The nightmare of SXSW: a column


Illustration by Hannah Hadidi.

Sarah-Grace Sweeney

South By Southwest is actually my worst nightmare.

For some perspective, I am afraid of all diseases, doctors, immaculate conception, the germs on keyboards and of one day going bald. So I am afraid of a lot of things, and I have recently added SXSW to that list.

This is my third spring break in college, but I have not once stayed in Austin, mostly at the request of my adoring parents who want to shower me with gifts on my birthday, which is March 17. Really, they just want to ask me if I have any concrete career plans yet.

But here I am, staying for SXSW. What sounded enticing and exciting in November or December is now keeping me up at night.

People will descend upon the city in droves. Basically, I won’t be able to eat anywhere, drive anywhere or be in public at all.

I can picture it now: Every restaurant in Austin with lines out the door, visitors who read on Yelp that 24 Diner has really good chicken and waffles. Well, you know what? I was eating roasted vegetables from 24 Diner on a weekly basis before you got here and now what am I supposed to do besides save myself $11? 

I must, however, venture out to cover concerts with my press pass. After a recent Costco adventure, it appears my spring break diet will consist of black beans and corn tortillas.

Not only do crowds take up space at SXSW, they can become angry. Last year I read about hordes of people storming into venues through barricades and police. I just keep picturing the wildebeests stampeding over the ledge in “Lion King.” But I am not a Disney animated jungle cat and I will probably not survive a stampede!

Do you know what else comes with lots of strange people? A lot of strange germs. I don’t know what kind of sickness you have, and when we have to brush shoulders and breathe the same air at Auditorium Shores, who knows what sort of nightmare I could be inhaling?

I am also afraid of the sun. I often buy makeup labeled “translucent” or “barely there” and I don’t know how I am going to handle 12 plus hours in the sun when usually I am in the basement of a building editing this paper. I haven’t been out in the sun that long since I was probably eight years old and rollerblading on the driveway. Now we are back to my fear of diseases, for I will surely develop skin cancer and premature wrinkles.

Lastly, I am afraid of not seeing Justin Timberlake. While this may not seem like a legitimate fear since the rest of my list so obviously is, if I miss JT on his trip to Austin, I miss an opportunity to see perfection. My sole mission of this SXSW experience is to get a glimpse of that curly-headed, soulful, beautiful man.

SXSW will be the true test of my young adult life. If I can survive this, maybe I can survive telling my parents that my “career” is moving back in with them to East Texas.

Published on March 8, 2013 as "SXSW nightmare".