I'm borrowing my good friend O'Pine's blog title today, because last night I was caught in such a crush of mass stupidity that I almost couldn't function.
My dad really wanted to go see the Trail of Lights, which is a long-time Austin Christmas tradition. I haven't been to the Trail of Lights since Ella was a baby, when she and I ran the 5K that is held every year before opening night. I've cringed since then at the thought of taking kids down into the melee.
Last night, though, I pulled myself together and headed out the door with mom, dad, Ella and Lily. B, who looked at me like I was crazy when I asked him if he wanted to go, stayed home with Campbell.
The first part of the adventure went smoothly. Parking was a breeze, and the lines for tickets and buses moved right along. We were on the shuttle to the Trail within 20 minutes. Lily was amazed by the bus ride - it's the first time she's been on a bus, which is rather appalling.
When we got to the trail, however, things took a decided turn for the worse. We got off the bus and headed for the entrance to the Trail, which was a solid mass of people being stupid. Entire families - aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. - were lined up in the entrance to take pictures. But this blocked traffic for the thousands of people trying to get in behind them.
The first third of the Trail, which is a mile long total, was packed, and everyone was forced to do a slow shuffle. Again, families were blocking the path so that they could line their cold, crying kids up for photo ops. My dad had to put Lily on his shoulders so she could see the displays, and I had to lift Ella up a few times. The crowds were so thick, and so stupid, that when an ambulance cart, complete with flashing lights, was working its way through the crowd, against the flow of traffic, with an injured little boy strapped to the back, people refused to move. Other idiots were taking pictures of the cart and the little boy. I wanted to trip people, but that would have slowed us down further.
I'm fairly clautrophobic in crowds and prone to panic attacks, so this whole situation was just about my worst nightmare. I kept edging over to the far side of the Trail, away from the displays, just so that I could breathe. But poor Ella, who was holding my hand, kept pulling me back so she could see.
I felt better once the crowds thinned a bit, further along the Trail. But stupidity was still rampant. There were folks who had lost their friends and/or family, so they planted themselves in the middle of the flow of traffic, facing the wrong way, to wait, forcing everyone walking towards them to trip over each other in an attempt to go around.
The final blast of stupidity happened in the lines for shuttles. We were waiting patiently in line, along with hundreds of other people. But on the other side of us, were hundreds of people just marching along, pretending they didn't see all of us waiting our turn patiently. Fortunately, there was a shuttle employee at the entrance to the bus loading area sending people who innocently asked if that was where they got in line all the way back to the end. "See that long line of people all the way back there?" he'd ask. "That's where the line starts." One woman said that her husband couldn't possibly walk all the way to the back and then stand in line. So the shuttle guy told her that her husband could wait right there while she went all the way to the back of the line, and then when she got to the front, her husband could join her. All of us who had been waiting did a little cheer at that.
Despite the rampant examples of the worst of mass human behavior, I'm glad we went. The girls loved the lights; Lily was silent and wide-eyed the whole time. Ella was fixated on this one display of trees that turned on and off to the music playing. She also sang every time she heard Christmas carols, usually at the top of her lungs. Both girls came home exhausted and happy - Lily fell asleep in the car, leaning on my dad. Ella passed out within minutes of climbing into bed, which is rare for her.
I think we'll wait a few years before going back. And we'll make sure to go on a week night, even if it means too late of a bedtime. I can't handle the crowds, or the stupidity, again.