The other night my wife and I went to a Red Sox game with friends. The husband had purchased the seats ahead of time. They were out in right field; under the overhang, he assured me, just in case it should rain. It hardly mattered where they were. We never actually sat in them. In fact, we never came near them.
For most of his early years my friend had been a child of the streets. He slept in alleyways. He scavenged for cigarette butts in gutters. He rummaged through dumpsters. At the age of nine a concerned relative deposited him on the steps of a church. They took him in. Perhaps that is why he ended up a clergyman of considerable force and a good Samaritan of uncommon mettle.
Even so, the nobility of his life of good works did not—I was about to learn—extend to the ballpark. No sooner did we go through the turn style than he shepherded us into four empty seats in an expensive part of town. From there, right field might as well have been in Norway.
"Now we can get a good look at the evening’s ceremonies," he counseled.
It was Nomar Garciaparra Day. Sure enough, Nomar was feted less than thirty yards in front of us.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy the occasion. These were not our seats. Suppose the owners showed up.
The moment the ceremony ended, I got up.
“What’s your hurry?” my friend asked. “The game doesn’t start for twenty minutes.”
But these aren’t our seats, I wanted to say. I held back. I didn’t want to seem critical. Still, I couldn’t help think how, if the owners materialized, we’d be caught red handed. How embarrassing would that be?
On cue I looked up to see someone standing over me. He held out a quartet of tickets as if he were about to show me a card trick.
“I don’t know how to read them,” I said feebly, my head slumping chest-ward.
“You can start here,” the man said impatiently, pointing to the seat numbers.
I was mortified. I wanted to vanish like the Wicked Witch of the West in the pool of my own perspiration.
My friend took charge of the situation. He moved us quickly out into the aisle.
“Sorry,” he said.
Now we’ll surely go to right field, I thought.
Fond hope. My friend spied another tier of four empties two sections over. They offered an even better vantage. He led us to them.
The game had already started. Three of the four of us were well into the rhythm of it. I, on the other hand, felt like Joe Btfsplk, the character in the Li’l Abner cartoon who always found himself under a raincloud. As far as I was concerned, it was raining cats and dogs. No sooner were we settled than three young guys with necks like fireplugs made it clear whose seats we were in.
“No problem,” said my friend. Out again into the aisle, his head swiveled back and forth like a lighthouse. This time he found room for us in the box seats. We were about ten rows back from the field and just to the right of first base. It was the third inning now. I was torn between absolute mortification and the slowly dawning realization that these were undoubtedly the best ballpark seats I had ever sat in.
Mortification and pleasure were at war within me throughout the fourth inning. By the fifth inning pleasure won out.