Me, Too?

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In order to make it to the U2 concert in Salt Lake City on Friday, my friend Pants (names have been changed) had to ride, freezing, in the back of some guy’s pickup truck all the way from Mesquite, Nev. But he’s not the only one who suffered. I had to sit around my house all afternoon and wait for him!

But it was worth enduring these trials to see the world’s greatest living rock band. I am not usually much of a concert-goer, because I dislike large crowds and loud noises. (Chronologically, I am not yet 30, but mentally, I’m well into my 70s. Also, I’m a cat.) Also, I don’t care much for the smell of marijuana, which is distributed free at all concert venues. Also, most rock bands suck.

I never thought I would be one of those fusty old grown-ups who complain about how music was better when they were young than it is now, but here I am, old, grown up, covered in fust, and telling you with great certainty that modern music is terrible and music in the old days was awesome (also: tubular). In my day, we had the great synth-pop bands of the ’80s, as well as the more straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll of such masters as … um, Laura Branigan, I guess. OK, we didn’t have much good rock in the ’80s, either, because it was all those hairy bands like Poison and Def Leppard, but the pop was good. Even Michael Jackson, who is now the least cool person on the planet, was cool then. (I know! If I hadn’t lived through it, I wouldn’t believe it, either.)

But today’s music — awful. Just awful. When I want to shake my head, roll my eyes and sigh deeply, I look at the names of the artists on the Billboard Hot 100. On the current chart are these people: Ja Rule, Ginuwine, Staind, Aaliyah, Bubba Sparxxx, Jay-Z, Nate Dogg, and Travis Tritt. Yes, Travis Tritt. They’ve even let country singers in. Clearly, the state of modern music is a sad one indeed.

U2 is another matter, though. Despite having been around for 25 years, U2 has not become a grotesque self-parody, like certain bands with names like Rolling Stones I could name. And despite being current, U2 still produces some solid rock ‘n’ roll music, and performs it with an energy and dedication not generally achieved without the aid of sorcery.

Pants shares my feelings about modern music, so you can see why getting to the concert was so important to him. He wound up in the back of a pickup truck because his car broke down in Mesquite, which is not far from Las Vegas, which is where he started. The car rental agency in Mesquite had nothing available, and the guy who offered to give him a lift to Utah wandered off to “play the slots” and was not heard from again. Pants’ last available opportunity, for which he was grateful, was to sit in the back of a truck.

He reports that this was fine at first. They were in Mesquite, and it was a pleasant, sunny afternoon. By the time they reached St. George, Pants reported “chilliness” and put on a sweater. By Cedar City, it was “cold,” and he put his jacket on over his sweater. By Fillmore, he was stuffing the spare clothes from his overnight bag into his pant legs, then guzzling hot chocolate from the gas station, then setting himself on fire. When he arrived at my house, he was colder than a dead librarian.

The concert made it all worthwhile. The soulful singing of Bono (not Sonny Bono) and the expert musicianship of the Three Guys in U2 Besides Bono warmed us to the gills; indeed, my gills were slightly singed. It was a thrilling, cathartic show. But why must they play so loud? You kids today, with your rock ‘n’ roll.

There is no reasoning behind choosing "Pants" as my friend's pseudonym. It's just a funny word.

Whenever I need a paragraph, I can count on looking at the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Whether it's band names or song titles, you know it'll be full o' laughs.

Mentioning that Pants was grateful for an opportunity is a reference to an earlier column in which I talked about Mormons' fondness for the "grateful for the opportunity" construction.

Pants himself wrote the following account of his trip, which he sent out to friends and family, and which I reprint here with his permission:

I met up with my friend Eric on Friday for the U2 concert. He writes for the paper in Provo and had press tickets. So even though I would have to drive up, I knew the amazing seats would be worth it. But I didn't know HOW worth it.

Eric called Wednesday and said he had the extra ticket. Katie had two different meetings she needed to be here for over Friday and Saturday, so she decided to stay home and gave me the go-ahead to run up for the concert without her. We only have the van, so I borrowed a car from a friend of mine, Matt. (And by "friend" I mean "people I am no longer talking to.")

