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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Voice DID Wear Me Out

Another post I'm finally getting around to: it was almost two weeks ago that I accompanied my friend Kurt as he went to the New York auditions for season two of "The Voice."

The "New York" auditions that were held at the Izod Center at the Meadowlands complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey, that is. The ones that required he be there at 7 am. And, as we are both financially challenged, there was no realistic way to swing a hotel. So we took the Greyhound bus from Philadelphia to the Port Authority terminal at 3:20 am. I had gotten up at 9:30 am the previous day. With SEPTA's overnight service the way it is, I had to leave my house well before 1 am to get to the terminal and not be rushed. I didn't bother to even try to sleep beforehand, and I couldn't sleep on the bus ride either, as I was not comfortable at all. The bus may have had air conditioning but it wasn't hitting me.

We arrived around 5:30 am and then had to wait for the first New Jersey Transit bus that goes by the Meadowlands. That would be the 6:50 am bus. Our one advantage was that, by being there that early, we were at the front of the line to get on the bus, and it was packed. Many people were using this route to get to the Izod Center, but we got to sit.

At about 7:05 am the bus dropped us off. Not in front of the Izod Center. Oh, no. That would have been convenient, after all.
It dropped us off closer to the New Meadowlands Stadium. As you can see from the first picture (click on all pics for larger views), it's not very aesthetically pleasing from the outside.

We had to cross the highway, on a pedestrian overpass that went into a parking garage, to get to the Izod Center -- see the second picture, which was taken at about 7:15 am. You can see the front of the line for the auditions to the right. By the time we got to the back of the line it stretched around three-fourths of the building.

The third pic at left shows where we were standing at around 8 am. We had moved one-fourth around. And it was ridiculously hot. That day was the hottest of the four days where our temperatures were near or above 100 degrees, with high humidity. We had plenty of water and, fearing that it would take all day, I also had a big bag of animal crackers to snack on. It was still rather unbearable. As you can see from the picture at right, some people decided to remove articles of clothing in order to try and cool off.

Even worse: a man with a bullhorn announced, as we were waiting, that no family or friends would be allowed into the building. I felt this was utterly ridiculous. The Izod Center has around 20,000 seats, plus all that floor space -- it's not like hockey and basketball games were taking place -- and certainly could have accommodated everyone somehow. I was sort of hoping that I'd overheat and have to be hospitalized, and then threaten a lawsuit for not being allowed inside during a heat emergency.

However, the line moved on a regular basis. Kurt said it was a much better process than when "American Idol" held auditions there a couple of years ago. We actually got to the front (pic at left) and he went inside the building around 9:30 or so. Meanwhile, those of us not auditioning had to stand around outside (pic at right).

The pic below shows a "cool zone" that was near the front of the building. There were (from what I saw) only two of these "cool zones" set up around the building. After a while, a van pulled up and some people set up a display where they gave away free samples of Vitamin Water. The crowd outside swarmed around it and kept emptying the bins as fast as they were filled, even though the bottles were warm because they hadn't been kept on ice before the van arrived.

I should also point out that a stand with a Mrs. Fields sign was set up, selling cookies (I assume) and bottles of water and soda. They were selling the water for $4.00 per bottle, so I can only imagine what they sold the soda for. There were two Coke machines across the street, at one of the entrances to the parking garage, and the 20-ounce bottles cost only $2.00. I badly wanted a soda (despite the big bottle of water I was carrying) but at first the machines refused to accept dollar bills and I had no change. Then another van showed up. This time it was the man who services the machines. He filled them up and they were back in business, and I had my soda.

So I sat, munching on animal crackers. drinking diet Coke (and water, when the soda was gone). I kept trying to read Entertainment Weekly but I was too tired. I couldn't actually fall asleep, but I wasn't awake enough to read. A little after noon, though, Kurt was finished his audition. Unfortunately, they didn't ask him back for a second audition. (Stupid "Voice" bastards.)

We went back through the parking garage and across the walkway to the area near where we were dropped off, and a few other people were there. The bus was running on an hourly schedule back to the Port Authority terminal. Then we saw, over on the other side of the lot, a bus pulling up. We all hurried towards it, and miraculously it was still there when we got there -- someone had to remove a stroller or something and it held up the driver. New Jersey Transit seriously needs to put up signs designating the drop-off and pick-up points for the buses at the Meadowlands. This was even worse than some of SEPTA's inefficiency.

We got back to the Port Authority terminal, had some lunch and took Greyhound back to Philly late in the afternoon. It was a cooler ride this time, but I still didn't really sleep. Once I may have dozed off for a minute or two at most. I got home and, even though I was tired, it was overridden by hunger, so I ate and watched the Phillies game. I felt like I was finally completely crashing around 9:30 pm -- 36 hours from when I woke up a day earlier -- but the game took just 2 hours, 18 minutes that night so I had no reason to stay up any longer. I couldn't tell you the last time I went to bed at 9:30.

Memo to The Voice, Idol, etc.: if you can't actually hold your auditions in New York City, hold them in Newark at the Prudential Center. It's like a block from the train station. Sooooooo much more convenient.

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