Working in an amusement park this summer promised new experiences, but Saturday’s events were nowhere within my realm of expectation.
One, I looked into the eyes of a horde of screaming and crying teen and tween girls totally enraptured with a recording artist. Two, I feared being trampled by said horde.
Unless you’re close to a girl about that age, it’s likely you, like me, have never heard of Shawn Mendes. That’s understandable, considering the Canadian singer is only 16 years old. Here’s a great article in Sunday morning’s Buffalo News that probably tells you all you need to know for general purposes.
How did I get into such a precarious position? Ah, such is the life of a park sweep.
The weather at Darien Lake was abysmal all day Saturday. It started raining before 10 a.m. and continued into the evening with temperatures around and falling below 60 degrees. Yet, the park had a pretty sizeable crowd, heavy on teenagers who didn’t seem to mind running around in the cool rain. I had a heavy duty slicker that kept me mostly dry and working kept me warm. However, I’d had enough and tried to get away a little early, but before I could ask my boss, she approached and asked if I could stay a little later instead.
They needed help ushering for the free concert. It’s under a tent roof and mostly out of the rain. Of course I agreed; I’m in this for new experiences.
They called us ushers, but it wasn’t in the usual sense, particularly at my post. It was more like trying to herd stampeding cattle.
I was stationed at the place where the crowds came running in out of the rain. My entire job was to keep them out of the side aisle and direct them toward the center. I was afraid I would go hoarse repeatedly yelling instructions like, “Everyone goes this way.” My arms are still sore from waving the same directions over and over again.
Back to the girls. Keep in mind many of them had been standing in the rain at least five hours. According to the article cited above, some had arrived outside the park several hours before it opened. That hardly seemed to matter any longer. As they entered the tent, the unmistakable look of pure adoration shone on their faces. They knew they were near Shawn and would soon see him. Him! In person!
As for the human crush, that came primarily at the beginning. Since the concert was free with mostly open seating, it was crucial for them to get there early; that’s why they spent all day standing in line in the rain within the park. To get to the Performing Arts Center, once the park gate is opened, it’s at least a hundred yards.
In that distance, the fastest girls got there first in small groups and it wasn’t too bad. Then the masses arrived. There was no more than 10 yards from running in out of the rain to where I was trying to redirect the horde, so as they slowed, others piled in to the back of the pack.
It was at this point it crossed my mind that this is how people get trampled in a crowd. Of course, everything worked out, though I saw at least a couple of shoes lost in the rush.
After the bulk of the crowd arrived and well before the concert started, I was no longer needed and I promptly escaped into the rain, propelled by sonic waves from screaming girls.