This weekend I joined a few friends at Rites of Spring, the annual outdoor concert festival held at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. The organizers did a great job, but I do have to comment on one poorly-conceived rule. Here is the event’s alcohol policy as described on their website:
All 21 year old guests will be able to bring six 12 oz aluminum cans of beer to Rites of Spring each day. Coolers are allowed. Guests can combine their beers in one cooler if they enter together. No one is allowed to bring more than 12 beers together.
Third party security officers will check IDs and issue different colored bracelets each day to of-age guests. Third party security will have 2006 ID booklets to verify IDs and a list of Vanderbilt students who are over 21. VUPD officers will be monitoring the crowd at all times. Intoxicated persons will not be allowed to enter the event. All persons under 21 found drinking will be required to get rid of their beer. They will be removed from the event if they do not comply.
We consulted this description about an hour before heading to the Saturday night performance so as to ensure that we would be abiding by the letter of the law. Jacob and I then went to a store and bought a 12-can case of beer. Our path from the beer store to the concert happened to pass through a freshman residence area, and it did not go unnoticed that, despite being the only two people carrying alcohol, we were clearly the only people headed to the concert from this area who were not already visibly — in some cases stumbling — drunk.
At the security checkpoint, the groups of drunk freshman we were walking behind were all granted entry without incident. However, we were stopped at the gate. My best approximation of the exchange with the security guard:
Guard: “You can’t bring that case of beer in here.”
Me: “But there’s 12 cans for two of us — what’s the problem?”
Guard: “No, you can’t bring the cardboard box. You have to empty your cans into a plastic bag.”
Me: “Are you serious? I…”
Guard: “Go find a plastic bag for those cans or you can’t bring them in.”
Me: “Where am I supposed to find a plastic bag around here?”
Guard: “Just go look for one. I’m sure there’s one around here somewhere.” (Points to the dimly-lit lawn outside the security gate that we now realize is a vast wasteland of empty cardboard beer boxes.)
So we embark on a mission to find a plastic bag for our 12 cans. Ironically, the closest location we can think of is the convenience store in the basement of a substance-free freshman residence hall. We don’t have working access cards, so we stand outside the door and wait for someone to let us in. About 30 seconds later a group of four drunken freshmen walk up. The exchange:
Freshman girl: “Hey can you card us in?”
Jacob: “Nope, sorry. We’re alumni trying to bring this beer illegally into your area to put in in a plastic bag. Our cards don’t work anymore.”
Freshman girl: “Cool, lemme get my card.” (Rummages through purse.)
Jacob: “Awesome. Chad here used to be a freshman RA a couple of years ago, by the way. Isn’t that funny?”
We obtain one plastic bag from the store — minus one point for the environment. We then head back to the concert. Outside the gate, the security guard watches as we break open the cardboard box, pour the cans into the plastic bag, then toss the cardboard box on the ground. I have to hold the bottom of the bag to keep the cans from falling through the bottom. We approach the gate with the guard who just watched us empty the beer into the plastic bag. The exchange:
Guard: ” You guys drinking tonight?”
Guard: “IDs please. And what’s in the bag?” (Note: the bag is transparent.)
Guard: “How many cans do you have?”
Guard: “Okay.” (Lets us pass.)
Trust me when I tell you that it has taken many committee meetings to develop the concert’s alcohol policy over the years. Surprising? Perhaps not, but for the people having their time wasted, it’s no less surreal.