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D.G. Kaye,  Gratitude,  Memoir Bytes,  That's Life,  Travel reports

#Memoir Byte: -Not Far From The Maddening Crowd – The Day I Thought Was My Last

New Year’s Eve, approximately 10 years ago while in Las Vegas, Nevada, we had tickets to partake in a New Year’s celebration with dinner and dancing at a fabulous restaurant in the Planet Hollywood hotel right next door to the Paris Hotel where we were staying. We thought it would be convenient to celebrate the new year close by our hotel because it was conveniently located and didn’t require a cab on one of the craziest traffic nights in Las Vegas to get there. But something we almost gravely over-looked was the much anticipated wait for what seemed liked thousands of people setting themselves up for the planned daredevil stunt of Evel Knievel’s son to cross from one side of the huge Las Vegas Boulevard  to the other on his motorcycle across a tightrope.

 

Our reservations were for 8pm, so at 7:30pm we began our – what should have been a 10 minute walk from hotel to hotel, but once we got outside we were presented with a dilemma.

Once outside, we saw the yellow caution tape and guardrails were all in place. Our hotel and the one we were heading to next door had been blocked off as well as much of Las Vegas Boulevard. No pedestrian could pass through the blockade to walk next door as the crazy stunt show was being prepared for. The Las Vegas strip was blocked off for blocks so that no car traffic would clog the streets where pedestrians usually stand with drinks in hand to take in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve, already packed with spectators. The only way we could get next door was by crossing the multi-laned boulevard, walking down a long few blocks in order to cross back and walk back up to our destination – only the streets were filled with thousands already awaiting the deadly stunt. There was no way anyone could humanly cross through the stampede of people.

We stood in amazement surveying the crowded street, wondering how on earth we could plow through what seemed like a giant can of sardines growing tighter by the minutes. From my vantage point it seemed as though people barely had enough room to stand in one spot with barely enough room to keep their two feet both on the ground, holding their drinks high above their heads because there was certainly no room for arms length. Either many people were going to be wearing those drinks or one little shove by anyone would set off a domino effect of everyone falling and then being trampled on.

The crowd was rambunctious. My anxiety escalated by the second. We had yet to attempt to cross the road, fearing there was no room to walk through and nobody was letting anyone in their reserved standing space for fear they may get pushed back from their coveted spots. There was literally no room left for another body to squeeze onto the boulevard.

Many police were on the scene doing their best to maintain crowd control, constantly blowing whistles and reminding people not to come near the guard rails, which also guarded the police in safety from themselves not being bulldozed over by an overwhelming amount of people. All we wanted to do was get across the street and it was apparent if we were to get to our venue, we had to attempt getting through that crowd.

I’m a claustrophobic person, and the sight of what we had to endeavor just to cross almost paralyzed me with fear. Somehow, my impatient husband finally grabbed my arm and linked it tightly and said it was time to plow through.

We began our trek. After nearly half an hour of desperately pushing through people while chanting a thousand ‘pardon mes’, we barely managed to cross one lane and we were stuck. This prompted my husband to become exceptionally aggressive using his elbows to attempt to make space for us to pass while pushing and shouting out loud, “We don’t want your spot, we just want to cross the street,” repeatedly. I struggled to keep hold of his arm as I tried to breathe. My 5’2″ stature made me feel as though I were a doll stuck among a sea of giants and as my anxiety elevated I began to hyper- ventilate with visions of dying right there from lack of oxygen. The crowd was getting rowdier and had no compassion for anyone standing in their way.

I was sure I was going to die that night in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard. My fear peaked to the max and I knew in that moment we weren’t going to make it, so I screamed. I shouted at the top of my lungs, “Help me, I’m having a heart attack.” This wasn’t far from the truth as I truly felt I was about to have one. I shouted over the crowd so the police could hear me. And just like one of God’s miracles, a policeman blew his whistle and within a few minutes he’d cleared a narrow path with some other police, grabbed me and pulled me and my husband to a safe spot across to the side of the street we were aiming to get to.

Oceans of tears spilled down my face in relief as the policeman brought the paramedics over to me. I was so flustered and could barely talk but managed to let them know I had recently had open heart surgery as I pulled open my coat to expose my scar so they didn’t think I was lying about heart issues. This was not a lie as I had the surgery two years prior. Yes I screamed heart attack as it was the only option I saw for us to be saved, and surely if I didn’t, I would have had one anyway.

The paramedics wanted to take me to the hospital until I explained what happened and why I was driven to scream for their help. They checked my vitals, gave me a bottle of water and asked me to sit down for a few moments to bring back down my blood pressure. Then they wished me a Happy New Year and let us go.

We walked down 2 long blocks before we could safely cross back across the boulevard – without the crowd, and walked to the restaurant, almost an hour late for our reservation.

I should have listened to my internal warning alarm and sacrificed our evening plans, but I didn’t and learned the hard way how easily people can die in a crowd. If I hadn’t had the good sense to scream ‘heart attack’, I’m almost certain I would have had one anyway.

We were meeting my hub’s daughter and son-in-law at the restaurant. When we finally sat down, they asked, “What took you guys so long.”

Have any of you ever been stuck in a mob crowd?

 

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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.

47 Comments

  • Jane Sturgeon

    So hard to ‘like’ this, my lovely. I have never been stuck like that, but I ‘felt’ your fear and the sense of having started, so you have to change it somehow. I think you did the only thing possible…wrapping you in <3 Nevermind, that this is a memory, may your heart be able to release the fear. <3 my unicorn buddy <3 xXx

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much my Lovely Jane. Although it was 10 years ago, my toes still curl just remembering that night. 🙂 Love and hugs back!!! <3 xxx

  • Norah Colvin

    Oh my goodness, Debby, what a horrific experience. I’m so pleased you survived. I would have had a heart attack, or a panic attack too. I’m pleased you got to meet up with your Hub’s daughter and SIL. I hope your meal was enjoyable and that the rest of the evening was uneventful, and that Evel Knievel’s son survived too.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Norah. Knievel succeeded his mission, the massive crowds loosened up after the jump, which we could actually see from the window seat in the restaurant we finally made it to. I don’t even remember the food, but mostly the alcohol consumed after that fiasco, lol. When we left, we just walked easily next door back to our hotel. I still cringe when I think of that night. 🙂 x

  • Hilary

    Hi Debby – that would scare the pants off me … and I would not have tried to get across … but then seeing you were meeting hubs’ daughter and her husband – there wasn’t really any choice. So glad you got through … sounds extraordinarily horrible – I hate crowds … this post has unsettled me! I’m fine .. .just glad it wasn’t me – all the best – Hilary

    • dgkaye

      I’m glad you’re okay Hilary, and sorry to startle you. But I guess my story was told well enough to move you, lol. Seriously though, you couldn’t pay me enough millions to ever think of doing such a thing again. 🙂 x

  • Marian Beaman

    What a story . . . with a very pragmatic (clever!) solution to your problem., Debby. As I’m writing this I have a picture of people waiting to get into Walmart on Black Friday getting tramped to death in the hordes.

    You survived though!

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Marian. I gave up Black Friday shopping years ago with thoughts of those overwhelming crowds and line ups. But even so, those days of crazy shopping in crowds paled in comparison to the nightmare we lived. 🙂

  • Hugh Roberts

    Just reading your story had me coming out in a cold sweat, Debby. I dislike crowds, yet I still lived and worked in a big city. However, I avoided crowds at all cost. I always went to work early and came home early or a little later if work was really busy. Had I been in your shoes, I think I would have turned back and gone back into the hotel I’d just come out of, and gone straight to the bar and ordered the most expensive cocktail on the menu.
    I couldn’t help but laugh with the question you got asked by hub’s daughter and son-in-law when you finally arrived. I would have paid to have seen your reaction.

    • dgkaye

      Lol Hugh, no kidding! They had no concept that we wee fighting to survive just to get there. And that was probably the time just before I lost a lot of my gumption. I used to be fearless, but the last decade or so my claustrophobia has increased enough to even keep me from driving on the over crowded streets here. <3

  • Pete Springer

    How horrific! Thank you for your courage in sharing something so personal, Debby. It sounds like the worst nightmare for a claustrophobic person to endure. The fact that you survived this experience and open heart surgery must mean that you have many stories still to tell.

  • Robbie Cheadle

    A truly horrible experience, Debby. I hate crowds and avoid them like the plague. I would have sacrificed the dinner plans and nothing my hubby said would have dissuaded me.

  • John Maberry

    Scary story! I feel, but can’t say I’ve ever experienced your pain.

    I’ve had more mob crowds in vehicles leaving events than while on foot. Events like concerts, games, etc., along with the regular rush hour traffic in my former urban environment in the DC Metro area. Still, the pre-vehicular hassles for the preceding event-related packs of people were frustrating–just not as traumatic as your situation.

    I actually once went to the New Year’s Eve spectacle in Times Square (aged 17) but made it home to New Jersey unscathed. As we got older, we tired of crowds and mobs–and attended fewer large events. Part of the reason why we moved to a small town. Here there is no traffic and the annual blues festival attracts no more than 400-500 people.

