We have been on the road for 5 months! (Woohoo!) While we have been brainstorming ways to make money on the road, we figured some form of labor here and there with little commitment might be a good addition. Browsing craigslist, we found that music festivals need temporary workers for just a few days. The upcoming Vertex music festival was being held just under seven miles from where we were camped. We applied for jobs as bartenders with free camping working 13+ hour days. We arrived two hours early on Friday and parked with the other workers that arrived with us, set to camp for the night. Trying to find our employer was quite a different story, and after much searching we found the employer about a mile away where they wanted us to park the camper with dog.
We got t-shirts and yellow rain jackets and were promptly shuttled down to exactly the spot we parked before to work a mile away. Meeting our first supervisor of the day we were told to roam the camping lot all day and look for anyone who may have overdosed on any drugs or alcohol and answer questions. Melissa and I were quite confused that we were not going to be bartending and further, this meant the $10.50 an hour we were going to make did not have any tips. Still we wanted the experience and could use the money. Our supervisor told us we could both go up and park our camper in the lot we were to patrol the next 7 hours so we could keep an eye on our dog, (we received written permission to bring our dog to the event). We went and got our car and drove back in—but being two hours later now there was a line for security and we were forced into it. This would otherwise not be a problem except that no glass, sharp objects or tools were allowed in. Imagine trying to drive your kitchen through security here…it just doesn’t work. You could have up to two ounces of marijuana per person, but a bottle of kombucha was not allowed in.
The ordeal had taken 45 minutes so Chris jumped out of the car while Melissa took the car back to the other parking lot, about a mile away. Chris was walking into the crowd with his uniform on and a black pickup truck came at him at 35 MPH in the grass field, he began to run but could not outrun this truck running him down. A want-to-be cop but clearly-too-angry-to-get-the-real-job jumped out to chase Chris down and Chris was interviewed as a possible imposter security officer and confusion ensued. After a second vehicle came to a sliding halt just feet from him Chris told them politely he had actually been a federal law enforcement officer before and there are ways to get compliance without placing the suspect in danger, especially a fully compliant and unarmed one. As you can imagine this didn’t go over as Chris expected.
Soon Melissa and Chris were walking around the crowd and by in large nobody wanted to talk to us due to staff shirts. We won their hearts one by one showing incredible awe for the entire situation of how 5,000 people were camping in a field smoking pot, drinking beer and everyone was getting along better than in the city just one mile away. We walked about 10 miles up and down rows of campers dodging Frisbees and corn-hole sacks and only one running human too drunk to be on two feet. It was a blast to meet so many great people. Our legs began to hurt and by then we realized the other workers hired to roam the campground just smoked pot and hid behind the showers. It never occurred to us that no matter how much you pay us we will put 100% effort into what we do, yet not every person would do the same. We even helped set up tents, help a man with a broken leg and other tiny tasks, after all most of the people here were from the city of Denver and by their standards our lifestyle made us experts at things outdoors.
MONSTER arrives! I don’t even have a photo of her, it would be doing the world a dis-service to show that. Our night supervisor came running in 30 minutes late with a Monster energy drink in her hand, faking a huge smile, anger level into the clouds, spitting as she talked- while sipping the energy drink mid-sentence and barking orders. It was almost a caricature of a person, some parts missing, others exaggerated to almost unbelievable levels. It is painful to see a lost soul just trying to make some money. It’s like seeing an injured animal struggling to get off of a busy highway. You will almost certainly be run over if you try to help – by both the cars and the frightened animal.
Now it was around 8PM, and until our 2:30AM end of shift, with our new supervisor, we worked the turnstiles. This new job required us to stand in the center of a chute, herds of humans coming at us, requesting that they scan their wristband to monitor their activity cleanly disguised as security. This type of security checkpoint we’ve all grown accustom to raised no questions, as we were also tasked with keeping liquids from crossing from one side of the checkpoint to the other. Beer was $10 a can on one side of the turnstile as well as $10 on the other side of the turnstile. But no beer could cross-contaminate – for “security” reasons. In our minds, this was ridiculous. There seemed no logical explanation beyond the beer sponsors hoping to make an extra 30% on the people who either chug or pour out their beers at the line of demarcation. Our supervisor on the other hand, had memorized the list of rules she was to enforce, and by gosh, nothing was going to stop her from doing as much. Imagine an abusive drunken person in charge of the entire TSA airport in regards to liquid actually tackling people’s bags out of their hands. Initially we made a couple people pour out their camelbacks of water and did bag searches like any proper human might do. I asked if they had liquid in their bags, they would say yes and I would open their bag and see the liquid; exclaim loudly “oh but it is empty’’ and let them through. Out of the 3,000 people I let through only two of them protested with, “There are too many rules! Can’t I bring in my one bottle of beer it’s all the money I have”. I walked them out of the turnstile and told them that I agree, please put it in your bags and come right back to me. I let them through about 5 minutes later, somehow it is fairly easy to be someone’s personal hero for the day when your alive and awake enough.
Our supervisor would be doing secondary checks and did catch a few people that made it through with alcohol and I would be punished by such anger and screaming that it made it even more fun to make the day of 3,000 people better if only I had to suffer. The suffering on our part was quite temporary, because while both of us are experts at taking things personally, it was hard to do with this woman. Her unhappiness radiated out of her in all direction, and when the flutter of a butterfly would come into her field of vision, so was the new target of her pain.
While the impression of this single person was quite striking, the most interesting part about our job at the turnstiles was the exposure to the masses. We had the opportunity to have 1-15 second interactions with thousands of humans over the course of six and a half hours. At a music festival, much of the focus is on distraction. Visual, chemical, audible. So to be as present as possible when looking into the eyes of the people being fed massive amounts of diversions, you have this great chance to observe all kinds of things. For the most part, people are generally quite friendly in this state. They seemed to take very well to someone giving them full-acknowledgment eye contact and a smile. It’s as if they’ve been awoken by the fact that someone has noticed them for a moment. Most people greet that with the return of a smile. Some see it as an opportunity to initiate some kind of uninvited physical contact. Some immediately want to have a conversation about something they feel passionate about at the time. A very few are defensive and attempt to hide behind their eyes. Clarity at work states there is a Ying and a Yang to people. A scrabble game where you just never know your move until the words are down on the stage.
It was such a beautiful example of the diversity of the human spirit. To look into thousands of eyes and ask who was looking back. I think without saying a word sometimes we scared the devil out of a few—if only for the night. That was our role for the day at Vertex. Our dog had trouble with the loud music, megaphones, flames and yelling people and we had to quit for the rest of the festival. Dogs are rather connected to reality and are comforted only by sincere acknowledgment of one’s predicament. We found though our dog’s eyes maybe we didn’t need the money that much. Everything gets a cost vs return.