Last Thursday I got on a plane with my mother and my friend Ray Sheerin, bound for LAX. My Moms would meet up with my Pops in Palm Springs, and Ray and I would carry on to Coachella Weekend 2, a reality that still seemed far off in my mind even though it was mere hours away.
The night before, Ray and I had run to Kinkos (or FedEx Office, whatever) in order to print out physical copies of the #CoachellaBingo cards that my friends had graciously designed for me.
I printed out 40 copies of each card, with the hopes of passing them out to open-minded, fun/bingo-loving individuals that I would undoubtedly meet at the festival. My goal was to affect the Coachella experience of another person (hopefully multiple persons) in a positive way, and get some good stuff to write about while meeting new people.
I had no idea how this process would go. It was possible that no one would find my scavanger hunt interesting; that people would be much more enthralled with the festival itself, and not want to distract themselves with a half-sheet of card stock a stranger handed to them. It was also possible that every person I showed a Bingo card to would see it as the greatest thing in the world, and spend the rest of their Coachella running gleefully from stage to stage seeking Bingo.
Reality would fall, as it often does, somewhere in the middle of these two extreme poles that my mind had imagined. But we’ll get to that later.
On the flight, I joked to Ray with optimism, “What if we landed and I just went viral?” It was a fun thought to exercise, and certainly not entirely out of the realm of possibility. I had just posted an article the night before, tweeting it @Coachella and posting it among relevant Reddit boards.
I put the thought to rest and spent the next four hours of the flight handwriting information on each of the 120 Bingo cards just in case: the name of my blog, my twitter handle, the name of the artist who designed the card, and #CoachellaBingo2014. My hand hurt like crazy. I will stick to typing from now on.
We landed, and I went to my phone to check Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail.
My Gmail account informed me that Consequence of Sound had linked to my blog. I had a minor freak out.
If you don’t know, Consequence of Sound is a music blog based out of Chicago, founded by Alex Young in 2007. For a while, CoS was an ever-present tab on my Safari browser. They have over 50,000 followers on Twitter. And they were writing about me and this thing that I had created.
Further, the post was written by Alex Young himself. At one point, he writes “Tyler Lauletta of the website Shitty Banter has put together his very own Coachella-inspired game of Bingo.”
Tyler Lauletta of the website Shitty Banter.
I have never felt more validated in my writing. Some stranger on the Internet had found my stuff and thought it good enough to share with his followers, who happen to exceed 50,000.
Coachella was going to be great.
I settled down, and our small collective of travelers took our rental Hyundai Accent to In-and-Out Burger and ordered Double-Doubles and Animal Fries because that’s what you do as soon as you land in LA if you’re doing it right.
We carried on tummies full to Palm Springs and Moms checked into her hotel and Ray and I were on our own en route to Coachella 2014.
We got in the Accent that I was not supposed to be driving and immediately stopped for cigarettes and liquor. I buy three packs of Mellow Yellows and a fifth of Jameson.
Just before getting on the highway, we see a Dollar Tree. I realize that we have yet to get markers to give away with the Bingo cards so that others can play along. We stop in and I buy six 20-color sets of markers. They cost me $6. I was investing in my future. I didn’t know it at the time, but these markers would turn out to be the most important purchase of the festival.
We make it to the campground with relative ease, getting lost only once and finding a Tyler Avenue while lost, thus taking it as a sign that it was meant to happen. Spirits were high. We set up our tent and are officially people that exist at Coachella.
Then I closed the passenger’s side door. With the keys in the car. I had locked my keys in the rental car that I was not supposed to be driving in the middle of the California desert and in a field where tens of thousands of people were attempting to enter and set up camp.
A feeling of terror took me over, not unlike the time I had lost my credit card.
“Fuck.” I say, a bit too loudly to Ray. “I just locked the keys in the car. Fuck Fuck Fuck.” The words came out rushed with anxiety.
Ray replied like a champion. “Okay, what does this mean?”
I am still panicking. I think for a fleeting second about calling my mom, but if that happens, dad finds out and NO WAY DOES DAD FIND OUT (unless he reads about it post fact on the Internet). Also, fuck that. I am a twenty-two year old adult manboy and at some point over those twenty-two years the knowledge of getting your keys out of a locked car must have seeped in.
After overhearing our predicament, one of our neighbors hands us each a Stella tall boy, stating that “You need them more than we do.” I am convinced he is an angel, but he’s probably just a real good dude. I settle down and Ray and I begin problem solving.
We seek out one of the workers that is helping people park. He is sort of a dick about it and tells us to go ask a cop. The cop tells us he wishes he could help us, but some guy sued local police last year after they messed up his car while trying to help him out, and now police can no longer carry the tools necessary to break into a car. He suggests AAA, who he believes has a few workers on site.
So I pull out my wallet and pray that I have my AAA card on me. God blesses me and I do, and I call AAA with what I hope is the weirdest problem I ever call them about. “Hi, uh, I’m at the Coachella Music festival in Indio, California, and I just locked my keys in the car. Can you help me?”
At this point, I need to say that AAA is the best. Everyone should get it. These people put up with my idiocy like it was their job. It sort of is their job, but that makes the feat no less impressive. About forty minutes after my call, Justin from AAA comes down our street of campsites in a big ass tow truck. He is brilliant. I hand him my license and my AAA card. He doesn’t ask questions about the fact that I’m driving a rental car even though I’m only 22. He also doesn’t ask about how the AAA card I had in my wallet had expired last November. I’m not sure if either of these facts crossed his mind, but they were all over mine. I make a vow that the car keys will never leave their new safe place, the front pocket of my backpack.
Knowing that we had most likely already gotten through the most difficult challenge of our first day at Coachella, Ray and I decided to leave camp and wander the festival grounds. I took off my shoes, excited to physically connect with the Earth and hoping that it would translate to some sort of elevated presence and consciousness.
I am struck by the amount of life that is occurring and existing around me. So many people from some many different places with so much different shit happening in their lives. We all share the common belief that these three days are worth putting that shit off for.
The night sky is filled with stars and spotlights that put on a consistently impressive light show, and two large, glowing strings of balloons sail and intermittently flicker in the dark. During our walk, Ray and I end up finding the end of one of these strings, and I ask Ray to get a photo of me throwing up the ROC while holding it.
Satisfied with our night, we returned to camp to find our other neighbors break out a burner and begin making s’mores. They are prepared for the festival in a way that makes it clear that they have done this before. Their names are Mike and Chris. They hand Ray and I a s’more each before taking one for themselves. We discuss what tomorrow will bring, in terms of both music and breakfast, before eventually falling silent with exhaustion from the day’s travels. Ray and I had now been awake for just over 24 hours.
In the silence I take time to set a few goals for myself:
- Get Bingo everyday
- Hand out as many Bingo cards as possible
- Be present
I head to sleep a little after Ray, wondering if Bingo could possibly get even more popular than CoS had already made it, and if the festival could get any worse than locking my keys in the car.
Reality would fall, as it often does, somewhere in the middle.