Once, when I was a lowly crime reporter, I asked a wise old Isla Vista cop why he was always so polite to us Nexites. He said, “It’s never a good idea to mess with people who buy ink by the barrel.”
The incompetent owner of Santa Barbara’s Big Daddy Buses stranded 20 UCSB students in Indio this weekend and, considering two of us were Nexites, they could have used old Sgt. Harling’s advice. Instead, Big Daddy Buses blamed its own idiocy on “the dumb fucking pigs in Indio” who, in the end, rescued my friends and I from the cold desert night. This is my shout-out to the Indio Po-Po and my public flogging of Big Daddy Buses – the most incompetent band of stooges to ever attempt a tour bus service.
“All right. Who here says, ‘Fuck the pigs!’ ” yelled the young pudgy Asian raver with the Flock of Seagulls hair shooting out from the sides of his doughy head. He was an employee of Big Daddy Buses and he said it was the cops’ fault our bus home had not arrived.
The 45-or-so Coachella concert-goers did not respond. It was 1 a.m. We were trying to stay warm. The temperature was dropping and the wind was picking up in the desert parking lot. We had spent the last 12 hours lightly clothed and sizzling in the desert heat, watching amazing live music and playing pharmacist with our own brains. Police presence was high throughout the day and no one was in the mood to yell, “Fuck the pigs.” Besides, what did the pigs have to do with it? We were supposed to be sitting in warm, plush VIP-tour-bus seats by 1 a.m., popping Valium, coming down and exchanging stories about Weezer’s set.
I have done too many treacherous post-rave drives in my short life and that was the whole point of dropping an extra 60 bucks for the Big Daddy tour bus ride. None of that nonsense this time. We are VIP. We have paid to be treated right. And where the hell is the goddamned bus?!
1 a.m. turned into 3 a.m. and Big Daddy Buses’ useless leader, nicknamed “Santa,” had a stocky waddle of a walk and a straw hat on his pasty round head. He led us a mile away from the concert parking lot to supposedly meet the bus. No bus was parked on the dark empty desert highway and with the temperature dropping, we learned the tour bus company known as Big Daddy Buses was little more than a 19-year-old Santa, a couple friends and some random chartered buses. Somehow Goldenvoice – Coachella’s organizers – had OK’d them.
We’d been had.
Bloody thoughts filled our brains as we huddled on the side of the bile-black desert backroad, trying to grapple with the absurdity of the situation. Many of us could have hitchhiked back among the 45,000 people leaving Coachella had it not been for important valuables that many left on the phantom bus. The night crept on, the cold desert wind blew harder and we scanned the invisible black horizon for headlights, unable to surrender the fantasy of a cozy ride home.
We flagged down a member of the Indio Police Dept. around 4 a.m. The hefty, good-natured desert cop radioed his commander and a plain Crown Victoria rolled up. A woman – blond, in her 30s and appeared to be a leader in the police department in plain clothes – stepped out and surveyed our motley crew. God knows what we looked like. Anyone with more than two weeks in law enforcement could have taken one look at the 25 of us – dilated pupils, shifty, bleary red eyes, exposure, exhaustion – and known that a thorough search would have netted at least five or six felony counts of possession of something. Blood tests would read like the Physician’s Desk Reference.
Instead, the plain-clothes female commander took us to a warm elementary school auditorium and started shuttles to Jack in the Box. Santa and his people had been nothing but useless swine, but it was the so-called “pigs” who were feeding us and keeping us warm.
The sun came up. We waited longer and exchanged numbers so we could sue the living shit out of Big Daddy. A bus came at noon and we made it back to Santa Barbara by 4:45 p.m. – 14 hours late, hungry, exhausted, E-tarded and secure in the knowledge that I had an easy column this week.
It is now Tuesday and we’ve yet to get our stuff back. If there’s any moral to this story it is to completely avoid Big Daddy Buses, or any chartered buses whose owners lack facial hair for that matter. And don’t ever just say, “Fuck the pigs.” Too many people say that these days. Being a cop, like owning a concert bus transport company, is a job. Some people do their job well, and then there are the pigs.
Junior David Downs is the Nexus features editor. His column, The Low Down, appears every Wednesday, although we cannot guarantee he will always be this complimentary of the Thin Blue Line.