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De-Railed

Even though the Baltimore Orioles have been struggling, my husband, Stuart, and I have been diehard fans even before we met. We’ve been there through the happy times (think Cal Ripkin era) and the very unhappy times like the past five years. Twenty years ago, we purchased four Sunday season tickets for Stuart and me, his daughter, Meredith and her then 7-year-old son, Nicholas. Meredith would drive and park in the stadium while Stuart and I used public transportation.

In the beginning, we would take the subway to Lexington Market and then walk to Camden Yards where we’d meet Meredith and Nicholas. This three-block walk was always a challenge in Baltimore’s sweltering summer heat. But there was the nostalgia of taking the bus and walking downtown with my friends when I was a teenager, shopping at the big department stores like Hecht’s, Hochshild Kohn’s, and Stewart’s. We’d go on dates to the Stanley or Hippodrome Theater. Many of these buildings are still standing, hence the nostalgia

The walk back from the stadium was worse since it was later in the day, and we were so tired and hot having been in the heat for over three hours. At some point, Stuart said, “Let’s try the Light Rail. It’ll take us closer to the stadium, and it’s new and bright.”

“Okay with me,” I said, liking the idea of being above ground. (I’ve always had a bit of claustrophobia.) It was a little farther to get to the light rail station at the Falls Road stop than the Owings Mills station for the subway, but it was well worth it!

We loved the train. It was new, clean and dropped us off right at the stadium. The senior price, $1.70, was a steal! Almost everyone on the train was going to the game, wearing Oriole gear and chatting with each other. By the time we arrived, we were friends with everyone in our car!

When we arrived at Camden Yards, we’d stop at one of the outdoor vendors so I could get a hotdog and peanuts at a much cheaper price than the stadium vendors. Stuart always brought his own lunch. This has worked well for us all these past 20 years. The trains run about every 13 minutes, and we know the schedule, so our wait is rarely more than five minutes. The trip is exactly 25 minutes. Allowing for possible crowd lines to get into the stadium (depending on whether our opponents were the Yankees or Red Sox—their fans always come to our games) we manage to arrive before the National Anthem.

Nothing Stays the Same

The first Sunday game we attended this year was April 3rd. First, the time of the game was changed to 1:05. It had already been getting harder for us to make it on time due to some health and eating issues for Stuart. We decided to do our best and just get there when we could. I called Meredith to tell her we’d be late and not to worry about us.

In addition, this year there are new rules: if you bring water, it must be in an unopened bottle. (This meant no ice.) All food and other items have to be in a see-through plastic bag. Try finding that anywhere! The hot dogs are twice the price I paid to the outside vendors! I bought them anyway, though I did bring my own peanuts. No cash is allowed; only credit cards. If you bring other stuff, you can rent a locker to store it while you’re there. This is ridiculous. What about a pillow to sit on, binoculars, small electric fan? I could go on and on, but I won’t. Suffice to say, we did the best we could.

We arrived for that first game at the start of the third inning. The day was difficult for Stuart due to his health condition. Although we stayed for the remainder of game, which we WON, he was exhausted and depleted. It took three days for him to recover.

What Next?

Before the next game, Stuart said, “Babe, I really don’t think I can go to another game, at least not this one. Maybe you can see if someone else would like to go.” I felt really bad about this because he loves baseball. Laura, my daughter, is a big baseball fan, but she usually coaches softball on Sundays. My son, Geoffrey, is not much of a fan, but I asked him anyway, and he said, “Yes.”

Meredith and Nicholas (now 27) were not going because of Easter. They both still live in Howard County and just drive together to the stadium and meet us there. Geoff and I made these same plans, as he also lives in Howard County.

Another change this year is that the Orioles do not mail the tickets. You get them through email. Only one household gets the tickets, and Stuart changed it to Meredith’s email address because we are not computer savvy. Our plan was to text Meredith when we boarded the train to let her know we would arrive in 25 minutes. We’d meet at the stadium entrance gate and all go in together. This time, Merdith emailed the tickets to Geoffrey, and the plan was that I would text him when I arrived. That part worked great.

