Blog post that was written 4 years ago July 25, 2007, then lost… then found…
We were so excited to see the fireworks.
Every Friday, the Royals shoot fireworks off after their games. I had finally, after many years convinced my 4 year old, Brett to like fireworks. This would be my first opportunity to take him to a fireworks show that he was actually looking forward to.
Accompanying me would be my cousin, Ronnie and his 5 year old boy, Jack. Due to a recent car accident, Ronnie would be confined to a wheelchair, but was very eager to get out of the house and enjoy a ballgame with his old friend.
Like a Swiss watchmaker, I had it delicately planned out; it would be the perfect day. I would pick up Ronnie and Jack so that we’d arrive in the second inning or so, that way, it would cut down the waiting time for the boys between arrival and fireworks. You see, when you have 4 and 5 year old’s out, there is an unspoken clock that goes off after 9:00 pm. And fireworks weren’t supposed to start until about 9:30 or so. So, being proactive was key. But it’s just like most events we go to, right? What could be different about this one?
Picking up Ronnie gave me the opportunity, no; privilege to drive his special wheelchair van. The van had all the comfort that you hear about on those Cadillac commercials with the guy fromFantasy Island… “the rich… Corinthian leather… the struts and shocks from the Nixon administration… the rack-and-pinion steering… the handle to open the front door, just like a school bus… yes, this thing had it ALL! And I was driving it.
Now, I haven’t spent a lot of time with my cousin since his accident. And I think he was shy to tell me if he needed anything. But his chair answered the questions for me. Every bump in the road that I hit with the bus, his chair let out a huge “BEEEEEEP.” Now, if any of you have driven in Missouri, you know that you can’t swing a dead cat and not hit a bump. Needless to say, it was a beep’y ride.
But still… fireworks awaited.
On the way to the game, Jack and Brett talked about what most 4 and 5 year olds talk about – which is technically just one level above babble. Topics ranged from whose mommy snored louder (my wife won that one hands down) to the never stale topic of farts.
Jack even had a short power-nap. Hmmm… a power-nap at 7:00? Must just be tired.
But we soon saw the stadium lights over the horizon and knew our wait was just about over. Pulling into the parking lot, and driving the babe-magnet short-bus, I knew I’d have the rare privilege of parking in the front row handicapped space.
Um, that was, if they weren’t all full.
Remember in Chapter 1, when I said we’d arrive late to be smarter than Swiss watch maker or some such? Yeah, it also meant driving to four different lots trying to find a parking spot with that little wheelchair guy on it.
When NASA launches the space shuttle, they have that T-Minus clock. In my head, this clock read about T-Minus 120 minutes until fireworks. Well, someone had to get out the calculator and add about 20 minutes of driving around the parking lot.
T-Minus 140 minutes, indeed.
Finally, I pulled up to one of those helpful stadium traffic guys with the light sabers.
“Hey, I’ve been driving forever, where the hell can I park this thing?”
“Um. How about right there?”
Yes, he literally let me just park right on the curb in front of the stadium. The logic was impeccable. What were they going to do, tow the short-bus? I think not. So I turned off the key and parked the short-bus.
Oh… wait… in order to open the back of the ramp, you’ve got to turn the key on. Sorry. Forgot that part.
The game had just started, we were approaching the ballpark. We were almost in the stadium. All we had to do was pick up our tickets.
Like I said earlier, I had it all planned. I called the ticket office earlier in the day and ordered tickets in the special wheelchair section so there’d be no delay getting in the stadium. “Just go to any box office and they’ll take care of you,” the gleeful man on the phone told me.
By “take care of you” I think he meant, “jerk you around.”
I went to “any” box office. “Any”, to me, is defined as “the closest” or “the most accommodating.”
To the Kansas City Royals, “any” was defined as “the main ticket office on the other side of where you parked.” A cheerful, elderly, nearly dead and certainly pissed off about it woman named Ester explained that to me.
Now, I am a guy who has a healthy respect for pride. I smile at nuns when walking down the street because I respect them and I think they appreciate it. I try to do the right thing most of the time.
I would certainly never use my cousin’s disability for my own personal gain. That is, until Ester told me I had to walk clear around the stadium for my tickets. My ethics, and probably most of Ronnie’s pride, went right out the window.
“Ester… do you see that man behind me? The man in the wheelchair? You’re telling me that I need to go clear around to the…”
“You do if you want your tickets.”
Okay. So Ester wasn’t operating on the same spiritual level as I was. We packed up and headed to the “Main” box office.
