Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday's Story: Hitchhike to Hoodbridge

Last Sunday’s debacle reminds me of another Concert from Hell story.

The scene: 1993. Grunge was king. Beverly Hills, 90210 was the voice of a generation. Only Zack Morris had a cellphone. MTV showed videos. And I was a dorky 16-year-old from the outer circle of Suburban Hell. I was also a lucky dork, with a field ticket to the HFStival at RFK.

We came in two cars. I got separated from the group when some random frat guys thought my small stature would make me awesome at crowdsurfing. And I was. Boy howdy, I’m good. I got hoisted in the air, and stayed aloft for much of the INXS set. I was gone for a long time.

Meanwhile, everybody thought I was riding home with someone else (how very Home Alone, a popular film of the era).

At the end of the show, I returned to where the car was parked, but there was no car. At this point, my options were, 1. Call home, get killed by parents. 2. Get killed by scary city people, who I am sure all had crack pipes and guns, or possibly crack pipes made from guns. 3. Burst into hysterics, die of shame. Every option said, “Die.”

A group of middle-aged folks were tailgating a few spaces over.

“Hey, kid, you lost?”
“Yeah, I don’t know what to do.”
“Can you take the Metro?”
“No, I’m from Woodbridge.”
“Hey, we’re from Woodbridge! What school do you go to?”

…to make a boring story short, and therefore a little less boring, I had run into a van full of the assorted relatives and parents of my classmates. And they were getting drunk in a parking lot in a then-sketchy part of D.C. Stay classy, Prince William! They offered me a lift home. I took it.

So we’re bombing down the freeway, I’m riding shotgun, there’s a 40-year-old toking up in the back row (at the time I thought it was just a funny-smelling cigarette), and the party rages on. Until, BOOM. Tire blowout on I-95. We skid across the freeway, and come to rest on the shoulder. The driver jumps out of the car to change the tire, I’m in charge of holding the flashlight.

Blue lights. A police officer pulls up to check on us. As it turns out, the driver doesn’t have his license on him. The officer says we can’t leave until we find someone else to drive the car. I have a learner’s permit, so I get chucked into the driver’s seat. The drunks in the back resume their mashup chorus of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” the designated driver hops into the shotgun position, and I haul myself home across a dark highway late at night. (Well, late for me, considering my curfew was 10:30…the rest of the van was just getting warmed up.)

So what did we learn today? It’s possible to be really stupid without getting busted by your parents (until now…hi, Dad!). I am less cool than the sort of people who still go to all-day rock festivals and toke up in vans well into middle age. I’m good at crowdsurfing. Most importantly, if you get stranded in a strange city, hang out in a dark parking lot until a bunch of strangers offer you a ride home.

That’s one to grow on, and knowing is half the battle.

Postscript: My dad called after I posted this to inform me that he'd spotted me crowdsurfing on the local news on the day of the concert (he even used the phrase "mosh pit"). He thought it best to never mention this to my mom, who, fortunately, does not read this blog.


RedBach said...

there’s a 40-year-old toking up in the back row (at the time I thought it was just a funny-smelling cigarette...

Are you sure it wasn't oregano? :)

Michael J. West said...

90210 was the voice of a generation? Good God.

Shannon said...

Red, at the time, I probably believed it was oregano.

Mike, I didn't say our generation had a particularly articulate voice. But, as I learned from the infamous "Emily Valentine trashes the parade float" episode I watched last night, it is possible to cure mental illness in less than an hour.

Gilahi said...

You were 16 years old in 1993?! And here I thought you were worldly-wise.

Shannon said...

Well, those first 16 years were spent as a roadie for Metallica. The suburbia came later.