Waiting in a 30-minute line for a $10 dollar cup of Heineken in 90-degree weather while all your friends are already dancing their asses off is a lame party situation. I lived out this woeful scenario over and over again at weekend one of Coachella, where the drinks cost ungodly sums AND you’re forced into a fenced-in area where you must consume your beverage. You can’t enter any of the performances with a beer or a cocktail.
It’s no wonder I came across so many people on Molly, lighting up blunts and getting weird on acid. I’m not upset about that. (Party on.) I was just surprised to learn the officially mandated drinking experience actually made doing drugs look so appealing. When drinking becomes an expensive, difficult chore, doing cheap drugs anywhere you want within the sprawling 55 acres of the festival seems like a no-brainer. Here’s why:
1. SMUGGLING DRUGS IS EASIER THAN SMUGGLING ALCOHOL
About a half mile stretch of gravel and dirt leads you to the entrance of Coachella. But before you can enter the semi-drug-fueled orgy of music and hippie/trendy fashion, you have to pass two security check points, which is either the easiest thing in the world to do or the hardest. I watched people slip pills and joints into their hair, put them underneath their shoe flaps and even into their underwear. Compare that to hiding a flask in your bra. (Yes, I thought about it.) My first security check went smoothly—they barely even looked in my purse. My second one? I got patted down and felt up all along my shorts and bra.
The security guards didn’t care about weed, either. One person in front of me was caught with a roach, and they let it slide completely.
2. THERE ARE ID CHECKS AND LINES
After you’re done getting frisked, you’ll have to wait in the designated ID check line if you want to indulge in a $15 dollar vodka/Red Bull. The lines, of course, are supposedly designed to make it easier for you to drink, but you have to wait in line to get a wrist band, wait in line to get into the beer garden and then wait in line again to get your drink. It was, needless to say, a hassle, and the complaints about it were widespread. And you can’t leave the designated drinking zone with an unfinished beer, either. “I have to throw this out? I’m not done with it,” I saw a neon-clad dude yelling at a security guard in the beer garden.
3. IF YOU LIKE A SHOW, YOU’RE DONE DRINKING
As the sun went down Sunday night I found myself crammed in with over 10,000 sweaty people at the Kaskade concert, one of the biggest EDM performances of the weekend. My friends and me debated going to grab a quick beer, but the thought of walking back to the beer tent, waiting in line and having to drink it there stopped us. “Shrooms?” someone asked behind me, listening in on our conversation. I nodded no, thinking about the horror of tripping balls surrounded by thousands of strangers. “Drinking isn’t going to happen here,” someone said, laughing. “You’ll miss the entire show.” He was right.
4. GOOD LUCK USING A CREDIT CARD
Dodging shirtless bros and passed out basic hippies, I had to find my friends the old-school way because my cell wasn’t sending texts or making calls. Dehydrated and annoyingly sober, I raced up to the bar to grab a water and a beer. Thinking I could use a credit card, the bartender kept swiping my card over and over on her Square, unable to get the reception necessary to run the card. “I’m so sorry,” the older woman kept saying, admitting this had been an issue all day. About six minutes later I was able to leave the bar with my drinks when my card finally went through. “Fucking annoying,” I muttered leaving the bar, only to have four other people in line silently nod along with my statement.
5. DAY DRINKING SHOULD BE FUN, NOT A CHALLENGE
I went to the bathroom before heading to the Do Lab tent where the party was just getting started with electro duo B.R.E.E.D. I ran into girls doing bumps of coke off the side edge of the mirror. Rolling up a $50 dollar bill, they inhaled the white powder into their noses and then quickly packed it away. I realized that $50 dollar bill they just used to have fun for the entire day would be what I might spend in an hour on drinks. For those who dabble in extracurricular activities, it makes much more sense to do drugs and feel good all day then indulge in the hassle of trying to remain drunk for 15 hours.
In the end, it wasn’t so much about the drinks being expensive. I fully comprehended the absurd expenses going into Coachella, which I enjoyed attending with my friends, in spite of all my criticism here. It was more the process and being corralled into a pen like an animal. People are so turned off from drinking that they would rather be sober or do drugs than sip overpriced, skunked beer. It’s obviously not Coachella’s fault for people doing drugs, and I’m not condoning or objecting to the use of them, but it’s easy to see why drug use is so prevalent at festivals when the rules practically encourage it.
And hey, if weed is your choice of festival high, find out some weird facts about Mary Jane here.
Nicole Theodore is an editorial assistant at Playboy.com. She still can’t feel her feet. Follow her on Twitter.