An Out-of-Line Usher Almost Ruins a Perfect Night
You know, things can fall apart so quickly.
My last few trips out to the park had gone so smoothly that I thought I should retire. Who needs to read a veritable love note to the Nats? That's what Stan Kasten's press conferences are for: the bus ride is a joy; the ushers are sainted; Ben's chili cures cancer; the food is nutritious.
OK, that lie is beyond even me.
But you get my point. After a month of working out the kinks, the stadium seemed to have settled into a nice, even rhythm. I'll spare you any reports of my dealings with Ticket Services; suffice to say that were nauseatingly pleasant and helpful.
But Saturday night, all that changed.
Showing off the park to friends on their first visit, I was quietly proud of our stadium. (Folks get damned proprietary about their teams and facilities, don't they?) The weather was perfect, the Nats seemed to have righted the ship, and the Milwaukee fans were downright OK (and blessedly underrepresented). I thought it was the perfect night to be showing off the stadium. When the Nats failed to come back in the bottom of the ninth, I didn't even really mind the loss. A friend settled back, sighed and said, "Let's wait a second and let them [the remaining crowd] get started."
Not a chance. An angry usher -- "my" usher -- flew down the steps to address those of us who'd stayed for all nine innings. But we couldn't hear his speech. He was too emphatic and angry to be understood. "The game is OVER!" and "You have to get out right now" were the only intelligible phrases.
I'll confess, I thought it was an act. Although he's not my favorite usher, I slip him a couple of bucks every game -- even though I'm pretty sure I've figured out where my season tickets are located -- and he hasn't seemed crazy. So I assumed it was a gag, or at the least a pointed joke to get the crowd started. But I knew that couldn't be right, not that soon after the game ended. I mean, three minutes after the last out hadn't led any other ushers to hustle the crowd out. Heck, a couple of players were still strolling off the field.
I started to say something, but a fan in the front row beat me to it. I heard him ask, in a relatively reasonable tone, "Can't we wait 'til there isn't a line?" That's when the usher moved from angry to abusive. He got agitated and leaned in toward the young man. Although describing the scene as "threatening" or "menacing" would be overstating it, I fully expected some after-game fireworks to break out, and we were way too close to the fuse.
It was uncomfortable, but my friends were good enough to laugh it off, with one rhetorically asking, "Do we have to leave while the PA announcer is still talking to us?" But we were all shaken, and it came dangerously close to ruining an otherwise perfect night.
I'll let you know in a future post how the front office responds to the upcoming complaint. A long line for some crappy food is one thing; shame on me if I choose that kind of "abuse." But an usher coming down into the section to angrily roust us -- while the echo of the umpire's last "out" was still rattling around the outfield -- is way over the line.
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