For a music fan, there is nothing better than seeing your favorite band perform on stage. The live energy surging through the music in real time. The visuals lighting up the venue. Being able to share the experience with a crowd of random strangers. It's an infectious treat that gives you the brightest memories you will never forget.
For "Jane," a 26-year-old teacher, seeing one of her favorite bands perform live did not turn out to be a great memory, particularly because she never got to see the band play. Instead, she was too busy having one of those fantastic aforementioned "shared experiences" with one audience member who left all class, respect, and even logic at home. Perhaps she was too out of her own mind in the first place to remind herself to bring it.
No, Jane would leave this concert without hearing a single tune by the band she had been anticipating to see. But, it would, undoubtedly, be a show that she would never forget... whether she would like to or not.
When Jane caught wind that one of her favorite bands, "Jet Black Pope," was going to be playing near her, she dragged her boyfriend, Andy, and roommate, Joseph, with her to the show. The venue was a pop-up, outdoor tent that featured two stages which stood on each end of a bar area. Entry only cost the general admission price to see as many bands as a guest would like.
Jane, Andy, and Joseph arrived to a nearly full house, but still were able to land a few spots right in front of the stage to stand. Being only 5'2" at 26 years old, Jane would have had a tough time watching the performance, otherwise. After watching the opening acts and downing a couple drinks, Jet Black Pope's set was approaching, so during the break, Joseph and Andy decided to head to the bar and grab a few more drinks for the three of them. A couple of generous fellow concertgoers were nice enough to save their spots. Not everyone at the concert was like that kind couple, however, which Jane quickly realized when a small figure pushed up against her.
The figure turned out to be a small boy, appearing to be no older than the age of six. Yet, he proved to be quite forceful when trying to push himself past Jane and make himself a spot in front of her. Surely, he did not take up much space and, for once, Jane would not need to worry about seeing over this child. But what was in front of her suddenly became less concerning than the "presence" she could feel behind her.
It was a woman. She had about 10 inches and, obviously, several drinks on Jane. The lady glared down at her with a lazy stare that still emitted an abrasive attitude.
"Excuuuuusee meeee, I need to stand with CJ," the lady said, smacking her lips between words. Jane assumed that "CJ" was the very same goblin who had pushed past her a moment before.
The lady continued, "He’s here for Jet Black Pope and it’s his faaaaavorite band. Move out of the way!"
She tried to get in front of Jane with a shove, an attempt that quickly proved unsuccessful. Enough trips to the bar usually has that kind of effect on a person.
"I’m so sorry," Jane interjected, attempting to be polite, "but I’ve been standing here for two hours waiting for Jet Black Pope. It’s also my favorite band. I’m not going to move. I also wouldn’t be able to see anymore... He can stand next to me and you can stand behind him though. That way we can all see."
"So you’ve been here for two hours?!?!" the lady asked. "Give someone else a chance, ya' little tramp!"
Now, she was beginning to test Jane's patience.
"I’ve only been here for two hours because that’s how early you needed to get here to get front row spots," she replied. "And I got here early because I want to see them."
"Wowwwwuh, okayyyy biiiiiiiaaaaatch. I was jus’ askin'! Since you been such a biiiiiaaaaaatch, you can watch CJ. I’m gonna gedda drinkuh."
"I’m sorry, what? I’m not a babysitter. I’m here for a concert."
"Yeah, me tooo! But you were so ruuuuude, you can make it up by keeping him. I have some drinks."
Jane was dumbfounded. Who did this woman think she was, deciding right out of the blue that she could pass her child off to a random stranger in the middle of a crowded concert just to get even more plastered than she already was? As if that was even possible. At that moment, Andy and Joseph had returned with the drinks and conveniently took their spots back. Jane figured that this woman was clearly not worth concerning herself with.
Just then, CJ, apparently wanting to get closer to the stage, managed to climb over the barrier separating it from the audience. But Jane just stood there. This was not her responsibility. Her only concern was to enjoy this show. CJ was his mother's concern and, obviously, once she saw the child jump the barrier, she would go after him herself.
Twenty minutes or so had gone by and the intermission was still ongoing. Jane passed the time by chatting with the couple next to her, who had saved Andy and Joseph's spots. They let her know that they had overheard her little altercation with the Mother Of Year. They had also been awaiting the appearance of Jet Black Pope for the past couple of hours and would have reacted the same way Jane did. They admitted that they were about to intervene before the lady walked away.
