Mumford & Sons came to Portland on Memorial Day and you can bet your beautiful behind I was there.
I’d been to their previous show here last November, but Kevin had never seen them before, and I was determined that he would have the best possible time. We had floor tickets, it was a fairly beautiful spring evening (meaning it only rained a little bit), and we got to have dinner with a couple of friends beforehand.
We got the full Portland experience in just a few hours: we saw a middle-aged cross-dresser, a woman in a t-shirt that said “Sinning Is Winning,” and a horde of professional scalpers. The restaurant we ate at beforehand offered paleo substitutions. Its walls featured a portrait of Obama styled like Abraham Lincoln (or vice versa?) along with knitted hand puppets mounted taxidermy-style on the walls.
The opening acts were talented, but not especially exciting. By the time Mumford & Sons took the stage, our knees hurt, and we were beginning to accept the fact that we were old and might have to just get seats next time.
Then the pot-smokers showed up.
Now I could care less what you do on your own time, but really, does it need to be said that you shouldn’t bring drugs into an indoor concert venue? If you want to smoke something behind a closed door in your place of residence or with like-minded friends, awesome. Go for it. Just don’t be like the token Guy Who Wears Too Much Cologne To Work, and remember that not everyone likes what you like, ie, stinky pot smoke.
(This may be a good time to point out that I’m one of those people who’s extra-sensitive to smells. If Too Much Cologne Guy is in the office, I’ll get an instant headache.)
The first time we noticed the smoke, I didn’t mind too much. Mumford & Sons had just started, we could see the stage perfectly, and everyone was dancing and having a good time. Whenever the smell came our way, I held my breath and dealt with it.
The second time, though, the smoker in question was over six feet tall and already clearly having a lot of fun. He pushed past us with his female companion and the two of them proceed to dance right in front of us. The woman disappeared almost immediately after, but the man stayed, all six-foot-three of him – and then he crouched down and lit up his joint.
You know in the Redwall books when the badgers get that berserker blood rage, and they can’t see straight, and all they want to do is tear some limbs off?
That was me.
Now I’m little and not very loud, and I had about as much chance of being heard there as I do when I yell at another driver on the freeway, but I yelled anyway.
He heard me and turned around. It occurred to me then that he might try to pick a fight, but he just looked at me blearily.
“Take it somewhere else!”
“Fine, I will.” And he staggered past us towards the back of the auditorium.
The boy in front of us broke into an exaggerated imitation of the now-absent pot smoker, drawing a few laughs, and I relaxed a little. My legs were actually shaking from how angry I’d been, or from the realization that I could have just started a serious problem. No one was mad at me for telling the guy to leave, which for some irrational reason I thought might be a thing that could happen. I was beginning to feel a little proud of myself. Rather that quietly stew when something was bothering me, and complaining about it later, I’d done something about it. And it worked.
When I told a few friends about this, they mostly looked at me as if I’d told them I wanted to dye my hair blue: not necessarily an action they would take themselves, but not one they could totally condemn me for. And I thought that was kind of weird. A dude was wrecking our concert experience and I said something about it. Was that really so bizarre or out-of-line?
Then, somehow, this week filled up with pieces about street harassment, like this one:
I don’t even remember the other stories I read, but they were much less entertaining than that video. They skewed towards the horror-stories of women who tried to retort to cat-callers, only to find that their harasser got violent, no one came to their defense, etc.
Which got me thinking of the concert incident. Would I have been brave enough to tell the man to leave if I’d been there with a female friend, instead of my husband? Would he still have left if he’d be called out by a lone woman, and not a woman accompanied by a man?
I experience hardly any street harassment, but I see it happening everywhere. I follow @EverydaySexism. I see comments on Reddit and Facebook either sharing stories of harassment, or making jokes that enable it. I check in on the Hollaback project. Harassment happens a lot, and there’s no silver-bullet response. Sometimes, you can yell at an offender and that will put him in his place – but there’s no way to know if the cards will fall that way in any given situation.
And it was only after I’d spoken up that it occurred to me that the cards may not fall right.
But they did, and the guy left, and we enjoyed the concert. Now I just need to make sure I don’t assume every situation will work out that nicely.
It’s irritating that I have to play it safe. When someone’s behaving offensively, we shouldn’t have to gauge our response based on how likely it is that the offensive person will randomly get violent. In an ideal world, harassers would just back off when someone speaks up and asks them to stop – but then, in an ideal world, harassers would know better and keep their stupid mouths shut in the first place.
Just like those dudes would know better than to bring drugs into a public venue.