Monday, August 27, 2012

Weekend Festival

...or more commonly known as, The Worst Planned Festival I've Ever Been To (tm).

But let me back up and start from the beginning. That's only fair.

Friday started off as a pretty swell day. I had a chill day at work - free design lunch, heard a lecture on the new design of a certain line of cruise ships, and after a coffee catch up with a work friend, set off early so I could meet up with German K to catch our bus.

Now, we had planned it so we would get to the festival about 40 minutes before our first desired act, which in this case, was Skrillex. We set out for our appointed bus 20 minutes early, which was supposed to pick us up at 4:39pm.

...we waited there for half an hour before thinking something was wrong. The bus never came.

Thinking that maybe German K had just used an illegitimate transportation site (she used one I had never heard of, though I trusted that she'd likely used this site before and it normally had trustworthy information), I rerouted us on a different bus to take us further down our desired bus path to a different stop.

...and then we waited there for two hours. Our bus literally never came.

By this point there were others waiting at the same stop for the same buses, since this festival was taking place out in the middle of the forests of Espoo. Not exactly the most populous place for bus routes, so there were only two or three going that way. From a lot of roundabout (and slightly drunk) teenagers, we found out that there had been two serious accidents on the only freeway that leads from Helsinki to Espoo.

We didn't know how long ago these accidents had happened, but apparently they'd been serious enough to completely halt traffic. And bus routes. This is pretty crazy considering buses have their own lanes on the freeways here.

Anyway, since we were there so long we made friends with another girl waiting for the same buses and eventually she remembered reading about another bus route on the event website that lead to a stop that wasn't so far away from the event. We actually had seen this bus pass by us a few times, so obviously it was still running.

About 40 minutes after we realized this, that bus came around again, and we got on.

It was still slow going, since traffic really was stopped, and at a certain point it took us a full hour to go 10 kilometers (about 6 miles). I could have literally gotten off the bus and run faster. But since I was with German K (who maybe couldn't have run that fast...and would likely have not appreciated the challenge), I decided to keep my butt in my seat and just bear it.

We eventually did make it, though the closest stop was a bit further away than it should have been. We still had to walk a good 2-3 kilometers to get to the festival. But we did make it.

...just 4 hours late.

By the time we got there we had completely missed Skrillex. I had resigned myself somewhere during our hour plus bus ride that I would likely miss him. Disappointing, since he was the second person I wanted to see at the festival, but I figured I would live. Plus, I had no idea what was still in store for us.

We get there and...

It was disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

Now, this was due to a combination of things:

  1. This was one of the few festivals where people under 18 were actually allowed in. Not to be insulting, but, well, I will not so fondly refer to these people as "children." Nothing in their behavior has allowed me to think otherwise about them. And most of them were completely and utterly, wasted.
  2. Because people of underage were allowed to enter, but not allowed to buy alcohol once they got inside, they usually got smashed before entering (which would only make sense). So right before they got in, they usually pounded whatever cheap beverage they had brought with them (this varied from horrendously cheap beer to entire bottles of salmiakki to appallingly cheap bottles of scumpa), and then would throw them wherever they thought was appropriate - which was anywhere.
  3. Food was relatively speaking fairly cheap and only came in the cheapest, flimsiest containers. We're talking extreme paper plates and paper containers. No styrofoam or plastic of any kind. This means people dropped food more often than not, and actually didn't finish it a lot of the time (it was also of the extremely greasy variety).
  4. Whoever planned the trash bin placement in this establishment obviously never read or heard of the study done by amusement parks - which is that bins need to be placed every 3 meters/10 feet, otherwise people will literally throw things on the ground. I am not making this up, this is actually a studied and true fact. Deviate from this standard but by a foot or so, and you're gonna end up with Trash City. And Trash City is what we ended up with. I had to tip toe around to make sure I stepped on grass instead of trash.
  5. Because of the excessive amount of drinking that was going on, people were urinating and vomiting all around. The urinating is pretty normal (this is surprisingly common in public, even in Helsinki), but the vomiting added a new dimension.
  6. Glow products of all kind were being sold...and disposable things...well, are disposable. Nuff said.
Anyway, I digress. Bottomline: Trash City.

I tried to keep my camera above the ground so I wouldn't have to remember the state of things.

So we entered and saw the top artist we had really come to see: David Guetta.

He was the one highlight of the night.

His show was pretty awesome. And he played for a solid two hours. The funniest thing he said? "I can't believe I've waited this long to come to Finland! You guys are awesome!" Little did he know the horrors that would await him after his show...

...which involved trying to leave the festival.

