Dear Wake Forest University,
I take this column seriously. When someone is fortunate enough to have a public forum, I feel they should use it responsibly and attempt to illuminate important issues rather than simply wield it like a cudgel against anyone with whom they have a petty grievance.
However, I have put my already written column about term limits on hold for a week. This is a petty grievance column. Welcome to the same club of losers as my terrible internet service provider and the dude who was putting his trash in my trash cans.
What have you done to deserve my ire, Wake Forest? Well, let me tell you.
On May 21, I went with my girlfriend Lauren and her brothers Ethan and Jacob to see Paul McCartney play at your Truist Field. Lauren had surprised me with a ticket months earlier because she is a very sweet person that I somehow tricked into dating me.
I love Paul McCartney. I love The Beatles, of course, because any right-thinking person enjoys The Beatles to at least some degree, but I also love Paul McCartney’s solo career. In fact, I prefer his solo work over both John Lennon’s AND George Harrison’s, and if anyone disagrees with me, I encourage them to listen to “Ram.”
But beyond liking Paul McCartney’s music, I was just plain excited to SEE Paul McCartney, for the same reason I’d be excited to see a B-17 Flying Fortress at an air show. Paul McCartney is a piece of living history. He’s one of the most famous human beings of the past century. It’s like going to see Socrates except you get to hear “Nineteen-Hundred and Eighty-Five.”
We left the Holiday Inn in Greensboro at 5:15 p.m.; the venue was 30 minutes away and we had read that we should arrive two hours early, and the concert started at 8 p.m. This meant we should arrive about a quarter to six.
When we were three miles out from Truist Field, we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic. And the next two hours and forty-five minutes were spent creeping along, sometimes not moving at all for twenty minutes at a time.
Now look, I get it; Truist Field has a maximum capacity of 31,500 people, which is an awful lot of vehicles to funnel through Winston-Salem. I’m sure it’s a logistical nightmare. However, given that the stadium was erected in 1968, I have to assume that it’s reached capacity a few times in the intervening 54 years, and that maybe plans would be made for how to most efficiently manage the traffic.
However, if traffic engineering is an art form, then what we witnessed Saturday afternoon was less Michelangelo and more of a wino writing his name in the snow. No one seemed to have any idea what was going on, from the Winston-Salem police to the Wake Forest security, and nobody knew what anyone else was doing.
Under normal circumstances, we would just park the car somewhere and walk a couple of miles. However, these were not normal circumstances; Lauren’s brother Jacob had major heart surgery just a month earlier and isn’t yet cleared to walk very far. Going in, Lauren had communicated with the venue to find out the best way to drop Jacob off as close to the main gate as possible, and your staff had provided detailed instructions on what we should do once reaching Gate 5. Unfortunately, none of your staff knew where Gate 5 was, and even if they had known, it was likely blocked by a thousand idling vehicles.
Far be it from me to throw around scary phrases like FAILING TO PROVIDE HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBILITY, but it almost seems like your university FAILED TO PROVIDE HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBILITY. Man, sends a chill up your spine, doesn’t it?
We finally managed to drop Jacob and Ethan off at a gate by begging for help from one of the random flop-sweating security guards directing traffic, and then paid $20 to park in a mudhole on your sprawling campus, all while listening to the distant sound of Paul McCartney delving into the fifth song of his set.
But you know what, Wake Forest? You know what? If that was all that had happened, I wouldn’t be writing this column.
When we finally got to the security checkpoint, one of your security guards said the following to us:
“I’m afraid we just hit capacity. Ya’ll are going to have to go back home.”
Lauren’s jaw dropped. I began laughing maniacally, having been driven to the brink of madness after being stuck in traffic for three hours.
“Hey,” the Wake Forest security guard said. “I’m just kiddin’.”
I’m a pretty easy-going guy, Wake Forest University. I really am. It takes a whole lot to push me over the edge. But this particular joke is one of the things I hate most in the world. When I go into a store and ask a clerk if they have an item, and they say they don’t, and then they immediately say, “Just kidding, we have it!” It infuriates me. This does not even qualify as a joke. It is just being a jerk to a stranger.
But to have this joke made at our expense after an incredibly stressful night while we’re actively missing a Paul McCartney concert that we paid good money to see … that was a bridge too far.
“That’s a real nice joke,” I told the guy, but I inserted a word between “nice” and “joke” and said it at about 90 decibels. The guy apologized.
Then I went to the next security guard. He asked me if I had anything in my pockets. I said I did. Then he just stared at me blankly. There wasn’t a table or anything, so I just took everything out of my pockets and dropped it on the ground.
“You don’t have to do all that,” the guy said, having just offered no viable alternative.
“I just want to be done with this and see the show,” I said, inserting multiple adjectives between each word.
I only discovered later that of our group of four, I was the only person who didn’t get waved with metal detector wands. This may be the greatest failing of your security, Wake Forest, because the one guy that you REALLY need to wave with metal detector wands is the guy filled with murderous cataleptic rage.
We finally got seated, which took awhile because the people you hired to direct folks to their seats didn’t know where any of the seats were, and we settled in to watch the show.
I will tell you, Wake Forest University, that the show was incredible (what we saw of it). It was absolutely amazing. Watching Paul McCartney do a duet with an isolated vocal track of John Lennon (courtesy of Peter Jackson) on “I’ve Got a Feeling” is among the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had at a concert.
I give your venue absolutely no credit for any of this, of course, any more than I would give credit to a busted-up 13-inch Zenith TV that just happened to be showing The Godfather.
Following this experience, Wake Forest, I am never again setting foot on the premises of your university. In fact, I’m going to begin following college football solely to root against the Demon Deacons. I’m even considering changing banks just because your stadium is Truist Field.
Before my experience at your venue, Wake Forest, I was perfectly content to live and let live. But in this ever-changing world in which we’re living, you’ve made me give up and cry:
Live and let die.
Yours in animosity,
Ben R. Williams