"You fucking idiot! What the fuck do you think you're doing? Do you like stealing other people's drinks, or what?" Here I am, standing on the second floor of a very loud party, getting flecks of spit on my face, and generally enjoying the unbelievably rich world of Formula One.
Everything is great but for the fact that I'm about to get murdered.
The problem is, while I'm having a great time, there's this stocky, 5'4" man in a very tight shirt who looks like he has every intention of punching me in the face until I start bleeding out of every orifice. He should know by the confused look on my face that I'm an intern. I know almost nothing about the world. But he clearly doesn't get it.
I'm a guest of Red Bull Racing at the Montreal Formula One Grand Prix, enjoying a free hotel room, free booze, free donuts, and all of the luxury associated with an F1 weekend. I've only been here for a few hours and already I'm at my second party. As an intern, this is as good as working for free has ever been.
Other than the guy who seems to want to murder me. That's kind of a bummer.
To get to this point I've squeezed though the throngs of well-groomed, standing men and the high-heeled, rhythmically-swaying women to get to the bar, so I can get myself a Heineken. The very nice bartender lady, though, is busy taking a picture of some guys holding a very loud woman in a very small dress across their arms.
I see the man next to me reach into a bucket filled with ice, some Red Bull, a single bottle of Bombay gin, and a huge bottle of Grey Goose. He starts pouring himself a drink out of said bottle. "Great!" I think, "This is one of those sponsored parties where all the drinks are free! I've been to these kinds of things before. I'll just pour myself one, too."
It turns out I have not ever been to one of these parties before. The man next to me has in fact paid an ungodly sum of money to get into this two-story party and get his own bottle of Grey Goose. This is called "bottle service." I've been to a few parties, but no one in my coterie has ever ordered bottle service so it doesn't click.
So I pick up some ice, plop them into a glass and begin to pour myself a drink when the man next to me, the aforementioned 5'4" screamer, begins to stare.
He asks, "what do you think you're doing?" I stare back at him. "I said, what do you think you're doing?" His friend, who towers over me at something past six feet, turns around. I'm already a little buzzed and I think this is some kind of joke. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum can't be serious, can they?
They very much are serious and the shouting begins. I try to explain how I thought the drinks were free. Everything was free at F1, I thought. What about my free hotel room and my free donuts?
It's at this point that my "handler" steps in. He's the Red Bull PR guy whose job it was to make sure I have a good time over the race weekend, and he is significantly more versed in the way that Formula One works than I. He knows the F1 driver who got convicted for a fight in a Chinese night club. He's been to Monaco a hundred times. He's met every fake tanned playboy and aspiring model. He's seen every yacht and every rich kid temper tantrum. He knows how to deal with this guy.
"He's stupid. He doesn't know what he's doing."
"HE KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT HE'S DOING!"
"Really, he's an idiot. He's never been to something like this before."
"ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!"
No, he's not kidding. I am an idiot. I don't know what I'm doing. I am in way over my head. I can tell you many things about Formula One. Its history. Its drivers. Its meaning in society. It's at this point I realize that I don't understand the culture.
Is the guy overreacting? Yes. Is it my fault? Absolutely.
My handler gets between me and the screaming shorty. The spit is flying on his face now. I figure it is wise to step back a few paces and clear myself of the argument. Wise decisions like these have kept me from getting my ass kicked on a number of occasions in the past, and they worked well that night.
I can't hear what they were saying to each other anymore. They're drowned out by "Pumped Up Kicks" and "Rack City" blasting at a million decibels. The shouting stops, my handler walks back to me with a face that expresses both complete disappointment in me, and a complete disregard for all the rich person drama of my accuser.
We push through the crowd back to our table, we drink more free drinks, and the night goes on.
As the weekend continued, every single person who saw me with my handler or wearing my VIP pass was nice to me. At the race, every crew member was nice to me, both from Red Bull and all the other teams. When I was just some snot nosed kid with a dumb face and a lot of questions, the rich hangers-on couldn't give a shit.
Yes, Formula One is filled with rich assholes who are only there to show off how much they make and act like they're the most important people in the world. People like this guy.
I have to admit, though, that it's fun to be a rich important asshole. At least until some dumb kid shows up and drinks your very expensive booze.
(Full Disclosure: As mentioned, Red Bull paid to send me to Montreal for the F1 race and paid for basically everything once I was there. I was sent because literally no one else was available. It was my last weekend as an intern and almost my last one on earth.)
Photo Credit: Getty Images (different parties pictured from Monaco and Milan), Raphael Orlove (my Montreal hotel)