the road, feeling like criminals, with all the Hall and Conard parents driving by. We each have a flashing police car behind us and we're getting tickets. Parents are waving as they're driving by. Yes, can you imagine?

Then Tim calls me. My first thought is that my blue tooth was stolen out of the Target parking lot a month ago and I haven’t replaced it, yet, so please don’t call me. Or, if I put you on speaker, please don’t say anything inappropriate.

"I can't believe he gave me a ticket. I wouldn't have gotten ticket if I hadn't waited for you." Yes, that's true. But, sweet husband waited for me and got nailed as well. $260 later, we are joking that in all of marriage history, this probably has never happened before. Humiliated and mad we're paying town of West Hartford $260, we try to joke about it. 

With traffic congestion, timing, the rain ... we BARELY get the girls there by the 7:30 start, but we do. They have to throw the posters away that they spent an entire Saturday evening making and they walk in. Bea, who has given her ticket to her cousin (who believes one of the band boys might be her soul mate), and her friend, Morgan, come to dinner with Tim and me. We try to make it fun for her, compensating for her sacrificial gesture for her cousin, but the whole time, she is saying, "So, when are we going to find a way to get into this concert??"

HUH? I thought you were OK being the big-girl sacrificing cousin.

"Really?? They’re sold out. You saw the crazy mob by the sales booth. You really want to try??"

"Definitely. Let's just see."

"But there's no way," I start to say. As soon as the words come out of my mouth, I think of my friend, Lizzy, so positive all the time, who told me that afternoon that she would ask the universe to send tickets so that Bea and her friend could go after having made such a nice sacrifice for her cousin. "Sally, I will ask that the universe just send you tickets out of nowhere!" She is too cute. Trying to keep Lizzy’s optimism, we leave the restaurant and stroll over to the lobby area.

The crowd had dwindled. A few hopeful souls were mingling around waiting to hear if there are any tickets left. Suddenly, there are piercing screams coming form 5 girls, crying, because they just got the last tickets. So happy for them.

We walk around to the other side. There's a guy there holding two tickets. "Do you want these?" He looks right at me.

"Excuse me?" I say.

A bit scruffy looking, he looks more like a tired dad than a drug dealer. "Yeah, I upgraded my daughter's seats and I have these tickets. I paid $55 each, but you can have them for $50 for both of them. Thing is... you need to get my bag that I left in the arena."

Well, Mother Theresa herself could approach Tim and he wouldn't trust her. Jesus could appear with His hand held out and Tim would question His motivation. Tim doesn't buy this guy's story. "No, I don't think we're interested."

Bea and I are both aghast. "What?? I'm interested."

"Seriously, I'm legit. True story. It's just that I don't want to go back in there and have them validate the ticket again if I'm not going to stay. I'm serious." To me, he looks very sincere, like a guy who dragged his desperate girls down to the arena. He looks exhausted, as if he'd been up all night trying to give his kids an experience to remember. "You don't have to pay me until they're in."

I say, "YES!" He hands Bea his "claim ticket," she comes out with his bag filled with ONE DIRECTION paraphernalia, they walk into the arena, I hand him the $50 and it's done. GREAT! Now all kids are in there. Fun for them.

The deafening screams from inside the arena could be heard throughout the entire casino. Who is this band? People everywhere are asking. Literally thousands of histrionic girls ages 12-15 emotionally gushing for these British boys. I start to giggle because I think of Lizzy. This man, literally, came out of nowhere so I smile thinking of the God wink that we sometimes get. Tim smiles, too. We both reflect for a bit too long -- standing in the lobby -- how he trusts no one. He joked that it was his New Britain upbringing. :)

We walk around the smoke-filled venue watching zombies in front of slot machines, feeling the collective addictive pain of humanity. It really is sad to watch people zoned out in front of the slots.

Then the concert ends. The parents -- who have all, it seems, given their tickets they SHOULD be using to chaperone these young girls, to other young girls -- are all waiting in a crowd with bated breath for their little ones to come out. We're right in there trying to find the girls. Of course, Bea comes out responsibly with Morgan. She's exhausted from the game. She hasn't showered. Her stomach is gurgling from a mix of Mohegan buffet food. "Corn muffins and spring rolls don't really digest well together," she says. 

"You're fine. Look for your sisters!" I yell at her over the crowd of frantic parents.

Suddenly, the mass of young girls pours out, some crying, some screaming, everyone on a phone trying to connect with their parents. I look. I wait. I watch. No Josie. No Frankie. No Abby. I text and call Josie. No response. I start to panic. We wait still.

After 30 minutes, the crowd has all exited. We are standing alone, waiting. No Josie, Frankie or Abby. The phone rings. It's Josie. "We're lost," she screams into the phone. "I can't tell where we are."

We find security and they point us to another exit on the other side of the arena. We tell her, "Stay right there. We'll come to you."

Tim, Morgan, Bea and I are now sprinting through the casino, looking for the other entrance. At this point, we don't care that Bea and Morgan aren't of the legal age for gambling as we run by the black jack tables. As we turn the corner, we see 3 exhausted girls slumped against the wall, weary from all the excitement. I pull Josie up and hug her. "Mom it was awesome, but I'm so thirsty and I can't hear anything."

Frankie says, "Am I talking too loud? I can't hear myself."

They are deaf now, and dehydrated.

Tired and sore, we make our way through the crowds towards the parking garage and Josie stops. "Mom!" she yells as she's patting down her shorts and jacket. "Mom, I can't find your camera." I gave her my tiny Elph to bring into the concert.

Bea wails, "NO!! I feel sick and I smell. I just want to go home."

Tim says, "I'll wait here with them. Go back with Josie to see if you can find it." Of course you’ll wait there and send me off and running in my too-tight shoes, strangling my feet from walking around the casino all night.

So we do. We sprint back through the masses of people, weaving in and out. I feel my blistered feet yelling through the too-tight shoes. I have Josie's neon pink sweatshirt in sight as she is determined to find this camera. As I'm running, a woman knocks my cell phone right out of my hand and it smashes to the ground, the cover, split in two, flies off under the stampede of shoes. I scramble to the floor and find my phone, but don’t bother looking for the protective cover now smashed by the crowds. I pick it up and see Josie's pink blur getting further away in the distance. I follow her with my eyes. She is running towards the spot at which they were sitting. I watch as she bends down and lifts up her arm holding the camera in her hand. It was still sitting right on the spot where she was sitting. Emotional catastrophe averted.

We run back to where Tim, Bea, Morgan, Frankie and Abby are, Bea rolling her eyes, but relieved to see Josie holding the camera and we head towards the parking garage… behind what feels like a mass exodus of exhausted and starving cattle.

As we moo our way to the elevator, I suggest the stairs. Worse than the elevator, we choose to wait for the lift to the fourth floor. My feet are thanking me.

Another half an hour in concert traffic and we’re finally cruising along the highway -- Tim driving Abby home to Southington with Josie and Frankie, me heading to West Hartford with Bea and Morgan. I get home around midnight. The phone rings at 12:30. It's Tim. I yell, “Where are you?”

Tim says, “Are you sitting down?”

I sit down.

“I just got a speeding ticket for going 63 in a 45. $206.”

I just start to laugh. An exhausted, kind of maniacal laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. 

Then I think, “Universe, STOP SENDING THE TICKETS!!”