Where was the woman now?
Jane glanced over to see that ignoring this woman was not as effective as she had hoped, especially because it was impossible to ignore the sight of her barely able to stand on her own, using Jane's roommate as a personal leaning post.
This was typical of Joseph to do. He was the type of guy who receives plenty of attention from ladies and just went with it, despite being gay, out of courtesy to them. He would rather play along then hurt anyone's feelings. Keeping the increasingly inebriated woman who had just insulted his roommate from falling flat on her face, however, was beginning to push boundaries of acceptable generosity.
The lady was at least sober enough to catch sight of Jane and notice that her son was nowhere near her. He was nowhere to be seen, in fact. She looked right at Jane and asked her where CJ was. Jane answered honestly: she had no idea where this child whom she had no reason to concern herself with was. The lady did not take that news so well.
She blew up at Jane, spouting a rapid fire blast of slurred accusations - Jane lost the kid and Jane is a terrible human being. She threatened to call the police, which got people. Then, she looked at Joseph (still the trooper by letting her hang from him) and explained how she "hired" Jane to look after CJ while she, the mother, looked after her drinks and that it was all her (read: Jane's) fault and not the mother who could barely stand straight without leaning on a stranger.
Joseph, still keen on maintaining politeness, told the woman that she must be confused because he knows Jane and literally sees her everyday. He was pretty confident that she would not attend a concert featuring one of her favorite bands just to look after another woman's child. But logic had no effect on this woman. On and on, out came insults that Jane had ruined her life and threats to call the cops. Magically, she no longer needed Joseph to stand at that point, and let go of him to charge right at Jane and slap her right in the face. She stood nose-to-nose with her, called her a "predator," and told her that if her child was dead, that would make her a murderer.
Now, Jane was scared, but not because of the physical assault she'd just endured. This woman's threats of telling the authorities that she was responsible for her child seemed to be harmless delusions, at first. But she was beginning to think more outside the venue. Jane was a public school teacher. If the police really did intervene into the situation and believed the woman's story, it could cost her her job. Now she was the one freaking out. She did not want to face the music. But, as fate would have it, the music was, literally, about to begin.
Jet Black Pope was finally set up and ready to play, but it appeared that the band had another opening act first: "Mother of the Year" and her audience, venue security. As the woman relayed her unfounded sob story to the guards, Jane sat still in silence. Andy, completely out of the loop as to what was happening, tried to get through to his girlfriend, asking her to help him understand the situation. But, she could not even speak to answer him, nor could she lift a finger to defend herself and plea her case to the security guards. Being no stranger to anxiety, Jane feared she was nearing a panic attack.
Suddenly, Jane came face to face with the guards, who pulled her out of the crowd and away from Andy and Joseph. As she was taken further and further away, it hit her: security actually believed the woman's story. They really were under the impression she had lost a child she was hired to look after. The lights began to flicker back on. Finally, she could speak and desperately began to explain herself. But, the guards would not listen. Jane was then faced with no other choice but silence. The guards led her into an empty bar inside the venue. They told her to wait there until the police arrived.
Just half an hour earlier, Jane was enjoying a concert. Now, she sat alone in an empty bar waiting to be questioned by police. She could not begin to fathom how things had escalated this way. She had been insulted, physically attacked, and, now, her career was on the line all because of this woman who could not handle her drinks. She broke down, letting the tears fall. A door opened. She quickly wiped away the tears before the officer walking in could see. Before he could say a word, Jane interrupted, desperate to convince the cop that she had no idea who that lady was.
The cop was confused. He told Jane how the woman told them "everything: your name, how long you’ve known each other, how you came together, etc. I know you’re just a kid and kids make mistakes sometimes but this is serious. So, you just need to tell me where you last saw the child and why you left him alone."
Already exasperated, she just repeated that she had never met the woman before. She could not even provide a physical description of CJ, whose name she had probably forgotten by then, if she tried. But, she did recount the brief moment she saw the child climb over the railing before going off on his own. It was as if he was running away from something.
But the cop was obviously not buying this. Jane was not cooperating and costing him more time.
"Come on, Jessica," he yelled, "just tell us where he is or I’ll have to arrest you for obstruction!"
With the situation having reached its peak point of ridiculousness, all Jane could do was look right at the already disgruntled officer and laugh.
The cop was befuddled. He was not sure what to ask next. Either this girl was insane or he was on the brink himself. What was going on? Jane was happy to cease her laughter and fill in the blanks.