But it was only the bottom of the first. We still had a very enjoyable evening ahead of us.
Brett and I walked hand-in-hand across the parking lot. Jack was sleeping restfully in Ron’s lap as he rolled behind us.
Aw… that’s cute. Jack looks so peaceful. Hmmm… its 7:30, he must just be tired.
Inside the gates, we can see all the families walking to their seats. But we’ll be there soon enough. Besides, nothing happens in the first innings anyway.
Just then, I heard the roar of the crowd. The faint signal of the stadium radio broadcast explaining that my favorite player, Billy Butler had just hit a 3-run home run in the bottom of the first.
With tickets in hand, we take the long elevator ride (it’s only one floor down, but the Kauffman Stadium elevators are from World War I) to our section.
It’s now the bottom of the second and we finally pull into our seats right behind home plate in the handicapped section. Jack had finally woken up. Brett and I sit down and I’m taking orders for my first run to the concession stand.
Ron wants frosty malt. Brett wants some peanuts. Jack wants some… Jack, I can’t hear you. Speak up.
What?? That kind of sounded like hot dog, right??
“…I have… to… be… sick…” Jack’s face turned the same color of white as the marshmallow colored van we drove here in. Then it turned a little green.
He leaped into my arms and immediately I started on this O.J. Simpson dash towards the nearest restroom. You know the one, where O.J. starts leaping over luggage carts trying to make it to the airport gate on time? With my gazelle-like quickness, it should be no problem.
I got approximately 2 1/2 steps and barely turned around to the concourse when it happened. The kind of vomit that starts at your shoes and propels its way out in a parabolic arc that seemed to stop time.
Puke, all over me. All over the sidewalk behind us and then my inner O.J. kicked in… leaving a trail of vomit behind me, all the way to the restroom.
Yep. Jack was sleeping because he wasn’t feeling good. Just then I realized that my future as a doctor was up in smoke. Not Dr. Spock, not Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, heck, not even Dr. Phil.
Once his stomach was empty, I took Jack to the first aid room so he could lie down and get a cool cloth on his head. We’d been gone about 10 minutes when I realize I’ve left his paralyzed father and my 4 year old boy wondering where the hell we just went. Last they know, we went for some hot dogs.
I had the nurse stay with Jack when I went and told Ronnie what happened. He went to fetch Jack as the stadium custodial crew was working on cleaning up Jack’s breakfast and lunch from the sidewalk.
And with all the sincerity that a 4 year old can muster, my son Brett asked, “Daddy, did you bring me back my peanuts?”
It’s now the 4th inning and Ronnie has just returned from First Aid with Jack. Jack was feeling better. I know this because he just asked his Uncle Chris for cotton candy and a hot dog.
I went and headed towards the concession stand, careful to step over the yellow “BIOHAZARD” towels draped over what happened my last time I was on this sidewalk.
I bought Ron his frosty malt, got a hot dog for me, peanuts for my boy and I got Jack a gatorade.
“Where’s my hot dog?”
Um… Jack, let’s wait a couple innings before we put anything on your stomach, okay?
“Daddy, I want a hot dog,” Brett said with precision comic timing.
The next several minutes a pout-fest of Biblical proportions ensued when both boys turned on the charm. Ronnie broke first and he and Jack went to get him a hot dog.
Ah… I finally get to sit down and watch the game. Gosh, it’s already the 6th inning.
I turned around to see one of my best friends from my old job, Angie. She had this wry smile on her face as she sat in the seat next to me.
“So… you’re having a little bit of a day?”
I replied, “What do you mean?”
“Um… wasn’t that you I just saw carrying a 5 year old like a football with puke streaming from his mouth.”
I immediately began to cover the vomit stain on my sleeve… and my collar… and my front. “Um, nope?”
“Yeah, my whole section really felt sorry for you.”
Oh… my… God… Tell me no one that I actually knew saw that.
Angie stayed only about 3 minutes talking, but it seemed like 2 hours. My humiliation was building, but hey, we’re here to see fireworks, right? No one is dead yet and we’re making good progress in the game. The eternal optimist in me was kicking back in.
I waved bye to Angie and watched her as she sat in her seat about 20 rows above ours. As I was turning back to the field, I noticed the beautiful sky just beyond the scoreboard. It was amber, as the sun was setting. I looked at my son, Brett eating his hot dog. What could be better, right?
Wait… that’s a little darker amber. More of a greenish, hue. And it’s moving pretty fast. Well, I’m sure glad there wasn’t any rain in the forecast.
Ronnie and Jack were back and we enjoyed a full inning of baseball. It was the 8th inning and we were just a few moments away from fireworks.
