Lena does work for a woman here in town who owns her own marketing firm. We’ll call her Fran. Fran sits on the board of the local branch of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and they were recently sponsored by the Jacksonville Suns to come see a game. (They’re our baseball team. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of them… I barely know who they are.) Being a board member, Fran was allowed to buy a skybox at a reduced rate, and she wanted to invite a bunch of friends and work buddies to come too. She provided hamburgers, hot dogs, water and beer, all we had to do was show up.
Still… it’s baseball. I’m not really a sports fan anyway, and watching baseball is about as interesting to me as watching a bug zapper with the power out. Even when there is action, you feel a little stupid just for being there. But it was important to Lena, and I’ve always liked Fran okay… and did I mention the beer? I agreed.
The game was more than a month out, so I failed to connect the dots when Lena and I began our recent two-week vegetarian and juice “reboot” cleanse thing. (Basically you eat vegetarian meals for five days, have nothing but fresh juices for five days, and then another five days of veggie meals. It wasn’t horrible or anything, and it left us feeling great and about ten pounds lighter.) The day before the game I suddenly realized that beer was off the table. Nervously, I texted my brother, who watches a lot of sports. Not only was he not helpful, he made fun of me for agreeing to watch a baseball game sober. I was on my own.
Outside the game came the strains of a drunkenly played trumpet musically slurring the notes of Take Me Out to the Ball Game and a few other “America’s favorite pastime” flavored ditties to get everyone there in the mood… to drop money into his trumpet case. I was already a little grouchy over the beer thing and I really had to pee, so I ignored him as best I could while we waited for Fran’s intern to show up with the tickets.
There was a group of us who all went in together and wound our way up through the stands into the topmost levels of the stadium where the skyboxes were tucked away. Once I knew where we were I turned around and hit the bathroom I had spied on the way up. It occurred to me that the last time I had been to see a baseball game I had peed in a trough. This time there was a private thermostat for the air conditioner in the toilet stall. Hunh.
Back in the box, I looked around. There was a small glass table with a vegetable plate on it, (Fran had remembered us after all!) a kitchenette with a refrigerator full of drinks, hot plates with burgers and dogs and all the fixins, big, comfy chairs, a bar looking out the glass wall at the field, and stadium chairs outside in our own private little space under the roof with great big fans to keep us cool. I looked down on the folks in the July Florida sun with pity. Well, maybe something similar to pity. Okay, I was pretty snide about it, but those people were all drinking and I needed something to make me feel better. I settled in outside and prepared to watch the game.
There were several rounds of announcements before the game, during which we learned several interesting facts about types of honey and gave some flowers to a woman who had sat in the lucky seat. Eventually we got to the first pitch of the game, for which only the catcher felt the need to show up. “Of the game” is one of those polite euphemisms… like “Spot went to live on a farm” or “just the tip.”
Some woman no one had ever heard of threw the first pitch to the catcher, (“to” being another of those euphemisms) who tossed it back. Next some other woman no one had heard of threw the second first pitch “of the game” “to” the catcher, who tossed it back again. Then some guy who the people that had actually showed up to watch baseball knew threw in the third first pitch, this time actually in the catcher’s direction… and then we were off…
After the anthem and another announcement from one of our sponsors, the players took the field and began doing baseball. Two minutes later, we broke for more commercials, a race between a child and several furries, a song about car wax, and a can-can line of high school cheerleaders. One of the baseball players waved his hat at us from inside the dugout, and the announcer screamed that it was time for everyone to get out of their seats and twist.
I decided it hadn’t been that long since I’d been to the bathroom.
Barely a half-hour in, and everyone I passed on the outer concourse was staggeringly drunk. I glowered at them. Two grown and doubtlessly homophobic (as all good, red-blooded American men are) were nevertheless walking each other to the bathroom and giggling like inebriated three hundred pound schoolgirls. I considered tripping them down onto the parked cars below us, but I wasn’t certain they’d have the inertia to make it over the railing. Then I would have just kicked two drunk fat guys. That didn’t seem as much fun.
When I returned there was another race going on, this time between young men dressed as cars. I turned away from the following beer commercial to see what everyone else in the box had gotten up to. Three hours in and we were just about to start the seventh inning. (As soon as we heard a word from our sponsors, danced with the cheerleaders, played another round of honey-trivia, and learned a few fun facts about internal combustion engines from a local automobile mechanic’s shop.) They were all inside yakking, not even pretending to watch the damn game, and marveling over Lena’s new sneakers. I looked down at the two clowns on the field trying to get their side to yell louder for Tropicana Orange Juice and said to hell with it. I was goin’ inside.
Once in, I quickly fell into the rhythm of the conversation about so and so’s new baby and this person’s creepy neighbor, and began having a really good time. There was a television showing everything that transpired on the field below, but at its smaller size I found it much easier to ignore. This was where the really interesting stuff was happening…
… and then ten minutes later everyone decided to go home. I had to laugh as folks picked their stuff up and got ready to leave. (I really laughed at one fellow who was taking the burgers home to his family and dropped the same patty not once, but twice on the floor before finally listening to his wife and putting it in the plastic bag the buns came in. They decided that the three-second rule resets each time you drop the meat, instead of being cumulative.) We all hugged or shook hands according to the red-bloodedness of the person we were saying goodbye to, and took our leave. The last thing I heard as I left the intelligible radius of the stadium sound system was a warning about replacing outdated pvc plumbing underneath your house.
Damn. That reminded me. I needed to pee again.