October 29, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey

Waking up would be hard to do on any other day like this. You open your eyes just in the slightest, just enough to see those red numbers of the bedside alarm clock, blurrily at first, but then in focus after rubbing your fists hard into your eyes. The hotel room is dark and cold and the bed is a little firmer than your bed at home, the blankets and sheets a little less soft, the pillows not as cloud-like. The room smells of dried sweat and stale beer, remnants of the previous night’s exploits. When you first start to move within the bed, you muscles ache, your bones creak a little, your head pounds. You’d arrived in Gainesville by bus yesterday during one of those out-of-nowhere torrential downpours usually reserved for Floridian summers. Almost immediately, you’d begun to treat your body poorly, filling it with alcohol and pizza and other carbohydrates, the kind that give your stomach that balloon-like feeling post-ingestion. Someone on social media might call it “vacation mode!” and accent it with a sunglasses emoji. Whatever it was, you were feeling it and the weekend hadn’t really even begun yet.

Making yourself upright, you stumble to the mirror above the sink in that dark, cold hotel room. Goosebumps immediately encapsulate your arms and legs and chest the moment you exit the bed. You turn on the light above the sink and look at yourself in the mirror. The lighting is bright and harsh and under it, you see not just all of your flaws, you see what a night of partying can do to augment them. Your eyes, bleary and bloodshot, float above two seas of dark purple. Your skin, dirty and porous and blemished, doesn’t appear to be what a dermatologist would call healthy. You forgot to drink water last night. Forgot. Yeah. Impressions from those lumpy pillows and scratchy sheets draw red lines all over the side of your face and on your shoulders and chest. Your hair is being pushed and pulled in eight different directions. You’re pretty sure you smell. A shower is in order.

Your hotelmates begin to stir and, after a quick, mostly silent, middling continental breakfast downstairs, you make your way towards that Holiday Inn, stopping on the way for supplies, namely iced coffee, shots of espresso on the side, beer and sippers of bourbon. You’re going to be in line for a while today, four hours perhaps, and it’s important to be prepared for any scenario. That first sip of coffee, especially on a hot, humid, sunny Florida late morning, is a zap to your senses. Caffeine is a wonderful drug, you think. You pour that sipper of bourbon into your iced coffee in the liquor store parking lot, stir it around and reseal the lid. Vacation mode.

It’s not even 11 a.m. yet and already the line at that Holiday Inn is snaking around the building, through several stairwells, out into the parking lot and nearly onto University Avenue. Every time a car, usually a taxi, feebly attempts to navigate the parking lot a swath of people must move out of its way and then reorganize in line, in the exact same order. Everybody’s wearing black with a few Hawaiian shirts sprinkled in between. Whoever’s wayfarers are the most neon wins. You overhear conversations but try not to eavesdrop—really, you’re just trying to place their accents. Every inch you move in that line feels like, well, some measurement smaller than an inch. Maybe a millimeter. You’re not even in any kind of hurry and really, this is probably the least anxious line-waiting experience you’ll endure all year, but at the same time, you’re hungover, your feet hurt, you’re a little drunk now and you have to pee, it’s hot and maybe you’d like to just get it over with so you can dip your toes in at the pool.

The registration room is small and packed with tables full of merch and people slowly perusing them while remaining in line. It’s loud and warm and the air in that room feels stale and unrecycled. You can smell someone’s body odor. A lot of people’s body odor. You discreetly and nonchalantly sniff your armpits. Whew, you remembered to wear deodorant. In one corner of the room, people are hardstyling in front of a backdrop and having their pictures taken. In another, people are getting matching Stressface tattoos. In another, there’s a long table where volunteers are checking IDs, going through names and handing out wristbands. There’s only a few of them and there’s a lot of us. No wonder the line was so long but, beer helps. Iced coffee and bourbon helps. Friends and family help.

You finally reach the table and, even though you know you bought a pass and are owed a wristband, you panic internally a little bit when the volunteer doesn’t immediately find your name. A thousand different scenarios play in your head all at the same time. Will I have to buy another pass? Did they forget me? Did the volunteer hear my name right? Did I even spell my name right? Eventually you’re found and awarded a wristband, at which point, as badly as you’d like to circle back to those merch tables, you’re ready for some air.

The water in the pool is a little too chilly for a full swim, so you just take off your shoes and sit on the side, submerging your feet and the bottom halves of your legs. You stare down at the cool blue and the way it makes your legs appear discolored and detached from your body. Your friends and family wander around and you’re left alone, watching all these people from all these far-flung locations, different towns and states and countries and continents, congregate around each other and share hugs, handshakes and shots of cheap liquor. There’s a band playing some kind of cover set off on the other side of the deck but you’re not really listening, or you hear them, but your senses are so overwhelmed everything sounds like a mid-range din. People approach you to introduce themselves and you feel terrible for not immediately recognizing them or remembering their names. They might mispronounce your name too, but that’s OK, you’re used to that. You exchange pleasantries, briefly discuss what you’re looking forward to that weekend and then go your separate ways. You might run into them again before Sunday night, but you might not.

Soon it’s about 3 p.m., maybe 4, and you’re hungry. Bands will be starting at venues around Gainesville in a couple hours. It’s time to fuel up for a night of being on your feet, dancing, drinking, yelling. You take your legs out of the pool, think about how cold they feel in that moment, and stand up to let them dry off. You can’t get your socks wet. Clean, comfortable socks are paramount in times like these. If your feet can’t support you, it’d really hinder your experience. It’s hard to watch a band and really get into their set when all you can think about is how much you ache to sit down.

 

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