    • Miriam Hurdle

      John, my hubby, some friends and I went to a Elton John concert. It would have been crazy to fight through the crowd to get back to the parking, and wait in traffic to leave. Whenever we go to concerts, my hubby always leave before the encores and tried to be the first one to leave the parking lot.

  • sally cronin

    How absolutely terrifying Debby.. I am afraid that I don’t do crowds and you were far braver than I would have been and I am considerably taller than you…I avoid cities for that reason too now… so pleased that you had the forethought to shout what you did and it might well have been the case if you hadn’t.. ♥♥

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Sal. I’m not sure about sense, but that old flight and fright syndrome was in full gear within and as I panicked for lack of oxygen, that was all I could think of. It may well have saved our lives!
      And I knew we’d travel well together as I became overwhelmed by crowds not long after. And driving, oh that’s another whole thing, lol. <3 xx

  • Miriam Hurdle

    You were brilliant, Debby for shouting ‘heart attack.’ I could imagine the kind of crowd in Las Vegas. No, I haven’t been in that crazy crowd but was in many crowds where I didn’t have control but just let the crowd push me. Luckily, I could handle crowds and if I don’t have a deadline, I could go with the “flow.”

    • dgkaye

      Thanks again Miriam. I too have been in many a crowd over my time on earth, but nothing like this where there was nowhere to push to.

  • Stevie Turner

    Debby, we are so alike it’s uncanny. I had a similar experience on New Year’s Eve 1999 when Sam and I and our then two teenage sons went up to Edinburgh to take part in the festivities there. Close to midnight we decided to head up to the castle to see the fireworks, but instead found ourselves in the middle of a huge crush of people all pushing and shoving as they tried to get to where they wanted to go. I started to panic, but my eldest son, then 18, went into aggressive mode and shouted at me to hang on to him. He elbowed everyone out of the way so we had a clear passage through to an empty space where I could sit on the pavement and relax. Never want to be in that kind of situation again.

    • dgkaye

      Unreal! Your story gave me goosebumps because it triggered the memories again of what I felt when I couldn’t move or barely breathe. Yes, I think we must have been friends or relations in another life, lol. <3

  • Diana Peach

    I avoid crowds like the plague, Debby, so I’ve never been stuck in a mob. I rarely even go to cities because of all the crowd stress. I’m not surprised that you were so resourceful in that awful situation. I’m glad that you got through it okay.

  • Sue Dreamwalker

    My sister suffers with claustrophobia Debby and I found myself breathing faster myself while reading this, I could almost feel the panic.. Not a good place to be, and I felt your anxiety.
    Thank goodness you had the presence of mind to shout Heart Attack and thankfully you were rescued..
    I hope never to experience such crowds.. Sadly throughout the world many people do die in such maddening crowds..
    Loved your descriptive narrative Debby..
    Hope you are having a good week.. 🙂 <3

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much for dropping by and adding your take Sue. It was truly a horrifying experience to gasp for air and look in front at a maddening crowd, wondering if you’ll survive. I think I did the only thing I could that most likely saved us. <3 xx

  • lisa thomson

    oh, my gosh, Deb!! What an absolute nightmare. You were thinking on your feet to yell for help. I can see how this crowd could get out of hand in mere moments. I hope you managed to relax once you sat at your table for dinner though it would be hard to recover so quickly. This is an example of one of the reasons Vegas isn’t my favorite place. I do enjoy the shows and shopping but the crowds are tiresome after a few days lol, never mind being stuck in one!

  • Elaine Mansfield

    Wow! How terrifying. I haven’t been in a crowd like that for years. I think of the 1960s in anti-Vietnam War protests in NYC and Washington, DC or maybe at some rock concert or other. Also big Hindu New Year’s Celebrations with presses of people, fires everywhere, and elephants and cows in the singing crowd. There was zero crowd control, but somehow I felt safe. On New Year’s Eve, I’m usually tucked in my warm bed with a book before midnight–a tradition begun long ago with Vic. I’ve never felt happy or relaxed in Los Vegas or Reno and now less than ever. As you might guess, my favorite celebrations are in the forest with flowers and birds.