I left around 10 a.m. (11 a.m. Utah time). I was on the road exactly an hour, when the car up and died. I could not get it started. The concert didn't start until 7:30 p.m., so I knew I still had some time. I was looking at a 4.5-hour drive to Provo, where Eric lived, and then another hour to Salt Lake. I was feeling optimistic.

By 12 p.m., nothing was happening. And I think we all know what the landscape between Las Vegas and St. George looks like. I had tried calling Katie several times -- about ever half-hour -- but she was out. I called my friend Matt to let him know the situation. He reported, "That car has never given me trouble. But it's been sitting in our driveway for a year and a half."

Hmm. Now, I know relatively nothing about cars. But I am pretty sure that taking a car on a 11-hour car trip after it has been sitting in a driveway for 18 months is...how you say? BAD.

At that point, I surrendered to the fact I was not going to make it in time. And on top of that, I felt guilty for taking my friend's car, and driving out into the middle of the desert to die. I hadn't done anything to the car, but still, I was driving it when something happened, and that made me feel bad.

Some Good Samaritan stopped by and tried to help. Used to work for Ford, he did. Knew a lot about cars, he said. Couldn't see what was wrong, he admitted.

I kept trying to call Katie. I kept trying to start the car. I kept trying to fight the urge to jump in front of a moving car, so frustrated was I. The hours passed by, and nothing was changing. It was 2:30 p.m. I had finally accepted, for the second time, that I wasn't going to make it. I was a little sad, but that's all. It's not like the concert was going to change my life or I couldn't live without it. It wasn't like I was a 16 year-old high school kid who HAD to see Bono.

Or was I?

I called Matt at 3:00 p.m. and admitted defeat. "I would have to be in a moving car THIS INSTANT if I was going to make it to the concert." "Well," he said, "My in-laws live in Mesquite. Get a ride into Mesquite and have the car towed to my in-laws house; then rent a car. My insurance will cover the towing, and I will pay for half the rental car." That was very kind of him. A good friend. But still: "No. I'm not going to have you pay for half the car, and I'm out of time, anyway, and..."

Just then, a pickup with this chubby Mexican pulled up beside me. I asked if I could ride in the back of his truck to Mesquite. He dropped me off at a Texaco, and I ran in, demanding control of the environment, as if I were holding the place up.

"I need a towing company, and I need a car rental agency -- STAT!" I ordered. (I actually didn't say STAT. That's just too nerdy. Even for Mesquite.) The ladies behind the counter grabbed the phone book. I first called a car rental place, but all they had was a full-size car, and it was $48 a day, plus it only gave me 200 miles. I needed about 775 miles. I told them "never mind" and for the third time, gave up on the idea of making it.

I called Eric to let him know. I knew he was excited about the concert, and I wanted to give him the option of finding someone else to take. Imagine my surprise when he said, "Wow. Oh my gosh. Well...you'll just have to figure out another way to get up here."

I couldn't believe it. Eric hadn't given up yet. Well, if he hadn't, who was I to give up?

Suddenly, my chubby Mexican friend that gave me a ride into Mesquite walked into the Texaco. He hadn't left yet. I asked him how far he was going. Wyoming. I asked for a ride in his truck to Salt Lake. He said sure, but he was going to spend some time gambling. I thought this was perfect, as it gave me the chance to find a towing company and get the car towed to Matt's in-laws in Mesquite.

I called the towing place, but they had a policy. And that poopy policy was that I would have to ride with them to pick up the car. I explained why I couldn't, but they wouldn't budge. I can't believe anybody living in Mesquite would have a policy about ANYTHING. If you don't have a policy about where you live (which you obviously don't if you are living in Mesquite), HOW can you be taken seriously about anything else?

