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Putting on a brave face while working for Comedy Central at the Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear in D.C. in 2010.
Every year, I get invited by friends to go to one totally sweet outdoor festival or another. And every year, I make up an excuse like, "Oh, I am busy organizing my dust bunny collection that weekend" or "I am allergic to fun."
And at long last I have decided the solution to my issue is to come out of the weed-scented, funnel cake-flavored, glowstick-filled, body odor-riddled closet and admit to all and sundry my terror of outdoor fun festivals.
The second weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival commences today, and even thinking about it brings on a slight wave of anxious nausea.
Why? After all, Coachella produces awesome music and incredible sights like a freaking hologram of Tupac rapping live onstage! Hologram Tupac! Holopac! This is inarguably awesome and also inarguably at least a little bit creepy, and it's certainly a sight that, in theory, I wish I had seen.
But even hearing the words, "Dude, you headed to Coachella?" makes my insides feel funny. Here, in no particular order, are the fears that spring to mind:
I'm agoraphobic, which means I'm inherently a bit more averse to crowds and crowded public spaces than your average bear. I'm also short (five feet two and three quarters, whaaat) and I do not at all like the sensation of looking around at a sea of armpits and sweaty bare man-nipples.
I've accepted the agoraphobia and the shortness as my lot in life, but I can't say I go out of my way to enter situations in which either personal characteristic will cause me much grief.
No matter how much Klonopin I take, I'm still not going to be a fan of giant crowds. And as for the shortness thing, what the hell am I gonna do, wear heels? No one wears heels to these events. People wear sneakers, and Birkenstocks, and maybe boots if it's muddy. Which brings me to my next fear…
Have you seen these people? They show up at any outdoor festival where there is rain, mostly because it is impossible to not get muddy in such situations -- but the mud people take it too far.
They roll around in the mud, which has probably already been pissed in and definitely contains many cigarette butts, and then they rove the land like terrifying hippie golems, spreading filth and joy (but mostly filth).
They usually wear very little clothing while engaging in this behavior, which leads me to believe that they get mud stuck in their buttcracks like cement. And how exactly do you wash all that gunk off when there are no showers around for miles? I have a feeling you utilize my third outdoor festival fear…
Overpriced bottled water
No, you may not bring your own bottled water. Yes, you may purchase it at the festival. No, there will not be enough bottled water to go around by the end of the festival, which will ensure a certain amount of panic sets in.
Yes, the festival will in its marketing materials affirm its commitment to eco-consciousness and green living. No, there will not be enough recycling containers available to handle the mass volume of plastic water bottles.
Yes, you will end up rationing Gatorade in your tent. Or you'll end up drinking something else, and becoming one of the dreaded…
Belligerently drunk assholes
And here is where I admit that my insider knowledge of the horrors of outdoor festivals comes because I once worked at one. I, Sara Benincasa, worked on the Crisis Intervention Team at Woodstock '99. I was 18 and had my CPR/First Aid certification, which seemed good enough to warrant my hiring.
I could say many specific things about this festival, like how I learned that Alanis Morissette can play like 18 instruments and how I was housed with the other volunteers on a decommissioned Air Force base in barracks with no running water and all the staff Port-a-Potties overflowed so we ended up peeing in, among other places, the front yard and the sink, but. But but but.
I shall speak instead of the belligerently drunk assholes who did things like tear down the security fence, set things on fire, attempt to pull down the tower from which MTV was broadcasting (poor Kurt Loder!), hurl bottles at passersby, and perhaps most memorably for me, form a sexual harassment tunnel in one section of the camping site through which women had to pass while being screamed at by scary meatheads.
It was gross. It was dangerous. There was a kind of mob mentality at work, and I did not like it one bit. (Perhaps being evacuated in advance of the arrival of riot police also has something to do with my lingering aversion to outdoor fests, but evs.)
All this is just to say that no, I will not be purchasing a tent and borrowing a sleeping bag and heading to a totally groovy outdoor music and arts festival this spring or summer. I will be sitting in my air-conditioned apartment with its fully functional bathroom in Queens, figuring out whether I should move to a different air-conditioned apartment with a fully functional bathroom in Brooklyn or Los Angeles, enjoying the fine scent of potpurri, and not buying crappy weed from a white dude with dreadlocks.
Unless someone gets me tickets to see the Dave Matthews Band. In that case, I will endure all of the preceding nightmares in order to be closer to my eternal beloved. (You guys, I know. I know. But it's the goddamned truth.)