The Drama Begins

But here’s the rub: When I got to the Falls Road train station, a lot of people were waiting. This is unusual. Because the trains come frequently, there are rarely more than a half dozen folks standing at the platform. After about ten minutes, I noticed a young man who was sitting with an older woman.

“Excuse me,” I said, “have you been waiting long?”

“About 25 minutes.”

“Wow! I wonder what’s going on,” I said.

“Some folks have been using their cell phones trying to get some information, but so far, no one has learned anything.”

Then he turned to the woman and said, “Mom, maybe we should just drive down there. It’s not worth waiting when we have no clue if there will even be a train.”

They decided on Plan B. The man turned to me and said, “My mom and I are going to drive downtown, and I’m dropping her off at the Convention Center for a program she’s attending. It’s right by the stadium. Do you want to ride with us?”

“Oh, that’s just so nice of you! I’d love to. But I don’t have any cash because they don’t allow it at the stadium so I can’t help with gas.”

“Don’t be silly. We’re going anyway.”

So that’s what I did. I texted Geoff to give him an estimate of when I’d arrive. He met me at the gate, showed our tickets on his phone and we were only a few minutes late for the bottom of the first inning. This was mostly because someone was hurt, and in baseball, it takes forever for coaches and medics to assess the injury and decide what action to take. The injured player was removed from the game. But it was already a half hour into what would usually be 15 minutes. I felt bad for the player, but it was great for us!

It was an exciting game. The new young players have such promise. Still, we were losing in the bottom of the 8th, it was threatening to rain and already 4:30. Geoff was having dinner with his daughter and didn’t want to be late, so we left.

Because being with just my son was so lovely and rare, I asked him, “Do you have time to wait with me at the train?” He said he did, but we had no idea what was coming next! After about a half hour, I was getting upset as I knew the game was over and many people would be heading to the Light Rail station. I needed to get on that train! No sign was indicating that the train was coming. As the weather report predicted, it started to rain. Thank goodness I had the fortitude to take rain ponchos. By the time the stadium was letting out, it was raining really hard.

“Mom, this is ridiculous. Let’s walk to my car. It’s parked three blocks up Howard Street. We can keep watching for the train, and if it comes, you’ll get on. If not, I’ll take you to your car.” So that’s exactly what we did in the pouring rain! The train never came.

In the car, Geoff called Dani, told her what happened and he was on his way. I got a chance to chat with my precious granddaughter, so that was a little bonus for all this trouble. By the time we got to my car, it had stopped raining, and I was home in 25 minutes. While listening to the car radio on my way home, I learned the game went to 13 innings and we won! So that was two good results of a trying experience.

But Wait! More Tsuris is Coming

On Sunday, May 5th, I was looking forward to going to the game. The weather was perfect, sunny and 80 degrees. In addition, Meredith was bringing 8-year-old Sydney, my youngest grandchild. Because I’ve seen so little of her since the pandemic, I was excited.

I arrived at the Falls Road Light Rail station at 12:50, plenty of time to arrive for first pitch at 1:35 (some games were changed to the previous time), even if the train was a little late. Well, “little” turned out to be the operative word. Because of what happened two weeks ago, I asked a stranger how long he’d been waiting, and he said—wait for it—“40 minutes!”

“That’s terrible! How long are you going to wait?” I asked.

“Long as I have to. I gotta be where I gotta be.”

I didn’t know what to do and decided if he’d already been waiting 40 minutes, it can’t be much longer. Presently, the date and time indicator flashed 10 minutes ’til the next train to North Avenue. What!? North Avenue! That’s less than half-way to the stadium. Just for fun, I asked my phone how long it would take to walk to the stadium from North Ave. 52 minutes was the response. Well, maybe 30 years ago, I’d consider it, but even if I did, I’d miss the first two innings. Different people were discussing options.

