When I was younger, my family and I went to a New Year’s Eve party in the city. I can’t remember what year it was but it was long enough ago that I didn’t have a cellphone of my own (remember those days?).
Anyway, for some reason I let go of my mom’s hand in the sea of people at the countdown. Within a matter of seconds, I was lost in the crowd. A tiny young boy, all alone but surrounded by people. I wasn’t tall enough to see past the hundreds of heads around me to find her. There was nowhere to climb for a better view.
I cried my eyes out. Eventually I borrowed a concerned stranger’s phone to call my mom. Couldn’t get through to her phone (there were that many people in the area, the networks were overloaded) so that was futile. I had no idea what else to do. We didn’t agree on a meeting point in case any of us got lost. I didn’t even know the way back to the car to wait for them. I thought I was separated from my family forever. I can vaguely remember what that felt like.
I returned the phone, thanked the stranger, and started wandering around, looking for a familiar face. At this point, fireworks were going off, welcoming the new year. While everyone around me cheered and celebrated, I didn’t revel in their joy. I was just a teary-eyed boy stumbling through the crowd, lost and miserable.
I didn’t know how long it took, but by some stroke of luck, I found my aunt in the crowd. She didn’t even know I was missing! I held on to her until the end of the night when she brought me back to my family. I had never been so happy to see them again.
Because it all ended well, my family didn’t think much of it. To them, I had only disappeared for a brief moment. To me, at that time, it was one of the worst experiences of my life. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I was just a kid.
I’m not sure why I decided to recount the tale, but it came to mind today as I was making my way through a crowd of people at a night market. Was that incident so many years ago the first manifestation of my disdain for crowds? Possibly. At least it’s not so bad these days. I’m now tall enough to look over other people’s shoulders and I usually have a cellphone with me. I still stand at the back of the hall during gigs – not because I’m too cool to hang with other kids – I prefer the space a lot more.