Column Steven: Mythical birds

Not everyone is happy and relaxed at festivals. Which is all the more pity.

The bird’s wings are 20 metres wide and run from green, turquoise and blue, to gold. My destination is approximately at the level of the joint. A joint that would allow the bird, after a gliding dive and a gentle drop on the snow, to turn the wing into a compact, warm and soft blanket. If the bird had actually been able to move, that is. With my ski boots still on, I look at the stage for which the mythical bird is the backdrop. I’m walking around a festival in the French Alps. A true winter fairy tale. Having looked the bird straight in the eye for a moment – it did not budge – I dive into the crowd. Looking for the others. 

Behind the group of Indians standing with groomed and still perfectly intact hairstyles under a selfie stick, behind the proud Americans clad in an American flag, behind the dancers decked out like fantasy birds, under the flying French, Turkish and Israeli flags, the others are supposed to be somewhere ‘to the right’. Well, good luck to me!

There is a fine line between the ‘fantastic atmosphere of a human crowd with a shared passion’, and ‘an insanely crowded place’. From an international perspective, I’m pretty tall, but I don’t weigh that much, so elbowing my way through the crowd is not an option. Nor do I have giant golden wings. So I decide to deploy other important qualities. After all, what are the Dutch really known for, internationally? Exactly: tact, courtesy, and fine diplomacy.

I tap a colossal guy on the shoulder. “Sorry, might I perhaps pass?” I ask. The man stares at me with annoyance and contempt. “No, go somewhere else,” he says, as he positions his 100 kilos even more pontifically in front of me. I consider sarcastically apologising for my existence, but decide to refrain from commenting. The contrast between my politeness and his bluntness feels instantly comical: like a skit. The relaxed festival atmosphere, with its mythical birds, is having its way with me. I’ve reached my destination.

This festival is also a celebration of decadence. People come flying in from all over the world in their non-mythical fossil-fuel slurpers. For some, it apparently goes to their heads. I can’t imagine life is fun if you believe that you are more entitled to the shared festival space than others and get cranky at the inevitable confrontation with your expectations. At least my little student life, with its debt IV-drip, and a 30-hour bus journey keep me nice and grounded. Here is a tip for the angry gentleman: have you ever thought of adopting a lovely student loan? It would blow your mind!

Steven doing a Master’s degree in Economics and Policy and enjoys hitting the squash court. He is always up for a game of squash and a good conversation. You can email him here.

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