    • dgkaye

      I can well imagine where you are most comfortable with nature, Elaine. I too have been at mobbed concerts where the crowds looked almost threatening, but nothing like this incident. Also, the last few years, we have done the quiet thing too where we just stay home and watch New Year’s Eve on TV, or spend with dinner with a couple of friends. The skyrocketing days of wild parties have mellowed out, lol. 🙂

  • Pamela

    Oh my gosh, Debby, I was holding my breath and getting close to an anxiety attack reading your Las Vegas nightmare-but-true story. I am highly claustrophobic (as opposed to lowly claustrophobic? well, you get my gist). I think I would have been like you, though, and figured we could squeeze through the crowd so we wouldn’t miss our reservation. And I applaud you for your smart answer to getting out of a horrible situation. It’s a step up from shouting “Fire!” Actually, it’s much smarter, because with FIRE you could have caused a crowd panic. But just acknowledging that you, one individual, was having a health problem, helped you get out of something that could have become much worse for you. Yes, I’ve been in situations where I’ve been panic-stricken with claustrophobia. One was taking a subway on New Year’s Eve in Boston to walk around the city’s “First Night” exhibits. I yelled “get me off!” and somehow the subway stopped and I ran out, my guy running out with me. Thank goodness, since I had no idea where I was. Oh, and I did that once on an airplane just before we were supposed to take off. ;-0

    • dgkaye

      Wow Pam, so I am not alone with this crush claustrophobia! Also glad you didn’t try and stop a plane in motion, lol. I think you and I would be a total force to reckon with lol 🙂 <3

  • Darlene Foster

    What an unpleasant experience. I usually don’t mind crowds but that would have been a bit much. You would have thought that the hotel would have warned people. I’m only 5 feet tall and am claustrophobic so I’m not sure how I would have managed. Not sure I would have been clever enough to shout heart attack. Good for you.

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    Debbie! What a horrific experience! I hate crowds for all the reasons you so eloquently describe! My desire to be in crowds has changed over the years, but that really bordered on dangerous mob! Funny twist, last winter while in Las Vegas, the weekend after New year’s, we camped with our trailer in Sams Town RV park, steps from the casino. Friday was seafood buffet and I was concerned we needed to get in line early to beat the inevitable crowds. We got there at 4:55pm and saw that there was no one in line. I thought we were in the wrong place but the hostess simply said that the holidays were over and it’s a slow weekend. Made my day! I’m catching up with blog reading…my surgery went well and I’m enjoying my downtime!

    • dgkaye

      Hi Ter! Yay, I’m so glad surgery went well, and look at you – already back in blog land LOL. I think most of us lose a certain brevity with things as we age, lol. I could never survive those shenanigans at this point in life.
      And wow, I didn’t know Sam’s had an RV park! What a fun way to travel. And yes, before we started going to Arizona, we went to Vegas 2 or 3 times a year for a getaway, often at non peak season and was quite surprised to see empty casinos and stores and uncrowded restaurants. Best time to travel. 🙂 Wishing you a speedy recovery. <3 :)

  • Deborah Jay

    Gosh, that sounds absolutely terrifying! I don’t do crowds at all well, I get really claustrophobic, and feel very ill.
    I think if I ever get caught in a situation like you describe (so vividly, it made me feel uncomfortably like I was there, right alongside you!), I’m going to remember your tactic, and steal it!
    Not that I have a scar to prove anything like you do, but I reckon I’ll have the heart rate and blood pressure to back up the panic attack, which is what I would most certainly have.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Deb. It was terrifying and I wrote it as I remembered every emotion of fear I was living. Yes, if you ever feel like you’re in danger, scream something – heart attack, fire, whatever it takes! And I’m astounded to learn from comments here, just how many writers are claustrophobic! <3

  • Jennie Fitzkee

    My heart is still pounding as I type this because like you, I am claustrophobic. I can definitely imagine the sheer terror you felt. I would have done the same thing, or clawed my way… or God knows what else. It is a terrible thing. I remember having to get an MRI and go into the machine. Double the amount of Valium prescribed to me, and I still could not do it. Thanks for telling us this story, Debby.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Jennie. I’m astounded to learn from comments here just how claustrophobic many of us are here! And OMG, I had my first MRI 2 months ago.I took the Valium and the advice from my sister – don’t open your eyes. Thankfully, I sailed through it taking her advice. 🙂 xx

  • Liesbet

    What a nightmare, Debby! I felt suffocated just reading through your experience. And so ironic that you only needed to get next door. Bad timing, I’d say. Or, bad location.

    Crowds aren’t my thing either. While I used to enjoy festivals at a younger age (and in Belgium the spectators are less civilized than in North America) , now not so much anymore. Unless we can take a blanket or chairs and relax.

    You are very creative when it comes to “getting what you want” or where you want! 🙂 These memoir bytes are my favorite posts!

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Liesbet. I think it’s clear by comments here that many writers are claustrophobic, lol. Perhaps it’s because we’re all used to being alone so much as writers? Not sure about creative, but when forced against a wall – survival! 🙂

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