The inner circle of people in my life have come to accept – if not fully embrace – that I am not a big fan of the holidays. I’m sure there will be a future entry dedicated to providing the reasons why but for now, suffice it to say that if it weren’t for kids and grandkids in my life, I could happily pull the shades, turn off the radio, and the TV, and pretend that November and December were just figments of my imagination.
Since such an option is not available to me, I make every effort to participate where I can in events that bring joy to the lives of the people I care most about. And so it was that I was recently invited to attend an event (which, not coincidentally, was to happen at my favorite place on the planet) where there would be a ceremony to officially turn on the Christmas lights at one of the most visited lighthouses in the world.
Now… it’s not so much that I’m a generally cranky or anti-social person… hell, I can even be the life of the party if I have enough booze in me… it’s just that I have developed a zero-tolerance policy for ass hats, morons, and numb nuts. It is not on me that these three types of people make up the bulk of the human race.
I knew going in, generically, that there would be a large crowd. As I said above, it’s one of the most visited lighthouses in the world… what would any reasonably minded person expect? And, having been there myself hundreds of times during normal tourist moron hours (or”touron” for short) – spanning decades – I was able to mentally prepare myself for the chaos and mayhem that surely awaited us.
It was the damned shuttle buses that I couldn’t possibly have adequately prepared myself for.
During the day, the lighthouse parking lot is always packed with visitors. Designed sort of like a rotary, if you first go in and find there are no available spaces, you just keep circling until someone pulls out, and you just happen to be close enough to fly in there before that little old lady with the surround sound AARP sunglasses gets a chance to cut in front of you.
The whole thing is a parking lot hell made doubly worse by the fact that the lighthouse itself is right there in front of you, causing drivers to look everywhere but where they are going (putting pedestrians’ lives at great risk) AND it has a ridiculously over – priced restaurant right on the edge of it which, essentially, quadruples the statistical odds of an otherwise – innocent touron becoming some lucky seagull’s next meal.
As we approached the access road to the lighthouse, we were greeted by barricades and a traffic cop telling us we needed to go somewhere else to park our car, explaining that we needed to go up to the main Beach and catch a shuttle bus back to where the lighthouse lighting festivities would be happening. To the extent I am able, I could already see a sea of humanity wandering around aimlessly up ahead near the lighthouse and the gift shop, and the overpriced restaurant.
I choked down a groan of defeat and human loathing so I could tell the kids in the backseat how really awesome this was going to be.
We found the city parking lot, parked in a decent spot, and proceeded to get in line and wait for a shuttle bus. As luck would have it – all sarcasm intended – these so-called shuttle buses were actually the town school buses… on-loan to help facilitate the event. Even more fun – again with the sarcasm – was that there were two lines coming from opposite directions, which meant that there was a humanoid up there in the middle of that sea of humanity that was going to have to herd us like cats into whichever bus the respective lines were supposed to board.
A human funnel, if you will.
It took 30 minutes before it was our turn to get on a bus… and even though it had been over 40 years since I had last
been made to board one, it might as well have been yesterday. Not only did the faux leather look the same, but the chaos and anarchy of everyone fighting to get what they considered the prime spot reminded me of some fucked up version of duck-duck-goose.
The first word that came to mind when I was trying to think of how to describe the ride over was ‘ heinous,’ which probably isn’t perfect, but I like that word, so I’m going with it here; little kids screeching & crying and grown-ups trying to talk to each other in voices loud enough to drown out aforementioned screeching & crying kids … sans a stewardess – like noise referee… paints a pretty accurate picture. Times 70 or 80, depending on how many bodies you can jam into the bus
It was hell.. and yet the true hell was still another two miles up the road.
I remember thinking that maybe that’s how the real hell works – an unbearable stretch of torment and misery which is really nothing more than a Purgatory of sorts, intended only to lull you into thinking that it’s not so bad after all and that you might actually be able to survive it… before satan opens the door, you get kicked in the face with the REAL hell.
Yeah… I think I’m onto something here.
By the time we got off the bus, it was dark. The crowd was already ass-to-ass deep, like some sort of mosh pit gone terribly wrong. We weaved our way about 30 yards through the crowd and into a line at the porta potties, which just so happened to have a flood light as bright as the sun pointing directly down on it. There was a fairly decent-sounding folk singer, using a horrendous amplifier, that was pickin’ and grinnin’ not too far away from us as we worked our way through the line and eventually got our turn.
The whole scene was reminiscent of a Grateful Dead concert.
Thirty yards deeper into the crowd and farther away from the bus stop, we were in pitch blackness. Thankfully I had brought a small flashlight where. There is no telling how many more bodies I might have bumped into. Thirty yards beyond that, and we were at the edge of the ocean with a clear line of sight to the lighthouse. Thankfully, we sat down and got ourselves situated well enough to be able to watch the lights get turned on across the channel about 30 minutes later.
It was absolutely spectacular.
It goes without saying that I was less than pleased to have been made to wade through that sea of humanity to get an unobstructed view of the lights coming on only to have a couple of tourons’ big heads in the foreground… but once the lights came on all I cared about was how the fuck I was going to get back down to the buses and just exactly how long I was going to have to wrestle for a spot on one of them, filled with more screeching & crying humanoids and their offspring, in order to get back to the car.
As fate would have it… And as if God himself heard me crying a little on the inside.. the kids decided walking the two miles back was a much better idea.