Sports, and it’s passionate fans, are normally a beautiful thing. They offer camaraderie, entertainment, something to look forward to as we run around this globe like starving rats, ensuring our next meal/premium cable subscription. But from time to time, sports can rear its ugly head, causing an otherwise innocent fan to commit the most heinous and devastating of sins.
And I am guilty as charged.
Here’s the background. Currently, I pick up some supplementary hours working a few nights a week at a pharmacy in the city. This unfortunate predicament causes me to miss the broadcast of several Phillies games, often leaving me with the shakes on the corner after work, begging bewildered strangers for some loose “Phillies.”
I am a tortured soul.
However, I have found one way to, at least partially, resolve this situation. The radio. Doesn’t hurt that Scott Franzke and Larry Anderson are now the best Phillies announcers going. Good interplay, they get out of the way, and they seem to really care about this team and city.
But I digress.
Anyhow, last night I managed to convince my coworkers to let me put the game on, and kept one ear listening while I went about my pharmaceutical duties. And all was peachy keen until the top of the third inning, when disaster struck.
Bases loaded. Myers pressing. Adam Dunn walking to the plate. Two outs, and though its early in the game, tension is nonetheless high. Meanwhile, a young African-American woman, maybe 19, approached the counter. I noticed her, and walked over to offer my assistance, still keeping my ears on the game.
“Hi, how may I help you?”
“This one is pretty well-struck…”
“Do you guys have Plan B?”
“Ibanez is heading toward the wall…”
“Yeah, we keep it behind the counter.”
“…Ibanez goes back to the warning track…”
“Okay, I’ll buy one, please.”
“…And he makes the catch at the wall, and the Phillies survive without any damage done.”
“Well thank God for that.”
Now, anybody privy to the two separate entities I was listening to at the time knows I was obviously reacting to the fact that Dunn did not hit a grand slam. However, the girl at the counter was not privy to said fact. Her head tilted to one side, blown by a breeze of confusion. Her eyebrows burrowed, suddenly displeased. Her mouth opened slightly, quite appalled and unable to muster the proper mix of air and vibrations to produce whatever sound it was that suddenly had entered her mind.
But worst of all, her shoulders just slumped. And then it hit me – she thought my exclamation of “Thank God for that” was in regards to her purchasing Plan-B, as though I was somehow judging that she would be a horrible mother, and was thankful that a child wouldn’t be brought into the world under such excruciatingly doomed circumstances.
I realized this in a flash, and my Emergency Foot-from-Mouth Removal System kicked in. My first instinct was to try to explain the mix-up, but I knew I would stutter out the words and get embarrassed and then she would be embarrassed and it would cause an extreme amount of awkwardness and we would each end up emotionally scarred from the entire ordeal.
I shook that one off.
Plan…er, option B was a bit more devious, but probably for the best. I would walk a short distance away, ask one of my male coworkers if that was the last out and, after they acknowledged that it was, very loudly proclaim “Well, thank God the Phillies got out of that inning.” Then, I would walk back the girl, say, “I’m sorry, did you say you wanted to purchase the Plan B?” and remove the weird energy from the situation. Sure, I’d look like a slacker, but the whole thing would ultimately be over with.
Yup, option B seemed like a winner. Mind you, all of this ran through my head in about two or three seconds. Let’s just say I’ve developed an instinct for dealing with predicaments of this nature.
For example, there was the time I unintentionally insulted a man for wearing a Negro League jacket. Yup, you read that right. Bear with me – I thought he was wearing a Yankees jacket, and often, when somebody comes into the pharmacy donning the gear of another team, I jokingly refuse service or raise the price in jest. Not all that funny, but it passes the hours.
So anyway, this guy’s copay on his prescription had just gone up, and he was wondering why that was the case. That’s when I muttered my infamous words, thinking he was donning a Yankees coat.
“Hey man, you know we’ve got to charge you more if you’re wearing that jacket.”
“You got a problem with the Negro Leagues, my man?”
At this, he turned his shoulder, revealing the Negro League insignia on his back. Well, I’ve done it now, haven’t I? Here I am, white as a light bulb, informing an African-American that I was going to charge him more money because he was wearing a Negro League jacket. With one fell swoop, I had sent racial relations back 40 years.
Damnit. Recovery was in order.
“Oh no no no no man, haha, oh no, I thought you were wearing a Yankees jacket. Shoot, yo man, I love the Negro Leagues man, I used to read all about them, I know those guys, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell man, Cool Papa Bell, that was my guy. Haha, oh man, just an honest mistake, you know? Jeez, you must have thinking, ‘What’s up with this whiteboy?’ I mean, I might have slapped me silly or something for that one. Whew, glad we got that cleared up.”
So maybe I overkilled it a bit – it had to be done. The guy just took it all in, looking at me as though I was one foot in the loony bin, smirk intact the entire time. And I was horrified at myself and left to be the butt of jokes for weeks after.
But back to the original tale. I was in the process of making my move, walking away from the girl, when a voice stopped me dead in my tracks.
“Son, what the hell is your problem? You’re rude as get-out to the girl when she asks for Plan B, like you’re relieved or something that she’s buying it, then you just walk away and ignore her? What’s your damn problem?”
I had made a very serious tactical error – I failed to account for the possibility of a disgruntled bystander. And sure enough, standing off to the side within earshot, was an African-American man, probably in his sixties or seventies. This wasn’t going to be pretty.
“You have absolutely no right to judge this young woman. Here she is, trying to be responsible, and you start acting the fool? How dare you? What, is it because she’s black? You assuming the child won’t be raised right by a young black woman, is that it? Where the fuck do you get off? I ought to come over this counter and whup your ass!”
Now mind you, this man had a cane, and I think he was seriously considering making the leap and lighting me up. Meanwhile, I was speechless, trying in vain to explain to him what had happened. And worst of all, the poor girl seemed absolutely mortified. She didn’t seem to know whether to calm the man down, join him in his tirade, or simply duck her head and run the hell out of there.
I wouldn’t have blamed her one bit for doing any of them.
Of course, with all of the commotion, the head pharmacist made his way over, and then the manager followed by a few curious customers, and ultimately, the security guard. We had ourselves a crowd, everyone buzzing at once. What a scene. I was explaining what had happened to anybody who would listen while profusely apologizing to the girl for the mix-up, my head suddenly resembling a plum tomato. The old man was ushered out of the store, still up in arms. And the poor girl – oh, what had I done? – who was totally unprepared for any of this, had the proverbial deer-in-the-headlights look, occasionally rolling her eyes to the heavens while allowing a soft sigh to escape her pursed lips. Give me the strength, Lord.
A lose-lose for all involved.
And that’s really the tragic part of this tale – everybody did lose. Even the Phillies! At least if they had won, I would have known that a big part in the victory was Dunn missing the grand slam, and thereby would have (inexplicably) felt less guilty about the exclamation of relief that almost instigated a race riot involving an old man, a cane, Plan B, and one very sheepish cherry tomato.