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My expectations were low.
I’d heard of the Erin Express, of course: The Philly tradition wherein participants wear green, drink terrible beer and Irish car bombs all day and ride a big yellow school bus to a bunch of bars. Oh, and if you take part in just the Erin Express, the bus is completely free. There’s also the yearly Running of the Micks, a bar tour that stops at bro bars and a strip club that culminates with a run up the Art Museum stairs. In Mayfair, you can catch the Shamrock Shuttle, which is basically the same thing.
I knew going in that this, er, “event” was going to be filled with tons of the worst people I’d ever met. But being the resident semi-recent grad at Billy Penn, I bit the bullet and agreed to round up some of my bravest friends. We’d channel our inner basic and drink all day on Saturday, so I could fairly review the mess that is the Erin Express.
(Ed. note: Anna, I’m so sorry.)
Here’s what I learned: The Erin Express is a sham. It was probably the worst bar tour I’ve ever been on, which is saying a lot because I once went on a bar tour that was exclusively hotel bars and pizza restaurants. (Don’t ask.)
Now the Erin Express gets a lot of hate every year, and understandably so. It’s estimated that thousands of drunken fools parade around the city in green on two Saturdays before St. Patrick’s Day, often with no consideration of the people or the city around them. But on top that, the Erin Express really isn’t even a good time. The crowds are ungodly, the lines are out of control and people somehow associate a day-drinking binge ferried by school bus bestows them the right to act like complete morons.
Our experience started out at Cavanaugh’s in Headhouse Square. Four of my friends and I got there at about 1 p.m. The crowd was totally manageable. We walked right into the bar, and then tried to pretend like it wasn’t raining and stood at an outdoor bar where we met this bartender in a classy outfit:
After having a couple beers and hanging out in the rain, it was on. A massive crowd of green-wearing douchelords descended upon this Society Hill block, all turned out in their corsets and their green tutus and their fake glasses. Our experience went from manageable to insane. Within, I kid you not, three minutes, the line had turned into this:
Alright cool, whatever, we’ll head to the next bar. That’s what makes the Erin Express so fun, right? You can just hop on a school bus with a bunch of other people who had been drinking since breakfast and make your way to the next bar. They were supposed to come every 15 minutes.
The bus never came.
After around 30 minutes, someone working the event confessed that a bus wouldn’t be coming any time soon. Maybe at all? Maybe not for awhile? Maybe to another location? So we hailed two cabs from Society Hill and made our way to the next stop on our tour: 39th and Chestnut in University City. I chalked the whole “no bus” thing up to bad planning, and was hoping that I could go into this bar tour and come out with a positive experience so I could report back to you all that it’s not *that* bad.
Did I say earlier that things were insane? Welp. Once we hopped out of the cab, I saw a crowd of what seemed like thousands of people with a median age of 20 who were running around in the middle of the street making out with each other and screaming.
Technically, we thought we had gotten in line for Drinker’s West. Apparently we were really in line for William Street Common. Oh well. After waiting in line for AN HOUR, we finally got to the front (after we’d met groups of people from Temple, Penn, Eastern Carolina(?), Penn State and not one person who wasn’t actually in college).
A guy in line near us pulled out his “ID,” handed it to the bouncer and got this reaction, with a laugh: “I’m just gonna hold onto this.” Then, our hero pulled out a second ID from his wallet and said “actually, can you use this one?” My God. Bless those bouncers.
At this point it was already 3:30, and — due to the insane waits pretty much everywhere — we were sobering up. I went up to the bartender and asked her if I could please have five car bombs for the group (I mean, when in Rome) and her response was simply: “No.” I settled for two pitchers of Yuengling. Inside the bar was fine, we were able to secure a table and dance to terrible music and it was all good.
After about an hour, I figured it was time to move on. One of my friends was in line for the bathroom (it’s important to note that he is 6-foot-2) and some punk in green thought it would be cool to jump in front of the long line for the john. When my friend told him that the back of the line was elsewhere, the kid responded in a completely measured and rational way: He punched my friend in the gut. And then was promptly thrown out.
We obviously left the bar at that point and walked out the back to Sansom Street where we were greeted by an outdoor bar/ drinking area. I was like, “Oh cool, it’s kinda like a beer garden!” Except everything was wet and tasted like Bud Light and there were port-o-potties everywhere. That didn’t last long.
At this point it was pushing 5 p.m. and the Erin Express would soon be wrapping up. Realizing I’d only been to two bars and had ridden the actual bus zero times, I ran out to get in line to catch the next one. After waiting for about 20 minutes, myself and a group of people walked up to a school bus and attempted to climb in. We were told the bus was no longer running.
I cut my losses, walked around the block a few times to locate some more shenanigans, and once I was soaked to the bone in the rain, I hailed a cab and went home. To recap: Number of times I rode the actual Erin Express: 0. Amount of time spent waiting in line for things: About 2 hours. Everyone was dressed like an idiot, my friend got punched in the stomach and I couldn’t stop running into people who were making out with each other’s faces.
It appears someone else had worse problems.
the police stormed in on me peeing in the chipotle bathroom yesterday #ErinExpress
— Amber Rose Cardullo (@AMBERCARDULLO) March 15, 2015
I don’t even know. Here’s a look at what some others went through:
Chronicles of #ErinExpress #NoBottleToTheHeadThisYear pic.twitter.com/IlPXcSHYoX — Foreign (@PrincessRadha_) March 15, 2015
No bottle to the head? Is that something that normally happens to you?
Accidentally ended up in the suburbs and this happened #erinexpress pic.twitter.com/XrMCZA7hR4
— Caitie DiBileo (@c_dibzz) March 15, 2015
Can someone come cuddle plz- I think I am dying and could use company in my final moments. #erinexpress #nextday #sleepy — Megan Rose (@meganrose93) March 15, 2015
SOMEONE HELP THIS PERSON, SHE IS DYING.
Believe you can & you’re halfway there. #ErinExpress #selfie #Philly pic.twitter.com/k6Ksq8FzeH
— aѕнley нendrιх (@_ashleyhendrix) March 15, 2015
Halfway to what? What does this even mean? What are you talking about?
“Is this bus going to Manayunk?” said the girl outside Fado to the driver of the eastbound 12 #ErinExpress — Colin Weir (@radiocolin) March 14, 2015
This epitomizes class.
A sea of green from today. Bonners was insane today #drinkitup #drunk #erinexpress #erinexpress2015 #erinexpressphilly #philly A photo posted by Courtney Brown (@beautifu1_bliss) on
Sea of bros, omg
It must have been really hard to have been pasted out.