The posters were everywhere. Placed so that they couldn’t be missed. Adverts popped up with every app and in the breaks between the action on every box-set and film on every network and franchise. It was something that you just had to do; the greatest show on earth and what a loser you were if you didn’t sign up and get your ticket.
No matter that it cost that much – that much for just a couple of hours. And then there was getting there and the shitty drive through the rush hour traffic on the motorway; the search for a parking space a mile from the venue. The walk with the many, with the excited masses bleating incoherently; whooping at every opportunity. Tits hanging out and heels high; legs showing. Some of them nice but most of them a wobble of too much sugar and alcopop. Flesh and tattoos and hairspray cloying the air and the stink of piss in the little tunnels you have to pass through to get from the carpark to the venue.
They don’t tell you about this bit. There’s no graffiti on the posters or the ads that they show and the lighting doesn’t dance and flicker like a hopeless city backstreet. They don’t tell you about this bit as you wonder if you’ll ever find your car again; if you’ll ever make it out of this crush of wide-eyed fools.
Then you realise that you’re one of them: one just like them. You queued on-line all morning all that time ago just to get this ticket even though it shamed you and burned a hole in the bank for the next few months but you didn’t want to miss out. You knew you had to come because everyone else was coming and this was your chance – the show came into town once in a generation and if you missed it, that was it. No one ever missed the show.
But it’s not shiny like they make it look like it’ll be. The chainlink fences that surround the place have been pushed back but they sit there rusting and waiting to be squeaked back into place and lock you out once they’ve kicked you out and even the security don’t smile. They’re minimum wage agency staff and most of them don’t speak English. All of them don’t give a fuck but they grunt at you and pat you down then push you in to the delight that you’ve waited so long and paid so much to see.
Some of the fools are so overwhelmed by it all that they’ve taken on too much drink and roll about stupidly or make too much noise. Some of them are thrown out a side door before they’ve even made it in to the arena and they’re suddenly sober and bawling to be let back in. For a bit they’re aggressive and tough and angry and then they’re all baby and crying because those doors don’t have handles on the outside and the doors don’t give a shit. When they’re shut they’re just another part of the wall.
You should go your dad says. I went when I was your age and I’ll never forget it. Won’t be as good now as it was then though. I don’t even remember it. A bit pissed I was. Your mum went. It was good, love, wasn’t it. It was good, the show?
And then you’re in and you wish you had a friend to come with because you feel like a weird loping around and pretending to be waiting for some one. You buy a shiny programme that smells of new and read it four, five times pretending to be interested. Looking at the photos and looking for the pissy underpasses and pissed off security; the crappy concrete desert carpark. None of that as the lights go down and the greatest show on earth is there. Very there and right in front of you.
The night is darker and colder and the crowd is vomited swiftly from the venue. No encore or anything like that. Lights up, show’s over and doors that you didn’t even know were there yawn open on all sides and little green stick men tell you the way.
The way is out into the cold and you’re glad you’re on your own; glad that you don’t have to wait for some half-naked fool in high heels and grinning in accordance with the occasion and making that hike to the car so much longer and the endless wait in that line of buzzing cars so much more intolerable.
You just want to get there. Get there before everyone else and get out of here. You’re not thinking about the show or the life-changing experience that you have just witnessed. You just want to get out of this crowd of fools and go your own way.