I adore Christmas and all that it has to offer, but the Plaza Christmas light experience was an exception to that case.
In truth, it was overwhelmingly underwhelming.
I haven’t seen something this overrated since Terrell Owens last took to the field.
I do like, however, that the whole event echoes my sentiments on Thanksgiving: staging an overblown spectacle celebrating the end of a sub-par holiday and the commencement of the best! (Naturally, the best being Christmas.)
The barricades and uniforms seemed to confirm the hype, but when I looked a block over, the traffic resembled a slow Saturday evening.
Free-flowing traffic? Not what I expected after hearing that the Plaza lights drew enough people to fill six Arrowhead Stadiums. Anyone who has driven out of a Chief‘s game could debunk that outrageous claim.
Now, I know I didn’t have to go, but I did agreed to be Hearne’s evil sidekick for the evening while he captured the actual number of Plaza-goers. So I braced for the cold and accompanied five teams of UMKC statistic students atop the roofs surrounding the Plaza streets.
The shivering figures below became numbers as the undergrads counted into the night. Their notebooks filled with formulas and figures, most of which were foreign to me despite being well-versed in Calculus. Their methods stood in stark contrast to previous year’s one-by-one counting. One student even said that it’s "definitely better than making up a number."
I wonder what he’s hinting at. I’ll let the commenters decide.
Eventually the Halls rooftop became unbearably cold. Making matters worse, some moron attempted to rope off a "VIP section" complete with overpriced liquor and heat lamps. I couldn’t stand the sight of that while I stood without a jacket. So I descended the Halls rooftop to mingle with the groundlings. I wanted to see their reaction.
And I did. It was disheartening.
The frozen masses stood in anticipation. Some smiled. Most looked obligated. All would rather have been somewhere else, but waited to appease tradition.
Gangs of strollers encircled the street vendors where exasperated mothers fumbled for cash.
"We’re here to see the Christmas lights, and we’re going to have fun!" a woman screamed at her trailing toddler. Mucous and tears congealed on his rosy cheeks. Neither looked as if they were having fun.
I wasn’t either.
But while weaving through the densest portion of the crowd, the unmistakable scent of cannabis taunted my nose. Someone, somewhere was definitely having a good time. At least that made me smile.
But not as much as the God-fearin’, sign-wieldin’, soldier of truth who carried a sign declaring the end of days. I guess the love of Christmas lights knows no demographic.
In the final analysis, the lights went on as they do every year. The crowd ooed and awwed for a brief moment, then stampeded to their cars like cattle as they cursed the bitter winter air. Shortly after, the UMKC undergrads sought refuge in an open lobby to compile numbers, where a power-tripping rent-a-cop tried to kick us out.
We asked him how many people he thought were at the Plaza.
"I can see it bein’ 500,000. I’ve been here for six years!" he drawled through his crooked teeth. We chuckled and told him the real number. Oh, and the number from seven years ago. He shook his head in disbelief and retreated back inside.
I scrawled the number in my notepad. My frozen digits awkwardly looped those five long-awaited numbers:
Thank fucking God it’s over.