Tips and tricks from an anxious event-goer

I have easily been to hundreds of concerts, musicals, and plays in my lifetime. Going to concerts in particular is one of my all-time favorite things to do, and it’s something that I’ve been lucky to enjoy with my husband, family, and friends over the years.

Yet anyone who has gone to a concert or other performance event with me knows that I am a person who gets anxiety about the whole process. Where will we park? How early should we get there? Where are our seats in proximity to the nearest bathroom and exit? Will we get stuck in the parking lot for hours? And on and on it goes.

I’d love to think of myself as a spontaneous person, but in many ways I am a planner. I want to be in control of my fate as much as possible, and because I’ve thought about the ins and outs of every angle, I’d like to think I’m an appropriate person to lead the way in a situation.

I remember looking back on family trips to Disney World and realizing that I would plot out which park we’d go to on which day, and explain the virtues of those plans to my parents. It was about having things go my way, but for the benefit of all, not just myself.

Zack knows this about me. For my Christmas present two years ago, he planned a weekend trip for us to visit Boston, a place that had been on our bucket list. He arranged the flight, hotel, care for Stella, and even told my work about it. But because he knows how much I love to plan, he didn’t make any reservations at restaurants or buy tickets to anything. He did however get a great list of recommendations from my cousin Eileen, who had lived in Boston for a while. It was the perfect present! I spent much of our car ride to my parents’ house on Christmas Day looking at Yelp reviews and making reservations on Open Table.

My friends have come to learn this about me as well. My friend Julia and I share a mutual bathroom anxiety at concerts. In our minds nothing could be worse at a concert than missing a favorite song while running to the bathroom or not enjoying the show because all we can think about is having to go to the bathroom. I love going to shows with her because we share these feelings. Even just looking at someone returning to their seats double-fisting huge beers gives me anxiety for them. How do people do it? I swear off beverages for concerts. It’s all too much. Don’t even get me started on going to movies either, for the same reasons.

Last summer I went to a concert with my friend Ellen for the first time at Meadow Brook, which is notorious for amping up my concert anxiety with its strange pavilion setup and crowded parking in its big grass lot. Because we would have a long drive back to the Lansing area after the show, I asked her if she’d be okay with us walking up from our seats to the lawn area to get a head start during the last song. She obliged, and we got out of there with ease.

Which leads me to what I’d like to call my tips and tricks of an anxious event-goer. Yes, I know I’m a little nuts. But this isn’t my first rodeo.

  • Try to buy tickets that are on an aisle. When Zack and I were MSU football season ticket holders, one of the things we didn’t like was getting stuck in our row at the end of a game. Win or lose, we’d be ready to get out of there, but we were always at the mercy of the glacial pace of the people to our left and right. And when you sit in the middle of a row, you always feel bad (or at least I do) when you have to get up to grab food or use the bathroom (there’s that bathroom anxiety again). Our best decision was switching our seat location to an aisle. I do this at the movies as much as possible, too. Even though there is the constant traffic coming in and out of the row, it’s still worth it for the freedom to get up and out as we please. If I ever have the opportunity to choose tickets on a seating map for a concert or performance, I always like to pick the aisle, even if it means being further back. Same for airplanes. For me, the aisle is life.
  • Check out the set list before the show. This might be considered sacrilege for those who want a spoiler-free experience, but just like the boy scouts I like to be prepared. Part of why I love looking at the set list is seeing which songs I should brush up on from the artist, especially if he or she is touring for a new album. If the set list is fairly consistent across a few shows, I can see when the encore is happening and what the last song might be. This gives me my exit cue. I can usually stay for the first part of the song and then start to make my way up the stairs from my seat. Even that little head start makes all of the difference, and I’ve never felt like I’ve missed something. My other trick is to talk to an usher or server at the venue to ask when the artists are expected on stage. This especially helps with opening acts that I may or may not want to miss, and gives me a good sense of when to be in my seat. Checking out the set list and knowing the start times are also a good opportunity to scope out potential bathroom breaks. Like I said already, I’m a nut about this stuff.
  • Try to park in a way that allows a swift exit if possible. In many ways, I’d rather have to walk farther to the venue from my parking spot if it means getting out of there faster. For events at the Palace of Auburn Hills (RIP), I would park as close to the back as possible because there was a direct exit onto I-75. If you parked too close to the venue, there would be cones blocking the way, forcing you to go with the rest of the traffic out a different exit as people spilled outside. Ultimately, walking an extra couple minutes saves a lot of time. After many shows at the Wharton Center, I discovered a parking hack that I use every time to great success. When you park at the Wharton Center, go to the very top of the structure. On the northwest corner, there is a spiral ramp that takes you directly down to the exit, without the need to wind down each level of the structure with the rest of the cars. If you don’t mind taking the stairs up to the top, you can save so much time parking at the top and using that little spiral ramp. You’re welcome!

I am very self-aware when it comes to how much I think and over think about this kind of stuff. There are times when I’m at a show and instead of being fully immersed, I’m already thinking about my exit strategy. On Marc Maron’s recent Netflix special, he talked about going to a concert with a friend and focusing on the parking challenges more than anything else. This spoke to me on such a deep level! I enjoy concerts and plays with my entire soul, but the logistics always creep into my mind.

Thankfully I have a very understanding husband and friends who go along with my crazy escape strategies and often say they appreciate that little victory of sailing out of a show with nary a brake light.

Now, the question is, does this make you want to go to a show with me, or have I scared you away for good?