I don’t know if it’s an official thing, but having anxiety in crowds is definitely a thing. I’ve never really been a fan of large crowds, and it seems to be a bit worse as I’ve gotten older. Or perhaps it is worse since the world’s news has become closer to us and more in our faces. Maybe both. Since tend to have some low-level anxiety anyway, I usually have to talk myself into going someplace that includes crowds.
Case in point
Last year I received tickets to a Florida George Line concert as a gift. Several years ago they played at a backyard high school graduation party in New Hampshire I attended. That was before they were really known, so I was excited to see them since they had hit the big time. But as the concert neared, I became sort of indifferent about it. I had a babysitter lined up, but decided to put the tickets on Stub Hub and do something else instead. A friend and I subsequently planned to get together that night, and when we were talking about what to do I mentioned still having the concert tickets. So, we decided to go.
As it turned out, the concert was eleven days after the October 1, 2017 Las Vegas concert massacre (tickets received long before though). After that event, rational or not, I was pretty iffy about going. However, generally not believing in “letting fear win”, and the odds of anything like that happening still being slim, I put it out of my mind.
The opening acts came and went and then Florida Georgia Line came on stage. It was a fun show.
Until it wasn’t.
A few songs into the show, in the middle of the tour title song, Smooth, an alarm sounded throughout the arena saying an emergency had been reported.
You can see a video of it as it happened HERE.
It happened pretty quickly and the alarm seemed to be part of the show at first. But when I saw singer Brian Kelley turn and jog off the stage, followed by Tyler Hubbard and the rest of the band, I bent down to pick my purse up and said to my friend “we have to leave NOW.”
She had been sitting down so didn’t see the band stop singing and head off the stage. The emergency lights in the arena came on and it was a little smoky from the pyrotechnics in the show (which, spoiler alert, ultimately turned out to be the cause of the false alarm, but we didn’t know it at the time).
Everyone was Confused
People were confused, but there was no way I was sticking around. I did not want to get caught in the chaos of fifteen thousand people trying to frantically exit an arena. Plus, we parked at the top of the parking garage, so could get stuck THERE. Sitting ducks. No thank you. I was SO out of there.
We scooted by the standing people trying to figure out what was going on and were among the first to hit the escalator. As we booked it down, there was a sort of thud noise – we both heard it while we were trotting down the escalator – and it sounded like a gunshot. It was just one, but enough for both of us to pick up the pace, even as security people and volunteers told us to slow down and stay calm (Oh…ooookay). We burst out the doors, took our shoes off and ran as fast as we could to the garage and up the stairwell. We were out of that garage and on the road in no time flat.
What Just Happened??
As we drove away my friend called our families and my babysitter just in case they saw something on the news or the internet about it. We still didn’t know what happened and were both pretty freaked out.
Thankfully it turned out to be a false fire alarm caused by the pyrotechnics of the show. I know quite a few people who were there and who stayed for the rest of the show. But no question about it, I’d be out of there again, every time.
Tips for Controlling Anxiety in Crowds
Since I am not a fan of crowds, but am also not a fan of becoming a total recluse, here are some things I do to reduce my anxiety in crowds when necessary:
- Pay attention to how I got to where I am and note where I am in relation to exits. Having an idea of an exit plan helps to ease my anxiety.
- Pay attention to people and their behavior. If someone is behaving in a way that makes me uncomfortable, I move away from them and look for security. If I feel it’s appropriate, I notify someone.
- Pay attention to security – what they are wearing, where they are, that sort of thing. I make a mental note of those things. If something were to go wrong, I will know who to look for and where to start if needed.
- Pay attention to what you wear. I do not wear heels or shoes that can’t be either run in or kicked off easily. The same is true with clothes and bags.
- Remember that by far the odds of anything bad happening are low, but be willing to leave. I have been known to leave events for less apparent reasons than an actual alarm when something just didn’t feel right to me. Trust your gut and if it feels off, it’s off – even if it only feels that way for you.
What are some things you do to feel more in charge of your safety in crowds?