The lady's voice dropped low, and she whispered into the phone that there was a local towing place that would pick up the car, and I wouldn't have to go with them. She gave me the number. I talked to the guy, and he apparently does this business out of his house. I told him where the car was, where I needed it to go, and that I had the key with me at the Texaco. He said I didn't have to ride with him to pick it up, and I said I would leave the key with one of the cashiers at the Texaco.

I ran outside to find my Chubby Mexican. He was gone. So was his truck. He wasn't coming back. It was 3:30 p.m., and I had to literally be in a car bound for Provo if I wanted to make it to Provo by 7:30 p.m., and the concert by 8:30. (No Doubt was opening at 7:30, so U2 wouldn't be going on before 8:30...possibly 9:00 p.m.)

I began looking around for cars with Utah license plates. Each and every one was heading the other direction -- to Vegas. I finally found this small, red pickup truck.

"Are you heading to Salt Lake?" "Yep." as he opens his car door. "Can I ride in your truck?" "Yep," as he gets in and spits out his chew. He leans out the window to explain how I can't sit up front because they have some equipment up there. I looked. It was true. They also had some in the back, up against the cab. I threw my bag in the back, and climbed aboard.

Propped myself up against my bag, and called all the necessary people. Katie, Matt, and Eric. Katie was finally home, and relieved I was going to make it. Matt was happy for me, and reassured me that all would be fine with the car. Eric asked me if I was riding with a truck full of pigs.

We hit the highway, and these guys were making no exception to the fact they had a human being in the back of their truck. 85 to 90 mph. This was fine with me, as I needed to get there as soon as I could.

The drive up to St. George was fantastic. Beautiful. Especially through the canyon. I was relaxed, I was going to make it to the concert, and I was a little impressed with the hippy in me who just bummed a 400-mile ride off a stranger. I decided that I would one day hitchhike all the way across the U.S., and for sure I would start commuting to work this way every morning. I looked up at the sky as I rode, and for the first time, I really got what Neil Diamond and Willy Nelson were singing about.

We reached St. George and I thought to myself, "Man, I really love this crisp fall air. Even at 90 mph."

Somewhere between St. George and Cedar City, the sun had set, the wind had picked up, and the altitude was amazingly higher. I was freezing. I put my jacket on, but it was paper-thin, and made of paper, and had the wind resistance of paper. I wanted to put my sweater on as well, but was too cold to move. I finally bit the bullet and ripped my sweater out of my bag, threw it on, and put my jacket on over it. Surprisingly, I was not any warmer.

I tried to crawl up as close as I could to the cab, and tried to curl up in a fetal position. I tried to fall asleep, but was just too cold. And I sat there chattering and dying until we reached Fillmore 2 hours later, where we stopped for gas.

I was a bit nervous to get out of the truck, still stung with the memory of the last time somebody with a truck offered to give me a ride, and then disappeared. (Yes, a mere 3 hours before, in Mesquite.)

But I had to go potty, and I needed to make sure I could still move. I bought a hot chocolate and drank it like Gatorade. Then I took some maternity clothes out of my bag. These were clothes Katie had wanted me to drop off to her sister, Jill, in Provo. I took the clothes and crammed them up my pants, under my sweater, and sleeves, and everywhere I could fit them. I was trying to bulk up and do "layers."

Layers are for CRAP! After we got on the freeway, I realized nothing was going to help at this point. I was ice cold, and was going to be so for the next hour and a half.

We got to Eric's exit, and I tapped on the window to let the drivers know that I was ready to get out. They dropped me off at the Exxon just down from Eric's condo, and just up from the on-ramp to the freeway.

I stood up in the back of the truck, but noticed I didn't have a real strong sense of my legs. They were numb-ish. So I sort of slithered out of the back of the truck. I called Eric and told him to come save my life, and that I was ready to see U2.

I ran over to the on-ramp and waited for him. The wind wasn't whipping me anymore, but my core temperature was so low, I couldn't stop shaking. Eric picked me up and cranked the heater so high, he had to take off his own jacket and fan himself. By the time we got to Salt Lake, I was feeling better. The concert was spectacular, and we had a great time. Truly a highlight, next to my wedding day and the birth of my children.

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