That Time I Almost Died At Coachella

Jason Persse
Jason Persse

I made the mistake of deciding to go to the Coachella music festival for my first time with a group of girls, not the mature level headed types of women who I could consider friends- but girls-the types who take pictures of themselves solely for the purpose of posting them online. It was clear to me upon arriving in my jeans and a sweatshirt that I was not going to be included in their bikini clad adventures.

Which is why it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I found myself abandoned with a dead cell phone at 2am staring at a half mile taxi cab line in the company of an fellow stranded concert goer who I was sure was coming off of Acid at the very least.

He kept yelling into his flip phone, “No, man, I don’t have time for this shit right now! I really don’t have time for this shit, you don’t understand how stressful this is. I can’t fucking deal right now,” then snapping it shut with decided fury.

“This is bullshit!” he yelled, “I’m not waiting in this shit. Come on, let’s go grab a cab out there.” I would have left the kid, but he was another warm body with a cell phone-I wasn’t in the position to risk losing that.

After hiking about a mile and about 20 failed cab knocking attempts, we finally realized that we really were, as the proverbial saying goes, “Shit out of luck”. So we started walking back into the cab line-and by some grace of God ran into some friends of this kid who seemed like normal stable human beings, and also offered an open opportunity for us to cut the majority of the line. I made small talk with them, vying for any hint of camaraderie, when amidst our awkward pauses the angry kid disappeared. It was then that I realized that somehow being left with these seemingly sedated people proved to be significantly less comforting than the company of the raging despot.

But as soon as I started to accept that I was actually going to have to wait in this taxi line- the kid reappeared, waving his arms aggressively signaling us to come towards him. Like an apparition through the mist of my fear.

“I know this guy!” he kept yelling from a parking lot filled with vans and busses adjacent to the line of people waiting for a cab. “Come here! He’s the guy that brought me here!” How he recognized him through the crowd and dust was a miracle.

A man of about fifty years of age who looked like he had been to one too many Grateful Dead concerts stood in front of the van. As we all started to pile into the van, he stopped us.

“Woah, woah. This van is going to Best Western only. Best Western only, everyone else needs to leave.”

“Oh, come on, Jim!” the angry kid yelled, “these are my friends! Help them out!” He looked at us with his best sales man smile and announced, “Guys, this is Jim-he’s the best!” The couple we ran into and I were not going to the Best Western. We were going to condos at least 5 miles apart. So I started to plead. I even felt myself tearing up.

In my saddest, girliest voice I explained how I had been abandoned with no cell phone, but with $100 that I was happy to give him if he’d take me home. It was unclear what his intention was but he decided to let me into the van. “I’ll most likely have to take you home last though,” he said, which in my moment of hysteria, only raised the smallest, most insignificant red flag.

By the time the van took off it was 2:30 in the morning and the knots in my stomach were beginning to come undone. I was surrounded by young concert-goers like myself, and I figured I was going to be okay. First stop was the Best Western, where about 4 of the 9 people got out of the van. Second stop was another hotel near by, another 2 got out. And then there were 3.

Jim reconfirmed that he was going to take me home last. The one lone girl in the big white van. “You’re on the opposite side of town and it’s on my way home,” he said.

“OK.” I said, as my stomach shifted into my throat. The driver kept making jokes and telling stories, he kept trying to be chummy with everyone, which may have just been friendliness, but in my 22 year old blond mind it was the charm before the storm. We dropped off the last couple and were on our way.

Now it was just him and I in the van.

“I’m gonna drop off this van at the best western if you don’t mind, and just take you home in my personal truck. I only drive this thing when I have to, you know?” he said.
At that point, my breathing halted, the sweat started dripping from my forehead and all I could force out of my mouth was an “uhuh.”

About half way back to the Best Western, his phone rang. He answered it cheerily. “Why sure, you know I got you boo!” He hung up the phone. “Gotta pick up these two sweet young thangs from another hotel. I promised them I’d pick them up and take them home.’
“Yea that’s fine,” my voice cracked. Never had passing cactuses felt so confining before.
When we pulled up to the Motel 6, two young busty brunettes and a young man all wearing matching hot pink t-shirts with something about Coachella written on them hopped in. One girl sat up in front, while the two others came and sat in one of the back rows with me. The brunette in the front yelped a “thank you!”, and then gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“Oh sure honey, you know I wouldn’t leave you stranded!” he blushed and smiled.
The two in the back focused on me. “You look so sad!” the young man said to me, as his pupils rolled around in his cocaine enlarged eyes.

“Don’t be saddd! Its Coachella!” the girl next to him exclaimed.

“COACHELLLAAAA!!” They all yelled in a cheerful glee.

Under normal circumstances I would have festered in silent hatred for these over zealous chumps, but in this scenario, I just so happened to burst into tears.

The cheering stopped. The young man looked at me empathetically, but the girl behind him giggled. “Oh you’ll be fine! You’ll be home in no time!”

We pulled up to the Best Western, and the three of them hopped out cheerfully. “Jimbo” parked the van behind the hotel and said he’d meet me inside. “OK” I gulped, and ran inside straight to the front desk.

Exasperated and desperate, I asked the clerk if they had any availability at the hotel.
“Nope, were booked. Sorry.”

My heart dropped. This was really it. Jim walked into the lobby and asked me if I was ready to go.

“Yes” I gulped again.

In his free time, Jim drove a 1999 Nissan pick up truck. The kind that serial rapists drive. I got in it. I buckled up my seat belt, took a deep breath and prepared for death.
We drove onto a road that clearly led to the middle of nowhere.

This was it, I thought. I’d be on the news the next morning “Girl missing in Indio after concert.” My body would be sliced up into pieces and scattered across the Coachella Valley desert. My mother would see the report on the news the next day and curse the idiot who put herself in that situation, only to realize it was her own daughter. That idiot.
I stared off into the distance, completely losing comprehension of anything I was actually seeing. I was so blinded by my deliriously terrified haze that I hadn’t noticed that Jim had driven me right up to the time -share complex.

“Well, you finally made it,” he coughed.

I wanted to give Jimbo a big smooch right on his aged, bald forehead.

“Ugh!” I let out all of the air I’d been holding in for the past two hours. “Thank you so much, Jim!” I’ve never meant anything so much in my life. I handed him the hundred dollars. I jumped out the door, slammed it behind me, and sprinted down the driveway and up the stairs. My faith in humanity restored.

When I got back to the timeshare, Taylor, the blond rat pack leader who had so recklessly left me for dead, answered the door.

“Where have you been?’ she asked, half asleep.

“Oh, you know, fearing for my life, nearly being raped and murdered by some random van driver.”

“Oh, you’re so funny” she slurred, and dragged her feet back to the couch, plopped down gracefully, like a ballerina, to fall back asleep. TC mark

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