When the train arrived, someone questioned the driver about getting to the stadium from North Avenue. He suggested we could take a bus from there to the stadium. We all got on the train and started to exit when we stopped at North Avenue. Then I saw people heading back to the train, and someone said that another train driver was coming to take us. There was a bit of delay because only one track was being utilized, but who cares? We were going to get there.

I texted Meredith when we started to move and gave her an ETA. We were only a little late. Meredith checked us all in, and we stopped for hot dogs before going to our seats. The game was at the bottom of the first inning. All was good except the O’s were already losing 3-0. But you know. Never say “Never!”

It was fun being with three of my favorite people. We picked up two runs in the 7th and made some good effort, but in the end, we lost 3-2. Oh well, All’s fair in love and baseball.

If only all would be fair in transportation.

It’s Getting to be a Habit

We took the escalator to the exit. Meredith and her children went to their car, and I proceeded to the Light Rail station.

I guess I shouldn’t have been too upset that no trains came for at least 20 minutes before a sign started to flash that the train was 14 minutes out. Well, that’s not so bad, and it truly was a beautiful day. Next time I checked the messages, it was 16 minutes! Why am I not surprised? It went like this: 14 minutes; 15 minutes; 13 minutes, 14 minutes. Well, you get the idea.

By the time it came, I’d been waiting about 40 minutes and many other fans had arrived. The waiting area was packed. I made sure I got as close as possible to the edge of the platform to be sure I would get on. As soon as the doors opened, I rushed in and sat in the very first “senior” seat. Shortly, I was joined by five more ladies with gray hair.

“Well, I guess there’s one advantage to becoming gray,” I said to the lady next to me. She smiled.

More people got on at the next few stops until the train was truly packed. By the time we arrived at North Avenue, it was after 6:00 pm. I knew Stuart would be worried, but I couldn’t call him because the phone part of my cell is not working (oh the irony), and he doesn’t have a cell, so I can’t text. Instead, for the second time, I texted Meredith to let her know my status and possible ETA and asked that she call Stuart. She did not respond, so I texted again in five minutes. When she still didn’t respond, I texted Nicholas, who also didn’t respond. I was getting really worried. I texted Laura and asked her to call Meredith and tell her to check my messages. If that didn’t work, then call Stuart and give him the update.

Now What?

Two stops before Falls Road, the train stops, the lights go out, the air is off. The driver comes to tell us, “There’s a power failure, and we’re waiting for help.” Really? I’m not sure how long it was, maybe 20 minutes. Finally, we were moving, and I arrived at Falls Road station at 6:30. It’s a 25-minute ride home. I was late. I was tired. I was frustrated. Dragging myself through the front door, I called, “Honey, I’m home,” but it was not a cheerful hello.

“Hi Babe, I talked to Meredith. Sorry you had to be so inconvenienced and worried about me. But I’m fine, and dinner is almost ready.” Is it any wonder I love this guy?

Update

After the first mishap, I went on the MTA web site and left a “complaint” in the appropriate box telling them I want a refund. Yes, it’s only $1.70, but it’s the principle of the thing. After the second issue, I was even more mad and left a less-polite message.

I did get a call when I wasn’t home. After several phone tag tries, I finally talked to someone and asked if this is how it’s going to be all summer.

“I don’t really know. There have been issues with not enough drivers and some mechanical problems with some of the trains. I can send you a schedule but can’t promise it will be accurate.”

“That’s not very helpful. What about the subway? Is it running on schedule?”

“Well, there are repairs going on, and the schedule is that there are much longer waiting times. The repairs are supposed to be finished by the end of June.”

She is going to send me a one-day pass for any mode of transportation and the current schedules for both the Light Rail and subway. I guess when I get the schedules, I’ll decide what to do. But I am not a happy camper (or traveler actually).

Please leave your comments below. 

Read more by Linda Miller.

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