Last year you woke up in an alley behind a drug store laying on a deflated Crocodile Mile, caked in wet confetti, and staring into the eyes of an agitated coyote. You were friendless, hopeless, and haunted by the nagging fear that you’d personally set back gay rights by about four months. With a scratchy, nigh-imperceptible whisper you finally choked out two solemn words: “Never again.”
Sure, your experience at last year’s Pride festivities could be fairly described as “interesting,” but this year will be different! Using little more than that tiny computer in your pocket as well as your community’s myriad free Wi-Fi hotspots courtesy of the friendly wizards at AT&T, this year you can experience your city’s Pride events with a minimum of social trauma (losing track of your friends) and a maximum of, uh, pride (finding someone to make out with). Here’s how!
Treat your phone like it’s the #1 item of value in your life, which it is. Whatever you wear, make sure there’s a pocket for your phone, because at Pride, PHONE = LIFE. Not only will you need it to coordinate your friends and maybe even make new friends, it’s also your camera, your diary, and your Inception-like totem that will assure you you’re not stuck in a fever dream. Consider bringing a futuristic wireless charger with you (to either charge your own phone, or to impress a babe-in-need), but keep in mind there may also be friendly restaurants, bars, or even designated tents offering to keep you juiced.
Even more important than a charged phone, however, is a phone that gets service. Crowded outdoor festivals are notorious for having zero reception and you can’t always count on the presence of mobile cell towers. Take advantage of the free AT&T mobile hotspots sourced in and around the event. If your phone doesn’t automatically detect these hotspots, an app like Free Wi-Fi Finder can lead you to one lickety-split. (What is a lickety-split?)
Use a messaging app that will make communicating with your friends actually tolerable. You and your crew may get separated repeatedly throughout the day, so your best bet to keep everyone on the same page is a messaging app that supports group chat. Things like SMS texts and iMessage frequently fall short in this department, so maybe it’s time for you and your friends to jump into the fancy, $19 billion world of WhatsApp! (Ironically, $19 billion is also what you’ll be spending on watered down drinks throughout the day.)
WhatsApp is one of those cross-platform deals that lets you send messages, videos, voicemails, and photos to an entire group simultaneously and without those pesky texting fees. Another surprisingly workable group messaging app is the ever-improving Facebook Messenger, which almost everybody has on their phones anyway. Finally, if your posse’s messages will be more inappropriate than usual (fingers crossed!), you can’t really go wrong with SnapChat, the app that instantly deletes messages after a predetermined amount of time.
Plan your day ahead of time, or at least get your most Type-A friend to plan it for you. Before you and your friends journey out into the wild, rainbow-hued unknown, take a look at your city’s Pride festival itinerary. Allow plenty of time for parking, entry lines, and getting situated before two of the members of En Vogue take the stage for their headlining performance. If you and your friends need to split up into different areas, designate an end-of-day meet-up spot beforehand. Most importantly, be prepared for impromptu changes of plan, weather surprises, and (fingers crossed!) an invitation to someone’s house party. House parties > crowded bars, every time.
Maybe ditch that car? The one thing most Pride festivities have in common is how thoroughly they screw up traffic. Blocked streets, gridlock, price-gouging parking lots. Plus, you know, driving while trashed makes you a law-breaker and a bad person. So leave your car at home and consider taking public transportation or maybe hiring an Uber, Lyft, or white Bengal tiger to drop you off within walking distance to the parade. (Uber and Lyft can be accessed with apps; a white Bengal tiger can be summoned via sorcery).
Use common sense. Like any major outdoor event, certain tips remain constant: Drink A LOT of water; avoid alcohol as long as possible (or at least until you’re out of the sun); never choose the first Port-o-John in the row; be mentally prepared for run-ins with exes and frenemies; be mentally prepared to meet the love of your life because every love story has to start somewhere.
Let’s do this! Although haters, self-haters, and contrarians may argue that annual Pride festivals are antiquated relics of a pre-equality world, that’s like saying we no longer need Christmas now that science has disproved the existence of Santa. We will always need Christmas because it is awesome and so are gay pride parades. This thing is OURS.
So let’s get out there, be proud of ourselves, avoid dropping our phones into daiquiris, and have the pride festival experience we all deserve! This is our year.
Price Peterson is a comedy writer and TV recapper from Los Angeles, California. His work currently appears on Vulture, TV.com, and The Atlantic Wire.