Commentary by Nicole Jones


(CBS SF) — For $60 a car, you’d think parking lots could provide signage, and for a region preparing for a Super Bowl, there is a serious amount of logistical coordination to get straightened out to avoid over 3 hours sitting in traffic in a “Candlestick Park”-like moment. And did I mention the security guard fondled my sandwich? What contraband could I possible have smuggled in between two delicious pieces of sourdough bread?

First let me start by disclosing that I am not a huge sports fan, making the whole ordeal that much more of a bitter pill to swallow.

Here’s where it all began.

When invited to Saturday’s Chile vs. Mexico soccer game at Levi’s Stadium, I gave an enthusiastic “yes.” My husband and I, both Chileans, were pumped to wave our 5-foot flag among a sea of red and green Mexican jerseys.

It didn’t take long before our excitement turned sour — and not the good kind you make with Pisco.

Decked out in La Roja attire, we briefly glanced at parking instructions then piled into the car at 4 p.m., leaving Oakland with every intention of being “beers-in-hand” well before the 7 p.m. kick off.

We hit the typical stop and go traffic on I-880, but spirits were high, even as we merged onto Highway 237 and immediately hit another traffic jam at 5:30 p.m. Frustrated, I took an earlier exit, thinking it would save time. This would prove to be a disastrous mistake.

Hitting surface streets, we asked traffic cops how to get to our specific parking lot. Each time they gave us different, yet confident answers.

Searching for our lot, roadblocks prevented us from following the directions from the well-meaning officers. “No U-Turn” signs greeted us at nearly every intersection.

With conflicting directions and no parking lot signage, we were trapped in still another traffic jam, while serenaded by the sweet melodies of mariachi music pouring through open car windows.

Energy waning, we finally withdrew the arms that had been holding the Chilean flag out the right side of the car. Probably a good thing, since Mexico fans were none too eager to yield to a car full of cranky Chileans.

One hour, 15 minutes and dozen of Spanish swear words later, we parked.

We jumped out of the car and landed onto a lush, green golf course turned tailgating lot. The space cost us $60, bought last minute from Stubhub after Levi’s sold out of their $30 tickets days before.

Surrounded by sombrero-wearing, soccerball kicking fans, we chugged our beers while running to the stadium. I felt like I was in college again.

The Mexican anthem played as we arrived.  ¡Que m****a!

We and a few thousand of our new found amigos were going to miss the kick-off.

But that wasn’t the worst part.

After a 10-minute wait at the gate, security told me my palm-sized clutch purse–which the Levi’s Stadium website indicated was allowed–would not be coming in with me.

Refusing to accept that fate, I impulsively stuck it down my skirt in the most frantic “lady-like” way possible, while tucking my personal items in my armpits.

I smiled like an idiot, hoping security would take pity on me. This seemed to work.

Then came the sandwiches. Oh God, the sandwiches.

We had four peppered turkey and Swiss cheese sandwiches wrapped in foil. I had to individually open each one in front of the security guard, a young guy with the most apologetic face.

He “inspected” our dinner. In the process, his fingers grazed the bread. I was annoyed, but I was more hungry.

By the time I passed through security and the ticket scanner, I was sweating and nearly out of breath. I’d go through an airport security obstacle course 20 times before enduring that again.

We made it to our seats by 7:30 p.m. taken aback by the beautiful new stadium, glowing as the sun set behind the mountains. A large portion of the seats were still empty — even at a sold-out game. Still, we cheered Chile on and the back-and-forth between La Roja and El Tri was enjoyable, even though it ended scoreless.

(N. Jones)

(N. Jones)

We left as the game finished and found our car a “quick” 45 minutes later. I should have brought golf clubs, because we sat in that makeshift parking lot for another hour before making it out.

One disgruntled security guard told me Levi’s Stadium needs to, “…get their sh*t together.” Another tiredly asked how many cars were still behind us. It was 11 p.m.

Looking back, I would never give away precious weekend time to endure that kind of experience at Levi’s Stadium again — not for a long, long time at least, which given my extreme sports enthusiasm shouldn’t be a hard thing to resist.

But for all you die-hard football/fútbol fans, don’t let it hold you back from experiencing the new stadium for yourself — just be 100 percent prepared. Here are some tips to hopefully have a better time as they smooth out the kinks: