"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Draw of the Crowd

Dear Doris
Her name was Doris - if I remember correctly. It was just last night, but brain overload prevents proper facilitation and correct function of said organ. I’m not sure who or what she was or even why she is what she is. She certainly wasn’t an Indian and I am not sure what she had to do with Indians or baseball or any of the other activities that were taking place. But she was a very good entertainer. She seemed to be some sort of dinosaur, with a turquois tail and head, and soft dog-like paws.
Otto was also there. Not sure what or who he was either. And then there was Mr. Recycleman…or something close to that name. He was a super hero with a mask, cape and dancing shoes. Again, the brain isn’t working well enough to remember the correct names, but his job was also to entertain, as well as encourage recycling, I assume. He did both.

We were at a Spokane Indians baseball game; and it had been long enough since I had attended any sporting events such as this, that I was clueless to a lot of the activities that were going on and the meanings behind them.

Do they still call costumed icons like this mascots? I don’t think so. I don't know; I thought mascots were supposed to fit the theme of the name of the team. These were more like cheerleaders to liven up and entertain the crowd. They did a really good job at it, too.

I was tired and I hadn’t really wanted to attend. But there is one thing I like less than the thing I hate most – that being driving Highway 95 to the city of my youth – hated more, is turning down an opportunity to be with my son.  So, when I found out he had a ticket available for me, too, I just couldn’t say no.

After already being in town and experiencing a less than successful day, I was headed slowly home, via the backroads trying to decipher the texts that were coming in. Am I going or not?  I kind of wanted to know before I got all the way home.  No such luck. Strike one. I had just walked through my front door, when I got the text. “Yes, stay in town, and we will have dinner before we go to the game.”

“I’m already home. But I will brush my teeth and be there as soon as I can”, was my reply. So I did an about face and headed back in - a bit revived, but barely. I met my son for a lovely dinner and conversation. With his busy schedule, there hasn’t been much time for that, and I relished the time to catch up.

Then on to meet the others so that we could head to the game. I’m sure I wasn’t the best company. What had started with a crummy night in ER, had moved directly into morning light with what felt like a little red devil with horns and a sharp pointed pitchfork stirring a smoldering fire just to see what kind of additional chaos could be brought to the smoke that was already present and suffocating all comfort or joy. My brother used to describe things like this as “Chinese Torture”, where nothing is really so bad on its own, but the build-up and continual occurrence of small annoying things finally take their toll on ones emotions and physical strength. Such was the case for me on this day. A sleepless night, waking to a choking horse; interruptive phone calls due to prior negligence of a hired party; lack of understanding and ability to communicate; grasshoppers (yes, I know they could have been locusts! Thanks for the encouragement!); a continued lack of much needed rain and more appointments in town led to my overload. And I failed. Big time! We all know where failures land in the grand scheme of things…at the top of the list, undoing everything that ever might have been done right.

Whatever. Sorry if that sounds like a pity party. I am describing my mind set of the day for a reason. I’ll get to the good stuff in a minute.

So, that brings me back to why I was less than good company on this particular day, at this particular event. We headed into Spokane with what I thought would be plenty of time, but I was wrong about that too. We missed the National Anthem. Now I don’t like being late, but I really don’t like missing what I view as one of the most important things of the entire event. Strike two.

We settled into our seats, and I was kindly offered the outside seat because someone remembered my claustrophobic issues in stadiums such as this. It was a very pleasant environment though. The seats were comfortable, the temperature right, and the crowd was very respectful, and upbeat.

But I was tired. Truthfully, I still didn’t feel like being there. I am always quiet at times like this. And tonight I simply didn’t have the energy to participate. In fact, I fell asleep for roughly the 4th 5th and 6th innings. I remember the 7th Inning Stretch. So, I know I at least woke up for that, but I didn’t feel well enough to stand and stretch. I must have periodically been awake throughout the game because I remember watching in pure amazement, as I saw my son fit into this crowd. He was a pure joy to be around. He joked with the mascot/cheerleaders and took photos of the field. He took part in the ever prevalent “high-fives” which were continually moving throughout the stadium. He took charge and got me Band-Aids from the appropriate source when I complained of the blisters on my feet, and the healing toe that I had stubbed once more by kicking into the railing when I tried to sit down. He joined in the chants of the crowd, when prompted by what some might consider silliness. It was silliness, but he made it fun and it was an essential part of this experience of American hometown baseball. He enjoyed absolutely every moment, of every facet of this event. He teased the people we were with, and made each of them laugh. He bought drinks, and kettle corn, and made sure everyone had exactly what they needed to be comfortable. “Red Vine!” He shouted. "Coming right up", was the answer. And most of all, he let me sleep!!

Now truthfully, in spite of my mood, I was paying close attention to what was going on around me…the game, not so much. But the environment created by the employees, was above and beyond the call of duty. I could tell these people really were enjoying their jobs. They were not just acting. I watched Doris, and Otto and Mr. Recycle Man work the crowd. They signed autographs and stood for photos with fans. They laughed and danced and catered to every need.  They gave special attention to the little kids, and old people, but they really lit up when a handsome, strapping, 22 year old male joined in their fun. I am sure a response from those of this age and gender made them feel they were accomplishing their assigned task and doing it really well. One thing I have learned over the years, encouragers need encouragement too. My son had grabbed their spark and fanned the flame.

At some point Doris came over to interact with my son and his friends. She came over and specifically targeted the two males in our group. They all got a good laugh, but apparently Doris hadn’t had enough. She pretended she was leaving and then came back for more, catching them both off guard. The three of them had some good fun. I watched from the corner of my eye, but avoided all eye contact. I didn’t want to get drawn in where I had to put a fake smile on my face and pretend I was having fun.  Instead, I feigned interest in the game. But I suspect Doris saw through my fa├žade, and just when I thought she would be leaving, she snuck around behind me and then sat down on the step next to me. Slowly and quietly, without her previous fanfare, she gently touched my shoulder to let me know she was there. I looked over, and tried to smile. She ever so slowly raised her paw, as if for the traditional high-five I mentioned earlier that travels among entertainers, vendors and fans. But I quickly learned she wasn’t intending a high-five slap. Returning her gesture in an attempt to be polite, our hands connected and I sensed she understood. I don’t mean for that to sound corny, or creepy, or new-agey, or anything like that. It was simply a soft, tender touch. Maybe because of my sensitivity of the day, (I had cried buckets); maybe because of my continued and desperate failures of the day, she could sense my despair and wanted me to know she understood. No “in your face”, “get with the program”, “change your attitude and quit bringing others down” lecture. She knew enough, cared enough to simply meet me right where I was at. Nothing out of bounds in what she did. No foul balls. Just an intentional, but warm touch that said “I see you and it’s my job to make things better and fun…for each and every one that is here”.

She did her job well. Though, I initially didn’t want her to, she did what she is supposed to do and she did it without condemnation, and without any self-righteous attempt at glory. I don’t know who Doris was supposed to be. Haven’t a clue about Otto, or Mr. Recycleman. What I do know is they are all simply a part of the atmosphere someone took great strides to create.  It was in the air and it was contagious.

That’s what I took away from the Spokane Indians game. I can’t say enough about the attitude created among the employees and entertainers that “work the crowd”.  They are the atmosphere. They are the joy. Dare I even say, they might be the draw of the crowd to the game?

I don’t know. Our team lost; but between my son, and Otto, Mr. Recycleman and dear Doris; someone hit a Grand Slam.


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