German K and I decided to leave a little before the end of his set because of the horrid time we'd had trying to get in. We also knew, because we had checked, that there were only 3-4 buses before the end of the night and buses stopped running.

Now I mean actual number of buses. Not number of bus lines running. Physical buses coming. 3-4 buses to carry people from the forest to the city. Three or four.

So we left the grounds, walking back to an earlier bus stop than the one we had gotten off at, meaning we would be further up the bus route (faster to get on, higher probability of actually getting on a bus).

We were in a line of thousands.

You see, what these organizers had failed to realize, is that when you sell 25,000 people tickets to a show on a Friday night to a venue that's in the middle of the actually need to plan for a way for these people to leave.

...and they didn't.

At all.

German K and I got in line for the bus around 11:30pm. We stood in line for about an hour and a half before doing the math of the people in front of us and realizing we would never make it, even if the rest of the buses still continued as planned and they filled at our stop to full capacity (which was about 70 people, on a good squeeze).

Did I also mention that the temperature had dropped to about 9 degrees (this is in the 40's F)? We could see our breath as we waited. Most teenagers around us were wearing shorts and tank tops. Luckily we had dressed appropriately in jeans, sweatshirts, and scarves, but even then eventually I had to give my socks to German K because she was wearing flats and I was wearing sneakers.

When it became very apparent that we were never going to make the bus, German K started trying to reach any friends she could to come pick us up. Reception was terrible (because there were so many people around and we were out in the middle of the forest) and both of our batteries were running out. It was starting to look really bad.

We knew things were getting really dire when the rest of the thousands around us realized the same thing (this happened in varying degrees sometime later). Hundreds of teenagers tried to hitchhike off of the relatively meager but still steady stream of cars that were coming down the two lane road. Girls were holding out 20euro bills to try to entice strangers to take them with them to anywhere remotely close to civilization. Teenage boys literally jumped out in front of cars to stop them. I was wondering to myself if their intoxicated minds knew that this was no video game, and that jumping in front of the car didn't make you magically become one of the passengers of said car. This didn't seem to stop them, either way.

Eventually German K did convince one of her friends to drive from Vantaa to come pick us up. Apparently he'd seen on the news how bad it was and realized we weren't just being stupid girls about the situation. People were going to be stranded here for the night. And by the look of the disorganization, it was going to be thousands. Remember: 25,000 tickets. 3-4 buses that hold about 70 people. Few people own cars here. There was a shuttle system that you could buy into, but you had to have bought the tickets ahead of time online. And there was no way to buy tickets there. Eventually even those buses stopped, from what I could see.

25,000 people.

We agreed to meet our ride at the gas station we had passed about 2-3 kilometers up the road. We walked along the road, trying not to get hit by the cars that passed us, also dodging the more and more desperate hitchhikers. To be honest I think I only saw a handful actually get into cars. The rest? Never even got stopped at.

Eventually we made it to the gas station, which was completely swarmed with people. We saw again how bad the situation was - people huddling together for warmth, more hitchhikers...even groups of teenagers running after buses down the road. Buses that didn't all.

I suggested that we continue up the road, since we knew what direction our driver was coming from. It was very likely that our person wouldn't be able to see us in this sea of people, and it was bumper to bumper stop and go traffic anyway. It would be faster if we walked to him.

And so we did. For about 5 kilometers (a little over 3 miles). Down the road. No sidewalks. At night. In the middle of the forest.

The look on German K's face as we recognized his car is unforgettable. Our knight in shining silver Mercedes.

I've always loved being in cars. I grew up with cars. But this was bliss, absolute bliss. It took us about an hour to drive home and I remember every single moment of it. We commented every time we passed another group of people who had walked further and further down the road from the festival. We even saw people 35 minutes down the road (driving mind they had walked at least a good 20 kilometers). Some still tried to hitchhike. Our driver didn't stop.

When we finally got home, I thanked our driver, V, profusely, and offered to pay for his gas money, at the very least. He, being too Finnish, politely refused. What makes his actions even more heroic is the fact that he was running the marathon the next morning as a pacer (the person who holds up the speed for a certain time - i.e. you want to run the marathon in a certain time, you stay up with him and you'll make it at that official time).

We were at our destination once again. Just 3 hours late. It was around 2am.

And thus ended our adventure from the worst organized festival I'd ever been to in my life.

We considered ourselves lucky, since we had actually made it home. We tried not to think about all of the people who never made it, or who had no one to call, or who were too intoxicated to know what to do but lay down in the grass (hopefully somewhere a little cleaner), and just wait until morning.

I wish them the best though, since it was pretty rough. Or maybe I'm just getting old.

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