Thursday, December 8, 2011

Call 'Em SAPs

When an event is advertised as free and open to the public in New York City, the one thing you can guarantee is that entry is not necessarily guaranteed. Keeping that tidbit in mind when I RSVP'd to a free concert, I arrived at the venue almost two hours early so that I could land a safe spot in the middle of the line, which was already at new Iphone-like proportion. To lessen the agony of the enduring wait, I came equipped with comfortable shoes, an updated Hangman app and a full flask of whiskey. After sending about twenty-five poor stickmen to the gallows (thank Bejeezus, I passed up the Russian Roulette app), I noticed that I'd barely progressed in the line.

Meanwhile, a second queue that suddenly formed parallel to mine was whipping by like that line in the supermarket with the good cashier that I NEVER choose because I have an inherent attraction to lines with quarrelsome old people demanding rain checks. I immediately thought that something was amiss because these people definitely were not here half a flask ago and they were being admitted before me. I leaned over to a guy in the fast line and inquired about the difference between two. "This line is for VIPs," he boasted loud enough for me and about sixty other people, who hadn't asked him anything, to hear. Minutes later he was whisked inside by some bitch line goddess with an ALMIGHTY list, from which my name was absent. I asked. Twice. And both times I was cast back to the general admission line to stew in my inferiority and of course, hate.

VIP. I don't understand the logic behind having a hierarchy at a free concert. Allowing "special" people to enter before the rest of us, who are equally too cheap or broke to pay for a real concert, seems like hoity-toity line cutting. Will they get to use their exclusive neon yellow wristbands to skip handicaps in the bathroom too?

Despite the fact that I have been a fan of this group since they were grassroots, I'm still not good enough to get first dibs at their free concert. Meanwhile, the best friend to the cousin of the assistant to the stage manager, who thinks this band was discovered by a late night talk show host, can breeze right in because he is a "Very Important Person." That's merely a measure of association rather than importance. They should be called SAPs (Somewhat Associated People).

The term VIP has made "important" synonymous with obnoxious. Importance used to conjure up images of top secret manila envelopes stamped in red ink, and serious men in dark suits with briefcases. Perhaps in the olden days, only members of the FBI, CIA and MIB were afforded the privilege of exclusive seating and complimentary champagne. They would certainly be worthy of such perks because they spent their days completing important assignments for the greater good of society. Likewise, this proper title of VIP should also be extended to doctors, educators and the Dalai Lamas of the world. VIP would go down a lot smoother for me if I was snubbed for Mother Teresa instead of Snooki- or worse, a friend of Snooki's. Granted, I probably wouldn't be deemed worthy enough for the general admission line at a Mother Teresa/Dr. Oz soiree, but I would understand.

After inhaling another hour of back wind from the smokers ahead of me, a baby-shit green band was bestowed upon my wrist and I was finally let into the venue. Much to my surprise, I was able to secure a seemingly primo spot front stage center. If I was VIP, I would definitely want to stand here. Then it occurred to me that they must be someplace better- like actually on stage with the performers. If so, I'd seriously contemplate leaving because I didn't NOT pay to see them. I scanned the area and noticed a slightly elevated platform behind me. As if the metaphorical heightened status of VIP wasn't obvious enough- they had to be physically elevated to drive home the point. No one in VIP was doing anything particularly fun (or important), but it seemed so just because of the segregated space and free Dos Equis.

Pushing aside disturbing, yet appealing images of what could happen if a can of tear gas was tossed into the VIP section, I decided not to let those wannabes ruin my good time. Besides, I was so close to the stage that if I wanted, I could practically reach out and touch the lead's pant leg, making my concert going experience way more intimate than the VIPs'. Just as I was about to make peace with my second class citenzenship, I noticed a few people brazenly gliding past me. Shoving at a crowded concert is to be expected, but there was something about the way these folks said, "Pardon me," while avoiding eye contact and asserting themselves with the confidence that people must excuse them, that made me leery. I assumed they were trying to home in on my prime real estate until I realized their ultimate destination was beyond me, towards the gate that partitioned the stage from the public- another VIP area.

I watched as each person was either granted or denied access depending on how long they stood their ground with security. It looked like they had to explain themselves before being let behind the gates, which would actually be a great idea. VIPs should have to pass a test or display extensive knowledge about the main event before being rewarded. That way one could regulate and be held responsible for the level of his or her own importance. Unfortunately, these "VIPs" were playing the association card as well. I could tell by the way they'd arbitrarily point to someone already on the good side the gate, who would in turn either have enough clout to demand security to let their guest in; or shrug like, "Sorry bro, barely made it in myself." Being the least important of your marginally important peers and having to share the very same experience with them all of two feet away must be really disappointing. Having to watch them bathe in the luxury of significance while you're drowning in a pathetic pool of plebeians.

Somehow I managed to enjoy the concert, although it was hard to concentrate with those flashy VIPs behind and to the far right of me vying for my attention with their singing, dancing and finger pointing at us, undistinguished general admissioners. Maybe the latter was my imagination, but I felt taunted. The VIP area should have been tucked away behind a curtain or a brick wall, so that I wouldn't have to be exposed to the inequities of the New York social scene. If VIP is so exclusive, they should keep it top secret instead of brazenly wagging it in the face of the masses. That unnecessary flossing could be the catalyst for a crazy VIP revolution (#occupytheboomboomroom).

The VIPs were finally brought back down to earth (or wherever subordinate place I resided) immediately after the last song when we were all herded out of the venue together as equals. Hey, even Cinderella couldn't keep her fairy dust past midnight. En route to the subway, a friend called to invite me to a party for the launch of some new something or other. Unaware of my previous ordeal, she tried baiting me with terms like "exclusive" and "VIP" as if they were "lollipop" and "balloon" to a kid going to the dentist. I initially declined, but she assured me that I was definitely on the list, there was no line and alcohol was gratis for everyone in attendance. As the old saying goes, "if something sounds too good to be true...," you just have to go and confirm for yourself.

Later on as I sipped libations from the open bar while swaying to an intimate performance by a popular rapper, it dawned on me that I might be a hypocrite. VIP is awesome. And this VIP was somewhat justified since there was no general admission populace made to feel inferior by my status. We were all VIP- just like white Eddie Murphy on the party bus after the Black guy left. However, I must remain loyal to the first ninety percent of this post and my hate. I still firmly believe VIP is usually wrongly appointed and it contributes to unfair social segregation. But it does wonders for the esteem; so, much like everything else that's wrong, I'd suggest enjoying VIP responsibly.