Readying oneself for any music festival experience requires an understanding of the less-than-glamourous things to come. The kind of things that cause a secret but immeasurable amount of anxiety for us Type A folk, who pack our wholesale-sized supply of wet wipes and diligently pray to the festival gods that we'll be spared the worst of it.
I'm sorry to report our latest experience didn't render us so lucky.
Were it just a matter of outhouse trauma - cautiously pulling open the door, glimpsing the horror within and hastily moving onward to the neighbouring facility - I could have totally handled it. I used to naively think port-o-potties represented the worst one could possibly endure during a weekend's worth of revelry, but I now tragically know better.
We started out having a rather peachy time - the sun was shining, with a steady breeze ensuring that peak-of-summer just rightness. We enjoyed a couple drinks, spent some time stretched out on the grass soaking in a few local acts and had some lovely and long-winded bonding conversations back at the campsite.
We'd deliberately set up our tent at the border of the designated family area (which at the time remained vacant), aware we'd likely hit the hay sooner than our decade-ish younger counterparts.
On one of our visits back to the campsite later that evening, however, we noticed someone had pitched their tent within close proximity to our own, though it wasn't this fact alone that caught our attention (to be fair, real estate was at a minimum, and we knew the prospect of neighbours was inevitable). Rather, it was the particular state of this tent that caused us to survey it suspiciously.
No doubt it had been erected in a lopsided-hurry atop a poorly-scouted square of rocks and rubble, the tent itself having clearly outlived its prime. Coated with a layer of grime, and showcasing a gaping rip along its zippered seam, we shared a brief flicker of concern over the owner of such a disorderly affair before cracking another drink and getting back to the having-of-fun.
We spent our evening in front of the stage dancing to a favourite band, and to the next act after that, before both admitting exhaustion and retreating back to our tent to drift off amid the thrumming bassline of activity.
A couple hours later the music stopped and the crowds came noisily flocking back to their campsites. That, too, was fine - all part and parcel of the music festival environment.
What was NOT fine, however, was the fact that we spent the remainder of the night and all of the morning listening to the shouting and yelling of our mystery neighbour and his whiny-voiced girlfriend, hours and hours of carrying on about the following:
How much they love each other. ("Baby, baby...baby...I love you," and "I love you, too, baby, I love you to pieces," and, "But baby! Baby, I love you.") (To be fair, it started out kind of charming, until we'd heard it no fewer than 142 times, consequently ruining the pet-name "Baby" for me 'til the end of my days.)
How "fucked up" they were on LSD.
And in spite of that, how badly they needed more coke. (Which was delivered on at least one occasion by a fellow festival-goer who'd earlier complimented the female-half of the duo, thereby mobilizing the male-half's slurred threat of, "Don't you touch her or I'll fucking kill you," resulting in what we understood to be a peace offering of cocaine snorted off the cell phone that had been providing the duo's sole light source, which inadvertently died, and which lead to more carrying on about not having any light) (to which the bringer of cocaine appropriately said, "Have you never camped...?").
This cued a seemingly hours-long conversation about needing to go to the car to charge said phone, with us inwardly pleading for them to JUST GO already (!!!) in the dire hope of falling asleep before their inevitable return (which never happened, for they did eventually go to the car, but shouted and bellowed the whole way there and back, swiftly shattering our goal of getting any sleep whatsoever).
All this was interspersed with a series of loud and distressing sexual acts, awash with a soundtrack of slapping body parts and a running commentary of, "But baby, baby...I'm too raw." (This one in particular has been haunting me since, and while I sincerely apologize for forcing you to relive the memory with me, I so badly needed it out of my system.)
There was, thankgod, a short-lived stretch of time as the sun started to rise when the earplugs I'd finally remembered I'd packed offered me a brief but fitful state of psuedo-sleep (though I'm afraid dear husband wasn't so fortunate, later recounting for me what sounded like the sheer worst of it, of which I'll spare the sexually-saturated details).
And oh! Let me also not forget the poor, misguided character who, earlier that night, had proudly declared to his friends (the dynamic duo included) how he'd impulsively bought camping passes for him and his friends, and had even gone to Walmart to buy brand new tents for the lot of them; and how later that night (or early in the morning?) we heard him furiously packing up said tents, angrily ranting that his friends had ditched him for home. (Heartbreaking, sure, but less so as you desperately grope for sleep during the violent clattering of tent poles!)
Soon dawn merged into morning, and just when we thought the torment would surely end, our neighbour proceeded to stand next to our tent smoking cigarettes, horking and spitting, and conversing with his buddy about the tragic state of his finances ("conversing" not being quite the right descriptor here, as it was more a process of talking at each other, their voices gaining volume in an effort to be the dominant opinion).
During all this - the whole night's ordeal - hubs and I decided we didn't have the stamina to spend a second night and that we'd head home in the evening...which, as our patience thinned, later morphed into dinner time, and then lunchtime, until the horking quickly gave way to more “but-baby-I'm-raw"-copulation, and we called it then and there.
I ask you not to judge us for failing to confront these ruiners-of-fun, as you can only imagine how ridiculous we'd have sounded asking them to turn it down a notch as the rest of the party raged around us. Not to mention we didn't want to mark ourselves as targets for some next-night, drink and drug-fueled retaliation. (And also, our festival admission was free thanks to having won a contest, which means we weren't forced to deliberate if we were willing to surrender the cost.)
As we departed the festival grounds on Saturday morning, our eyes tender and aching with lack of sleep, we wondered how it had all gone so wrong.
Surely we were too sober and responsible to withstand the debauchery that would otherwise be numbed by over-drinking and party drugs, though to be fair, our choice to set up camp on the border and adjacent to the family zone should've promised us some respite.
We likewise contemplated if we've just suddenly got too old and curmudgeonly for the festival scene, though I maintain this is an unfair assessment, given the majority of our friends and peers (also in their early to mid-thirties) are festival enthusiasts.
In the end, we decided it simply boils down to a severe lack of festival etiquette (the same reason Pemberton Music Festival was recently shamed for the lack of respect shown by littering attendees!).
Certainly I don't go to a music festival expecting everyone to abide by my own standards, but I do hope for some respect and awareness when it comes to partying like the grown-ass adult you are (which means not sullying the outhouse to the point of putting it out of order, and having a little regard for the people around you who are entitled to enjoy themselves as much as you are).
Let this serve as a stern but friendly PSA to all you lovely festival-going people out there: be good to each other. Try not to be gross.