The sky turned an orange-green that would you only find in the largest of crayon boxes. This color was way beyond the 64-color box with the pencil sharpener. This color was reserved for some uber-collection of wax colors that consumers rejected as “too scary.”
I turned to Ronnie and asked him what our contingency plan was if it started to rain.
“I can’t get the chair wet. It’s got a lot of electrical parts in it.”
No sooner had he finished the sentence than the skies unleashed a rain shower that my father would have described as “a cow pissing on a flat rock.”
That’s okay, we’re only a few feet from the service tunnel. Well, there were about 50 people between us and the service tunnel.
We finally made it through the crowd and underneath the stands. The crowds were still very thick so we made it over to where the service elevators were. There were only a couple of wheelchairs and some equipment there, so that’s where we found respite from the storm.
We had to make that hard decision that everyone in the stadium was making right then. Should we stay, or should we go? The boys’ mothers would have easily decided to bail and head for home, dragging saddened and crying boys away. But Ronnie and I, with the same level of insanity that Clark W. Griswold employed in “Vacation,” decided to see some G _ _ Damn fireworks. We’ve come all this way, and we’re not going back now.
We had some cover, the boys were having a good time running around each other and there’s only one inning left between us and fireworks. We decided to wait it out.
When Ronnie and I were young, he was the equivalent of frick and frack. We went everywhere together. Best friends. One of our favorite haunts was Kauffman, then Royals, Stadium.
Aunt Mary would drop us off at the top of the hill above the stadium and then wave to us telling us to call when she needed to pick us up.
Ronnie and I would then go on an adventure spree seen only by escaped convicts and cockroaches. We would sneak into restricted areas of the stadium, we would run up and down the spirals, we would bring fishing nets to the games to lower them down to field-level so players would put foul balls in them. I remember going to Ronnie’s house one time to find two giant buckets of Major League baseballs.
The point is, that there wasn’t anything mischievous that we hadn’t done in that stadium.
Well… almost anything…
Ronnie was starting to get tired. But he gestured over to the security guard and whispered in my ear…. “ask that guy to go get that fishing net he stole from me 20 years ago.”
I chuckled… it was a nice moment. He’s been through a lot this past year, but his humor has always been………..
Oh shit. Where were Jack and Brett?
Ronnie and I turned around to see Jack on a John Deere 4×4 Gator lurching towards a service door with Brett hanging on the back. His legs were apparently just long enough to reach the gas petal.
Now, he only went about 10 feet forward. But I’m sure as I retell this story to people, I’ll have him as far as Blue Ridge Mall.
Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit.
They couldn’t kick a guy in a wheelchair, his son and his idiot cousin and his son out of a game, could they?
Luckily, the security guard, whose eagle-eye was powerful enough to spot Ronnie’s fishing net 20 years ago was now closed as he was taking a short nap in his chair. We were safe. The boys were in trouble.
Ronnie and I had never stolen a four-wheeler at the stadium before. Chalk one up to the future generation.
Another security guard walked by us and said that they were pulling the tarp and getting ready to resume the game.
Figuring that we shouldn’t hang around the scene of the crime any longer, we returned to our soggy seats.
Remember when I said that there is this internal clock in children and it starts to go haywire after 9:30? We’ll it’s now 10:05 and the children are behind us leading the entire vomit-witnessing section in “LET’S GO ROYALS” chants. They were on fire.
Some stadium workers even walked by them and gave them very special pins that said “SUPER FANS” on them.
There was only one more out to go. As fate would allow it, someone above decided that we’d had enough drama and got a three-pitch strikeout to end the game.
The lights dimmed, the boys both climbed into our respective laps and the fireworks show had begun.
We made it.
The fireworks show was awesome. Every week they have a theme for their music, and tonight was the music of Dean Martin. Pretty cool.
We filed out of the stadium. Ronnie glared at that security guard as we loaded the elevator to head to the parking level. We loaded up the short-bus. Ronnie’s chair beeped as I started the van like some R2-D2 robot in a pissy mood.
Brett and Jack resumed their point-counterpoint debate about whose daddy snores loudest. (The Kamler family went 2 for 2 in that contest, by the way.)
Then the van went quiet. Even though the shocks were still taking a beating the I-70 asphalt; even though Ronnie’s chair was beeping like the stock market had just crashed and I even managed to stop my yapping about the vomit all over my shirt. The van just went completely… silent.
And I hear the youngest person in the van speak loudly and confidently as he said…
“You know, Daddy, this was the perfect day.”