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The magic to enjoying pandemic Orioles: Mask up and stay in your pod | COMMENTARY

Decked out in Orioles apparel, including mask, Gwen Fisher-Jacobs of Baltimore enjoyed the sunshine of the 2021 home opener at Camden Yards.
Decked out in Orioles apparel, including mask, Gwen Fisher-Jacobs of Baltimore enjoyed the sunshine of the 2021 home opener at Camden Yards. (Baltimore Sun staff)

So this woman yelled at me, and I wasn’t about to get into it with her because people like that, who snap and overreact, strike me as disagreeable, and on such a blissful spring day at Camden Yards, no way was I going to get into a spat with a disagreeable person, for cryin’ out loud.

It’s like in the supermarket, with all those arrows on the floor so we only shop in one direction and avoid spreading or getting the coronavirus; I didn’t always comply. When you’re focused on finding breadcrumbs, you can easily go the wrong way down a one-way aisle. Some people huffed about me inside their masks. Yet, not one yelled, not one threw a can of tuna at me. But, when the arrows disappeared a few weeks ago, I asked a cashier why, and she said there had been too many arguments between customers about keeping distance, so they removed the arrows rather than hear more yelling in the store.

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The pandemic has brought out the best in people. It has also created tension and weirdness.

Nobody asked me, but I think we’ve reached pandemic ‘tween time — somewhere between crisis and end-of-crisis — where, with all the vaccinations and easing of restrictions, a lot of people think the crisis is pretty much over while a lot of other people know, correctly, that it’s not.

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I stand with the vaccinated, but careful group. I assume the woman who yelled at me at Camden Yards was either unvaccinated or vaccinated but naturally overwrought. I don’t really know. Like I said, I didn’t want to get into a thing.

Here’s what happened: A friend of mine, a member of the local bar with Birdland Membership, gave me two tickets to the Orioles home opener. As the barrister was sitting elsewhere with various associates, I invited another friend to make the pilgrimage to the bleachers. This was to be the first home game with fans in attendance since the onset of the pandemic. Wisely, fewer than 11,000 people were allowed into Oriole Park for Thursday afternoon’s game against Boston. We were all supposed to wear masks and sit in assigned seats — and only assigned seats — in “pods” of two, four and, at most, six.

I didn’t realize how strict this policy was until we arrived and saw that all the other seats in our row were locked with long, plastic zip ties like the ones that followers of the awful former president carried during the attack on the U.S. Capitol. There were thousands of black zip ties holding up Oriole Park seats so you couldn’t use them. This stopped me for a moment, and that’s when the woman started yelling.

“You’re in the wrong seat!”

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“What?” I asked.

“You can’t use that seat! You’re in the wrong seat!”

The woman was at least six tied-up seats away from me and with a gentleman I assumed to be her husband because he showed no interest in her protest and appeared to be accustomed to hearing her yell.

It was a strange moment, with a heavy Bawlmer accent.

The woman seemed concerned that I was leaving my pod, getting too close by taking one step to my right to examine the seats with black zip ties. Her yelling prompted an usher to ask to examine my digital tickets to make sure my buddy and I were about to plant butts in the correct chairs.

After that, I did not look in that disagreeable woman’s direction nor high-elbow her when Orioles Ryan “Lord” Mountcastle and Pedro Severino hit home runs.

Instead, I surveyed the stunning green field; the happy Orioles fans, like Gwen Fisher-Jacobs, in head-to-toe team colors, including orange and black masks; the home team in bright white uniforms; the sweet ovations for the heroic Trey Mancini; the Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins making an All-World diving catch, and the distinctive smack of Matt Harvey’s fastball hitting Severino’s mitt before the Red Sox started accumulating hits and runs and sending the rebuilding Orioles to dreary defeat on an otherwise triumphant day for Baltimore and fans of the game.

It was strange — a few thousand men and women with masks, and few really trying to keep distance except in the beer line. There was only canned beer and you had to buy it at a counter, and at one point one of the vendors, a young man with mask dangling below chin, started yelling at another vendor, and this loud conference took place 15 inches above the two cans of beer we were trying to purchase. The woman who sold us the beer did not wear gloves.

A lot of guys in orange T-shirts were yapping during the game with masks off, and I didn’t see ushers rushing to tell them to remaskulate. (I just made up that word and will be submitting it later this year to the Oxford English Dictionary people.)

But, getting back to what I said — we are in pandemic ’tween time, past the first big worries but still cautious. Some people are starting to relax more; they got the vaccine and it had the effect of a chill pill. Others aren’t there yet. So be patient, be kind, and one day Camden Yards will be full again and the Orioles will be in the World Series, and the only masks will be on the two guys behind home plate.

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