I started working when I was thirteen, laying salami on waxed paper and filling mayonnaise bottles in my parents’ Subway sandwich restaurant. I had one job or another all through high school, and I was overmatched in all of them. I worked back wall at a grocery store, waiting in dread for a customer to ask me to lead them to the Hollandaise sauce. Next year, one of my high school teachers got me a job filling in as an accountant for a local business; I sent unsigned checks to vendors, lost time cards. I assembled lawn mowers and wheelbarrows for a little mom-and-pop hardware store, and never tightened the screws enough. I remember doing these things, half a life ago, as though watching someone else, someone dumber and shier. I didn’t like working but it was what one did. I had the time.
It wasn’t until after college, though, that I understood work. With my liberal arts diploma on the wall, I took a job as a bank teller: bought six collar shirts, four ties and three pairs of slacks, and became an adult. I stood behind a counter and smiled at people who smiled at me, took and counted their money, gave them slips of paper. It was then that I discovered that while we all fear dying, we don’t notice all the other little deaths in between. For eight hours a day I passed away for a while, lost the ability to be myself, and served only others. Each morning I woke dreading the boredom and repetition of the oncoming day; each evening was a momentary high of resurrection.
Lost September baseball should have that same thrill, a freedom from worrying about tomorrow. Nothing the Mariners do these final three games, save for some gruesome injury, relates to anything. In such a dream state it’s a wonder that baseball teams are so sedentary in their final days, trot out the same lineups when the fans as one beg for catchers to pitch and pitchers to catch. Certainly, it’s not like it once was: players still do have an opportunity to make a few thousand dollars with some luck and focus. But a world in which Robinson Cano plays through a sports hernia in a lost season with his entire life’s earnings all but assured: it’s a strange thing.
And yet. I can’t pin it down, but somewhere in my early thirties those feelings of desperation and bliss faded away. Occasionally a picture of my daughter will give me homesickness, or the cries of said child may pull the hands of the clock. But people and seasons grow old, and it becomes difficult to pull out of the inertia of identity, of being who you’ve always been. Life takes over, propels itself.
Baseball mercifully has its offseasons, truncated as they are these days. Free agency will force the Mariners to go through a bout of self-examination. But for now, these are the Mariners, as they’ve been: a spider crawling around in an empty bathtub, alive and yet somehow equally mechanical, in motion and unaware.
|OAKLAND A'S||SEATTLE MARINERS|
|Billy Burns - CF||Ketel Marte - SS|
|Mark Canha - 1B||Kyle Seager - 3B|
|Josh Reddick - RF||Nelson Cruz - DH|
|Danny Valencia - 3B||Robinson Cano - 2B|
|Stephen Vogt - C||Mark Trumbo - RF|
|Billy Butler - DH||Seth Smith - LF|
|Brett Lawrie - 2B||Logan Morrison - 1B|
|Eric Sogard - SS||Brad Miller - CF|
|Sam Fuld - LF||Jesus Sucre - C|
|Aaron Brooks - RHP||Hisashi Iwakuma - RHP|
Go Mariners, though they could no nothing else.