Hide out at Chipotle. Drive the getaway car. Make sure nobody sees you leave. As plans go, it seemed simple enough.
So began a Hail Mary three-hour drive across the Florida Panhandle toward Tampa last April. As a dad of a teenager, I’ve been asked to do far stranger things. As a ‘Swiftie’ household, it felt like a three-plus hour reprise from constantly hearing about Taylor. A perfect escape from it all: the pratting of bonus songs, TikTok live streams and friendship bracelets.
A last-minute price change landed seats on the floor — because grabbing handfuls of tissue paper confetti is more valuable than gold in Swiftie world, or so I’m assured.
The tickets were purchased at 7:27 p.m. from some random person on StubHub. Glitter filled the air in our rented Nissan Sentra as the kid swapped out cozy leggings for a shimmery skirt and top. She transformed into a Swiftie soldier, getting ready for combat.
7:36 p.m. The girls hop out while the car idles in a no parking zone outside of Raymond James Stadium. The silence then came into the car, gone were the distractions as I aimed the car for my hideout… literally, at Chipotle. Four hours later, I collected the fam and began the trek back to the hotel. The back seat was flooded with chatter as she recounted every detail. I was content that the sacrifice at the altar of Taylor was made, and for me it was enough.
The phone buzzed a few months later. “Taylor? Seattle?” I waited to read “jk,” but that salvation never arrived. Like a nightmare dressed like a daydream, we were apparently going back.The Swiftie siren’s song beckoned.
Resigned to my fate, I Google mapped out a Chipotle a few miles away from that stadium.
Then once upon a time, the planets, the fates and all the stars aligned, and Kid said, “Great news — there’s an extra ticket for you to go with us.” She’s clearly the architect, drawing up the plans, and I’m merely the pawn.
A road trip to Seattle affords us 12 fun-filled hours along Interstate 5 in a rented Toyota Corolla. If I learned nothing else, it was to leave the glitter in a car that I didn’t have to clean myself.
Nearing Lumen Field, I realized I was entering a faith-forgotten land. Parking near the stadium was going for $120. Fortunately, I called a taxi to take us there.
Sequins shimmering in the afternoon Seattle sun EVERYWHERE, like glitter on the floor after the party. Countless young women sporting brand new rhinestone-encrusted cowboy boots were as far as the eye could see. Those who made the friendship bracelets are trading them with strangers while waiting to go inside.
I wasn’t prepared for the pageantry. More bedazzled cowboy boots than I could count. The couples with the boyfriend wearing a ‘Karma’ t-shirt and his date wearing, ‘Karma is my boyfriend.’ Two tweens donning key lime green onesies complete with dog ears and tails.
My sole gripe would be the merchandise line, which I was told is also a dad’s duty to fulfill. Much to my surprise, the prices weren’t outrageously inflated. T-shirts weren’t a Walmart price point, but still a far cry lower than what I’d pay in Disneyland.
The surprise came after being in the line for more than two hours. As I neared the front, the reason became apparent: amateur shoppers. I am a tactical shopper, a fan of having a plan and finishing the job. Rather, my fellow Swifties would reach the counter, then proceed to either ask to see the sizing of several pieces, or phone a friend and get their merchandise order. More than a few did both.
Sticking to my tactical shopping, it took two minutes to walk away with a poster, a copy of “Midnights ‘Til the Dawn” edition — a concert exclusive, mind you —, a hoodie in the correct size and color and a t-shirt. All for $132, which again, could have been WAY worse.
The two-hour line did give me plenty of time to people-watch the parade of attendees dressed in honor of their favorite era, album or song lyrics. If nothing else, it made the time pass a little less slowly.
Taylor began with “It’s Been a Long Time Coming,” and to be fair she was correct. The pandemic prevented the last few albums from having a concert, having last toured in 2018. The tween, teen and carefree others dancing in the rows and aisles.
Some danced like they were made of starlight, others like their hands were tied, in homage to the “Reputation” song. The style aside, all along there was some invisible string uniting the masses. It was both an odd site and heartwarming to see how 73,000 strangers could so easily feel free to be their best Swiftie self without worrying what others may think.
It was difficult to overlook the hapless dads in the audience. Each stood out awkwardly as they did the dad sway in their khaki shorts and ball caps as they tried to fit in. A few cool dads can rise to the level of Taylor’s dad Scott, buzzing around the backstage on a Segway scooter. Most of us are out of our league.
Oh, scooters and Scooter. I was scolded for uttering that Voldemort-like name. My offense launched a monologue about the ‘stolen version,’ of how Swift was denied the option of buying her CD masters some time ago.
This then leads to another sermon about how the Taylor Version albums are the one, true anthem of a devoted Swiftie.
Taylor puts on a pretty good show, too. For a three-plus hour performance, I have to respect the energy Swift can maintain to sing, dance and engage her audience throughout.
As experiences go, this one was pretty good. Dad scores a win from helping connect the ticket to the concert to the kid. I didn’t have to sort through the Ticketmaster fiasco for seats, merely stuff a few bills into an envelope to the folks who invited us. While others may disagree, I also feel I blended in well enough. After all, I was issued a “13” tattoo on the hand and the bald head covered in glitter to ensure that I can still make the whole place shimmer.
A few weeks back, the phone dinged again, another text message. “Taylor? Toronto?”
Paul George is the copy editor at the Express. Follow him on X @paulGeorgePIO