April 19th, 2004


(no subject)

Don't get me wrong. I had an enjoyable Spring Fling[1]. I'm just posting about the one bad thing, because it's still sticking in my mind.

I was enjoying the second day of Fling in the Quad on Saturday. The weather was beautiful and I kept running into people I knew. As it was Shabbat, I had gone to services at Hillel earlier in the morning, and I was wearing my kippah, as I usually do one day a week. Various aspects of Fling are technically forbidden either because of Shabbat or the omer, but it's not a big enough problem to deter me, most non-Orthodox Jews I know, or a surprising number of Orthodox Jews there. It was fun to note all the Hillel people there. As for me, Shabbat would keep me from buying any of the food (overpriced anyway), using the Quad elevator, or carrying my Penncard (there's a standing security list at Penn to get around that problem anyway), but I had no problem just being there.

At around 4:15pm, the crowd in the lower Quad began to swell a bit. This was partly because the last of the more ardent Flingers were probably just waking up from hangovers at that point, and partly because the music was ending soon in the upper Quad, but mainly because Mask and Wig[2] was coming on soon. They usually have their band play for about 45 minutes, and then have the actors perform a couple of sketches. As the band has a ska-like sound, plays only covers, and traditionally gets the last stage slot at Fling, they always get a huge, attentive, and rowdy audience. I was looking forward to it not just because they're good, but because my friend Sam, in one of his last Wig performances before graduation, would both be singing a bit with the band and performing in their "nude" sketch, done only at Fling and only by the seniors.

At 5:00, the band gradually and unceremoniously took the stage. In fact, all of Wig did, with those not in the band or singing just kind of lounging around or sitting on the front of the stage. The crowd went nuts. It really had the feel of a big outdoor GA rock concert, and we all know how much fun those can be. One of the members cheerfully warned against the crowd surfing that nearly got them cut off last year, and then away they went, breaking into "This Love" by Maroon 5. I had a really good spot maybe 30 feet from the barriers, and close to the center, with a bunch of my Hillel friends.

About halfway through the song, I got hit squarely in the head with what felt like a frisbee. I reached my hand up to check, as I compulsively do anyway, that my kippah was still on. It was. I re-clipped it to my hair more securely anyway. Someone asked me if I was okay, and after confirming with them that it probably was a frisbee, I wittily responded that I probably was, but just in case I passed out in the next 15 seconds, that was probably why. There were other frisbees and other objects flying through the air, too; mostly forward towards the stage, so the unsuspecting landing pads got conked with little or no warning, like I had.

And then the crowd surfing started a bit. It was bad enough to get one more warning from the band (as prompted by the Fling organizers), but that was all. Just two or three people at first, and then it stopped for a bit. The security people in the crowd spent most of their effort trying to pull the people down, with moderate success. I didn't even remember there being security in the middle of the crowd the year before. But they didn't really help me feel any better; I and my friends were getting shoved around a bit and weren't that happy with it. But at least no crowd surfers actually made it close enough that we could reach them. The whole idea of surfing seems really dangerous and inconsiderate to me.

Then the surfing picked up a bit more, right after Sam's first song. And for some reason, the wave of shoving back from the stage started getting more intense. I looked for a mosh pit, but I didn't see one; there wasn't that much room for one anyway. I reached up to deflect another frisbee. I started hoping that the crowd surfers would land in a painful fashion. I thought to myself that Penn students probably wouldn't make for particularly experienced and respectful moshers anyway, so good thing there wasn't really a pit. And most people here just wanted to see the Wig band anyway. The shoving didn't let up, though my Hillel friends seemed to be getting used to it. I stopped being able to pay attention to the music. I reached up and found that my kippah was gone. I looked around a bit. It was nearly futile. I told about four friends nearby, but they couldn't help much either, and a couple didn't seem to care much anyway. I started getting really angry at the crowd. Another two crowd surfers were in front of us, and one actually stopped defying the odds and ended up almost on top of us. One of my friends said "oh, crap" and reached up to help hold the airborne gentleman. I reached back with a balled fist, about to punch him.

Okay, time for a break. I pushed my way out of the crowd, having forever to go to reach the edge. I didn't remember Lower Quad ever being that big, let alone having the capability to fit that many people. I finally got to the outside of the crowd, took a breath, and went inside to the Quad lobby, mumbling some lie to the security guard who was keeping people outside, directing them away from the indoor plumbing and toward the port-a-potties.

I paced back and forth inside for about 20 minutes, and then found a chair and sat still for another 20. The security guards seemed to be confused about whether to ask me to leave or ask me if I needed an ambulance. I told them that I just got roughed up a bit, and that I was fine, I just needed some time to cool off. I made sure to put things in perspective: I was physically fine, everyone else was physically fine, everyone else is in fact having a pretty good time, there will be no lasting damage besides a missing kippah, and even though that one in particular is important to me, it is only a physical object and a quite inexpensive one at that.

At 6:00, after the band left, after the actors performed the nude sketch and the other traditional one, the crowd started to disperse. I went out and looked for my kippah, but couldn't find it where I was standing before. I saw two friends I had previously been watching the show with; one had forgotten I lost anything, and the other said she didn't find anything. Just then, I saw it laying on the ground, some distance away, missing its clips but remarkably untorn and barely dirty. I was in a much better mood, and maybe even a little upset that I missed most of the band and Sam's shining moment.

By today, I might've forgotten the whole thing. It really wasn't that big a deal. Except I can't get the image out of my mind of me about to punch someone. Really, my arm was back and everything. I probably haven't punched someone since I was about 12, and probably haven't punched someone with any effectiveness ever. It's extremely frightening to think I was that close to losing control. I almost didn't even recognize what was going on and how to get myself out of the situation. For someone like me who takes so much solace in always being in control, especially of myself completely, it's very scary and very bothersome. I hope I learned enough from this to avoid it happening in the future, but I don't have any reason to believe that I have.

[1] The annual weekend-long party at Penn, the weekend before the last week of classes. Generally features a main concert, lots of drunk people, two days of a festival-like setup in the courtyards of the Quad including two stages of constant bands, lots of inflatable bouncy games, lots of visitors from out of town, and similar antics. You get the idea.

[2] The all-male sketch comedy troupe cum band. One of the oldest student acting groups in the country, and the most popular student performing arts group at Penn.

(no subject)

Overheard at 12:32am Saturday night, in the middle of Spring Fling, on the 3900 block of Spruce Street (right outside all the frats); screamed by a guy into his cell phone:

"I don't remember the middle three digits, so I've been guessing!"

I don't know, I thought it was funny...