She explained to him that her name was Jane, not Jessica, as the crazy, wasted woman had told him. She was 26, not 17, as the delusional freak had also claimed. Having only consumed two drinks, she was not even slightly tipsy, unlike the woman who started this mess was. Finally, and most importantly, she proudly let the cop know that this had all been a waste of his and her time.
"So, you don’t know her at all?" the cop finally asked.
"No," Jane promptly replied. "She just came up to me before the concert started and demanding that I watch her kid because I wouldn’t give her my spot in the front. I came with my boyfriend and my roommate to see Jet Black Pope. I have no idea who she is or why she would just assume I’d watch her child. Please talk to the people around us, they all heard our conversation. And I’d only had two drinks in the span of three hours, so I’m not even impaired."
The officer decided he had heard enough. He told her, "Give me a second."
He walked away, leaving Jane alone again. The hard part may have been over, but she was not ready for solitude yet. She pulled out her phone to call Andy, but he was way ahead of her. At least 100 messages from him popped up, providing a play-by-play of how the situation had "progressed" since she was detained.
Jet Black Pope's set was cut short to allow the venue to shut down the concert as they searched for lost CJ. His mother offered no help, but continued to repeatedly frame Jane as the responsible hired babysitter. The police stopped listening to her to survey the crowd. The testimonies of other concertgoers who witnessed the inciting altercation did not match up with the woman's claims. They were also sure to mention that she had been, most definitely, plastered the entire time.
At least an hour had passed when a new message from Andy popped up, informing Jane that CJ had been found. Then, he asked her if she was still being questioned by the police. She replied that she was still inside, but alone. She wasn't sure if she was free to go find him and Joseph. What if they had the authority arrest her or something for leaving without permission. This was an entirely new experience to her, after all. She was positively clueless.
Andy and Joseph eventually came to the rescue, accompanied by a different officer and the owner of the bar, who was quick to profusely apologize to the visibly distraught Jane, offering to refund all three of them their tickets and drinks. Then the cop butted in, telling Jane to provide him a statement of the assault. At first, Jane could not remember what he was talking about, until she realized that, in all the craziness, she forgot about the slap, courtesy of "Mother of the Year." She would not have been able to provide a trustworthy description of the incident, but there were too many witnesses to allow her to choose whether or not to help file the report.
Jane just wanted to leave. She missed out on Jet Black Pope, her career and life had been threatened, and now she was being forced to recount a moment that she could barely remember in her traumatized state. The cop promised her that a quick interview was all he needed and she was free. Through tears, she pushed out the best statement she could, her memory still barely holding it together. Eventually, the cop settled with asking her simple yes or no questions to get through it and get her out of this mess as fast as possible.
Finally, Jane, Andy, and Joseph were on their way home, CJ was in the care of Child Protective Services, and "Mother of the Year" was in a police car, heading to jail on charges of child endangerment, neglect, and assault.
A few days after the concert, "Mother of The Year" was in court for her arraignment. Jane was there as a witness. She was not forced to testify, which she was thankful for. She had no desire to. Because the woman did not have the money to make bail, she had to return to jail and would have to come back for court some months later. Jane would eventually have to return to court too, for two separate cases: as a witness to the woman's neglect of her child and as a victim of her assault. Whatever it would take get that woman the highest jail time possible, Jane would comply with.
A couple weeks later, Jane was watching a documentary program profiling car chases. It featured interviews with the very people the police were tailing. Almost all of them had one thing in common: they realized that running from the cops was, in retrospect, not a good idea, but they were so afraid of getting caught at the time, that they tried anything they could to get away, even if it was only making things worse.
It reminded her of "Mother of the Year." It became clear that in the moment that woman had realized the mistake she was making and desperate to save herself, she tried whatever she could to feign innocence, causing Jane to have her's questioned. It gave Jane a new perspective on the woman. Obviously, she was guilty and deserved the hand she had been dealt for putting not only Jane, but her own child through a nightmare out of her own selfishness. However, rarely does one make a rational decision when they are already at rock bottom.
Whatever go to this point was beyond Jane's knowledge, but it became clear to her that this woman's behavior must have been a cry for help. Jane hoped that, where this woman was going, she would receive the right rehabilitation to help her lead a better life than "whatever led her to think bringing a 6-year-old to a concert and getting black out wasted was a good idea."