The alarm went off at 4:00…….a.m. Four of us jumped out of our beds, brushed our teeth, and ran through the lobby of the hotel to catch a cab. We arrived at Soldier Field by 4:45 a.m. There were already 181 people in line ahead of us.
Thus began the sixteen hour wait to see U2 in concert as close as is humanly possible. One learns a great deal about oneself, and about society in general, waiting in line, being herded like cattle, and feeling the exhilaration of the opening strains of a concert for which you have waited all day.
Here are just a few of the things I learned:
- There is always someone more fanatical than you. You think we were crazy to get up at 4 a.m. to get in line? The people at the front of the line had already been there for two days. Others got there at 1 a.m. There are fans, and then there are fanatics. U2 has apparently delivered a product that creates fanatics. What would it take for your product or service to have no holds barred fanatics?
- Self-policing only goes so far. At U2 concerts, those in the front of the line are the self-proclaimed line keepers. As early arrivers get to the line they must check in and have a number written with sharpie on their wrist. Everyone readily accepts their place in line and stays there all day. That is, until the time when the line is finally let loose and the cattle make their way down the tunnel to get onto the field for the concert. Then the entire system breaks down. It’s a free-for-all-every-man-and-woman-for-him-or-herself. If you want order in your life or organization, there must always be accountability…right up to the very end.
- Someone will always try to scam the system. Toward the end of the day, just as we were finally getting ready to head into the stadium, two interlopers came and tried to crash the line. They wrote fake numbers on their wrists and attempted to slip in without notice. This is where the self-policing aspect of the line became very interesting. Those who had been waiting all day noticed these two rogues and from one end to the other saw to it that they were not welcome in the front of the line. Fair is fair. Sometimes it takes hard work, discomfort, and long days to achieve a goal. Those who cheat the system are cheating themselves…and making life more difficult for others. Don’t be one of those people.
- Uncomfortable situations are made easier with family and friends. Throughout this day of waiting I was accompanied by my wife, our son, and my best friend. We provided company for one another, shared our discomfort, held the place in line for those taking a bathroom break or going to get food for lunch, and, in the end, shared the joy of finding the perfect place for the concert. When life gets uncomfortable, make sure you lean on those you love. They will be happy to support you.
- I’m getting too old for this. A day spent in this manner takes a great deal of fortitude and patience. It was hot, uncomfortable, and tiring. At the end of the concert we sprinted to find water to drink. It may be the last time I ever attend a concert in this way. Next time I’d like a seat with my name on it. I’ll let the younger folks spend their day waiting.