HETRICK: You gotta be civil on the long road out of Eden

October 23, 2010

Weaving down the American highway,

Through the litter and the wreckage and the cultural junk,

Bloated with entitlement, loaded on propaganda,

And now we’re driving dazed and drunk.

Been down the road to Damascus,

The road to Mandalay,

Met the ghost of Caesar on the Appian way.

He said, “It’s hard to stop this bingeing, once you get a taste.

But the road to empire is a bloody stupid waste.”

Behold the bitten apple—the power of the tools.

But all the knowledge in the world is of no use to fools.

And it’s a long road out of Eden.

—The Eagles

A few months ago, my in-laws asked my wife and me if we’d like to join them to see the rock band the Eagles at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Being of an age where we know many of the Eagles’ songs, we said yes. So at the hour dictated by Ticketmaster, my wife got online and bought five lower-level seats at $165 a pop.

On Oct. 12, our party of two 60-somethings, one 50-something, one-40 something and one 30-something hopped into my father-in-law’s car, grabbed dinner at Rock Bottom and headed for the show.

Inside, we found our seats—the best I’ve ever had for a concert at Conseco—and looked around at a massive crowd dominated by gray hair and bald heads.

Ever the commentator, I posted a message on Facebook and Twitter, asking my virtual friends to guess the average age for a performance by the Eagles—a band that dates back to 1971.

Responses flew in. Average answer: 52. My age exactly.

Shortly after 8 p.m., the lights went down. The two women in front of us, however, did not.

So when Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit took to the stage and broke into an a cappella version of “Seven Bridges Road,” we couldn’t see them.

Neither could some of the people in front of us. Nor some people behind us.

We could see only the gyrating silhouettes of one wide, swaying, beer-in-hand brunette and one hyperactive, off-the-beat blonde who apparently thought they owned the dance floor at a night club.

The band sang “How Long.” We wondered how long the women would keep dancing.

The band sang “I Don’t Want to Hear Anymore.” The women didn’t want to hear any more murmured complaints.

The band sang “Guilty of the Crime.” The women were still guilty of blocking the view.

About this time, the fellow sitting next to Dancing Brunette—a fellow fed up that his $165 had bought him nothing more than a close-up view of an oversized thigh that occasionally bumped his head—asked the women to sit down.

Dancing Brunette glared at him. I read her lips. She screamed: “I don’t want to sit down.” An argument ensued. She kept drinking and dancing.

Next, the man’s wife asked the women to sit down. The brunette screamed at her, too.

She screamed at my father-in-law.

She screamed at my mother-in-law.

She screamed at my sister-in-law.

She even screamed through “Peaceful Easy Feeling.”

All the while, she and Jittery Blonde danced.

Eventually, the fellow next to Dancing Brunette left to talk with security. The officer said he couldn’t do anything.

Frustrated, the man slumped down in his seat and watched The Thigh swaying inches from his face.

At one point, Dancing Brunette left to relieve her beer-sated bladder. We applauded her departure. Jittery Blonde kept bopping through her friend’s absence.

At intermission, the most-offended party and his wife got up and left. So did six people behind us.

I found the frustrated man and wife standing by the stairs, searching the arena for another seat.

I asked what had transpired. He said he’d told Dancing Brunette that he’d paid a lot of money for his tickets—and not for an obstructed view.

She said she’d paid a lot of money for her tickets, and had the right to dance.

The man and his wife told me they’d had it with concerts. They were tired of events where spectators talked through the entire show. And now this.

“We’re done,” said the man. “No more.”

Is it just me, or has Americans’ sense of entitlement mushroomed of late? Have we always cited our inalienable rights as just cause for trampling on others’? Have we binged so long on freedom that we’re willing to deny others their freedom—so long as we may charge ahead with our self-centered pursuits of happiness?

Such a thoughtless, polarized, isolated existence.

At the Eagles concert, everyone rose for the encore. As I peered over the heads of Dancing Brunette and Jittery Blonde, Don Henley sang “Desperado.”

“And freedom,” he sang, “Oh, freedom. Well that’s just some people talking. Your prison is walking through this world all alone.”•


Hetrick is chairman and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.


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