I woke up this morning with a tingle in my throat. Until six months ago, this wouldn’t even have been worth noticing. Since six months ago, it’s been enough to set me on edge for the rest of the day.
That edge is sharpened all the more when I turn off the alarm and reluctantly reach over and open my window blinds. The light is normally enough to make me recoil, but instead it’s muted. I swipe my thumb up, intending to turn off Night Shift mode on my phone. My thumb swipes through air because I’m not holding my phone.
I squint a few times before realizing that my eyes are working correctly. The morning sky is bathed in orange. Awesome. I pick up my phone. There’s a message from my boss. “Waiting to hear if the game is happening.” Yesterday was my day off, and I wouldn’t mind another.
I go about my day as normally as possible. I fix breakfast, listening to a frivolous podcast to take my mind off of... everything. A couple of hours pass before my phone bosses. It’s boss. “The game’s on as normal.”
Okay, then. I bike to the park as usual. The slight orange tint of the morning has deepened, and my eyes water as the smokey air whips past my eyes. I’m excited to work tonight’s game, despite everything. I haven’t seen the Mariners since April of 2018. I still remember handing Kyle Seager his bat in the first game of the series. He winked at me.
Game time finally arrives, and none of the players seem particularly enthused. I’m not sure why we’re playing this game. The league hasn’t had a problem with cancelling games due to COVID, and it’s not like this game is that important. Tyler Anderson finishes warming up, and we’re off.
Dylan Moore reaches on an error before getting picked off. I steal a glance over at the Mariner manager, a plain-looking gray-haired man. Tch, he intones, shaking his head. He makes to spit before thinking better of it.
Both teams go down quickly in the first and second. I allow myself to hope that this game might only take two hours. A lot of the fun has been taken out of this job since the fans stopped coming. Two Mariners reach in the third, which at least gives me something to do. I trot out to retrieve their bats. Make yourself small, I think. It’s what my boss told me after he determined I took up too much of the camera last year.
In the third inning, Mike Yastrzemski takes an 0-2 pitch just above the soon. The M’s manager makes another Tch noise. Yastrzemski destroys the next pitch for a three-run dinger into the orange sky. I steal another glance over at the M’s manager. He spits this time.
Never before has a game felt so much like going through the motions. The air doesn’t taste as bad as it looks. Despite that, the pall of the sky casts such an ominous shadow over the stadium that it colors everything that takes place within. I’m on autopilot as I retrieve the bats of a few more Mariners.
In the middle of the game, though, the Giants really start to score. And score. And score. And I just have to exist near the Mariners and their manager, who is clearly growing increasingly frustrated both with the umpire and the general state of affairs. I stare out at the outfield, trying to count the number of divides in the outfield fence before realizing that I should really go back to the eye doctor.
The later it gets, the darker the sky gets. I love the Giants, but I find myself willing them to stop scoring. It’s 8-0, and Wilmer Flores doubles in another run. I’ve joined the Mariner manger in his frustration. Fuck, dude, I think. Just stop. Stop. STOP. SCORING. Gone is my illusion that this might be a quick game. I just want to go home.
Finally, mercifully, the game ends. I have a lot of cleanup to do, but that part always seems to go by more quickly. I wonder dully whether working this game has taken a week off of my life. I tried to catch Kyle Seager’s eye the entire game, but he clearly didn’t want to be here either.
I probably won’t see the Mariners again. This will probably be my last year working this job since I have a gig lined up in Oakland next month. The glamour wore off a couple of years ago. And if the glamour can wear off of this job, I suppose it can wear off of any job.
I wonder whether tomorrow’s game against the Padres will happen. I’m scheduled to work, but this was miserable. At least I’ll get to see Tatis, even if neither of us can barely breathe as I try to catch his eye.