One of the tv shows I used to watch as a kid was a comedy called The Odd Couple, about two recently divorced men who were forced to share an apartment. I say forced, because they could not have been more different in temperament, style, cleanliness, and interests. Remarkably, though they often wanted to strangle each other, they maintained a genuine friendship. I just got back from a road trip with my brother-in-law, and I felt that I might actually have been in a remake of the show.
We drove from Connecticut to Baltimore so that we could get together with one of our nephews and his dad, another brother-in-law. The rendezvous attraction was a baseball game at Camden Yards, or, the greatest baseball park in America. I welcomed the chance to spend time with my relatives…and to see my beloved Orioles, the team I’ve faithfully supported since the early 70’s.
The weekend was full of mismatches, however, so it was not exactly the wild, exultant Blues Brothers road trip I might have envisioned. Before the trip, some of our personality differences emerged. My brother-in-law who also lives in Connecticut, called me numerous times in the days leading up to the trip. Call one: “So, I’m thinking about the baseball game, and I’m wondering about…bug spray.” This came as a bit of a surprise to me. I had never considered bug spray. My question had been, do I bring my baseball glove, or is that weird for someone over 50? Steven proceeded to explain his train of thought: “So, I was looking at Weather dot com, and I saw that the game time temperature was likely to be 90 degrees. That seemed to indicate shorts would be in order, but shorts led me to the image of exposed legs, and that led me to consider the prospect of bugs.” I told Steven that while I could see the logic of his thinking, I had never found bugs to be a problem at a baseball game. Maybe the smell of beer works as a repellent.
Call two: “So [Steven begins every conversation with “So.” It’s as though there has been a first half of the conversation, and he’s just now reaching the conclusion], I was wondering if you’d mind driving.” I said that would be fine, but in my head I was puzzling over the request. Steven is a very good driver, loves to drive (fast), and has a really nice BMW sports car. Usually, if we do something together, it’s assumed that he’s driving. Then I remembered one of our five phone conversations from last month, as he struggled with the question: which hotel? I was voting for cheap and close to the park, since we’d only spend about 8 hours there…and we’d be sleeping. Steven, however, read reviews, consulted maps, checked prices, looked for deals, and scoped out parking. Right, parking. It turned out that the hotel with the best price, reviews, restaurant, and location, did not have its own parking garage. Now I understood. Steven was not so sure he could leave his baby in a public parking lot, and certainly not on the streets of Baltimore. No worries. There was a reason I had bought a used car this time and designated it “the dump run car.” This was our time. Still, I made a mental note to vacuum my car before Steven arrived.
The next day I received call three (ten if you count the five hotel calls and the two calls about which section of the stadium we should sit in). “So, I’m wondering about head wear…” I informed him that baseball caps were the headgear of choice for the fashion conscious baseball fan. The fedora, beret, or stovepipe hat were not that common these days. “Duh,” he said. “I only have a visor (Steven plays tennis) or a Red Sox cap, and I thought that might not be appreciated.” I offered him my collection of Orioles hats, apologizing that some of them were a bit well-worn. (My wife said there was no way her brother was going to wear any hat that had sweat stains on the inside. She saw only two in my collection that even remotely stood a chance). Steven thanked me and told me he’d found an orange shirt so that he’d fit in with the Oriole faithful.
He arrived the next morning wearing khaki shorts and a peach polo shirt (he insisted it had a hint of orange, and reminded me that he knew a lot more about colors than I did, which is true), and he chose the most tasteful and understated of my caps. I sported the brightest orange Orioles shirt I could find. He shielded his eyes and said it reminded him of the color that hunters wore to keep from being shot.
Thirty minutes into our ride, he slapped his forehead and said, “I forgot the tickets.” Seriously? This from the guy who obsessed about bug spray, hotel amenities, and the correct head wear? I may not have remembered a change of underwear for the next day, but I certainly wouldn’t have left without the damn tickets. At this point I should mention that Steven had traveled about an hour to get to my house. Turning back would require 90 minutes to get back to his place and then another 90 minutes to get back to where we were. This was not a good option. “You printed your own tickets, right?” I asked.
“So, you must still have the email. Can you find it?” He could not. He found an email reminding him about the game and wondered if that would be proof enough. I thought not.
For the rest of the trip, Steven distracted himself by learning the wonders of the Waze app. I know many people realize the benefits of the app for avoiding traffic snares. In our case, the wonder of the app was that the passenger could become totally engrossed in spotting hazards, disabled vehicles, and speed traps…or debunking false reports by the unreliable clowns in the crowd-sourcing crowd. He found that he was racking up Waze points by the minute. Every half hour or so, he’d blurt out, “Woah, there’s another one of those green pac man guys!” This total absorption in the nuances of the app helped to keep Steven from critiquing my driving, my lane choices, my speed, my route, etc. Once, it even took us on a helpful detour to avoid an accident. Thank you Waze.
Since I titled this entry “Mismatch,” I should mention that the other meaning had to do with the baseball game itself. We did finally get into the park, after Steven downloaded the MLB Ballpark app, phoned home to have his wife find his Apple ID, created a new password for the forgotten MLB password, and then found our missing tickets in his account. By the fourth inning my Orioles had managed one measly hit, while the visiting team, the World Champion Cubs had already scored eight times. Furthermore, half of Chicago had invaded Baltimore (partly to see the greatest ballpark in America…but also to see their mighty Cubs beat down the sorry Birds).
After the 10-3 destruction, none of us felt like going out to a bar. “They’ll all be full of Cubs fans anyway,” my nephew groaned. We said our good byes, headed back to our perfectly-situated hotel, slunk through the glitzy lobby, trudged past the raucous bar, and headed up to our well-appointed room. I chucked my baseball glove and cap on the floor, slung my bright orange shirt over the desk chair and flopped onto my bed. Steven changed into his nightwear, brushed his teeth, set out another pair of khakis and a neatly-folded polo (a pale blue this time), and said good night.
He snored for the next eight hours.