People who know me will tell you without hesitation that I go into a slow burn very quickly. My temper is typically not of the yelling and screaming variety but more of an uncomfortable confrontation. Nothing gets me going faster than unmitigated stupidity. That’s what I encountered last night at the Flyers-Devils game.
Some important things to know before we get into the meat of this. I work for a newspaper. As anyone who works at a publication can tell you deadlines are everything. I’d rather run a picture of my dog than miss a deadline. My deadline is six p.m. Everything has to be in Philly by then so they can send it to Conshohocken to be plated and printed. After it’s gone I have to wait around for confirmation that there are no corrupt files or that files didn’t transfer. That usually puts me on the road to the Center around 6:30 – 7:00. Typically I miss the bulk of the first period since the NHL moved all the games up from 7:30. While I’m not happy about that, that’s life. What this also means is that most of the parking lots are closed or abandoned by the time I get there. I park where I can and usually it’s free (meaningless perk). My friend likes to joke that I pay $100 to sit in two seats by myself most week nights to watch two periods of hockey. I tell him that’s how much I love the game.
Here comes my ongoing problem. For some reason, when they close and lock the gates to access the parking lots, they also close and lock the pedestrian gates. Why? I have no idea. I complained about this several times last year and was assured the problem would be remedied. It causes me to walk more than the length of the stadium and back again to get into the game. While I could use the walk on a nice fall night, when the temperature plummets to 5 or 10 degrees that can be a walk for survival not to mention the fact that it takes me an extra fifteen minutes and I’m not able to park in a lot that’s close so I’ve already walked a couple blocks. Now I’m used to this problem and have somewhat come to terms with it if by coming to terms you mean I stand there each time kicking the gate three times before angrily stalking off.
I make my trek around the damnedable fence, occasionally reaching out to test my limited strength against the bars. They don’t budge. They’re not going to budge. My walk takes me past the Pavilion where hoards of Flyers fans gather between periods to smoke. As a former smoker, never a pleasant passage. Last night, I noticed something different. There were no barriers up. People were just wandering around. Walking out to the parking lot, walking into the Pavilion, all unimpeded. I took a quick glance and I saw no tags or wrist bands or hand stamps. So I walked into the pavilion and out onto the concourse. No one asked for my ticket or even looked twice in my direction. If you knew me you’d see this isn’t going to go well.
I walked to customer service and asked if I could quietly register a complaint. One supervisor was quickly found. Everyone was very polite and well meaning. They were shocked to hear that I walked into the game without using my ticket. They were going to look into that immediately. My locked gate? Yeah, they’ll look into that too. No. I need someone to make sure that gate is unlocked and I want to know why I can’t walk through a pedestrian gate into the parking lot but I can walk into the game for free! I want someone to explain this too me and I want them to do it now! Well, they can’t and I know they can’t. There comes a point in events like these when I see the look in other people’s eyes and I have to determine how much at fault I think these individuals are and how far I want to push this. It’s obvious to me that these people are just customer service. They want to help me and me pushing them isn’t going to make me or them feel any better.
I decide on another tactic. I’m going to nose around a little. I’ve had season tickets for more than sixteen years and as a creature of intense habit with an outgoing nature I visit the same people who work the building every game. They may not know my name but they know me. I know them. I don’t stand in line for my beer, I linger and get served. My usher hugs me at the start and end of every season. I ask around. This is what I hear. The head of security was fired two days before the season, he even travelled with the team taking care of security on the road, the people who worked for him respected him. There was some hushed incident at a Springsteen concert. The new people in charge don’t like the gate system because the customers complain. They’re assigning people who have a reputation for slacking off to key positions around the stadium in order to keep an eye on them but then they’re not leaving the office to check on them. Everyone I talk to in security shakes their head knowingly when I bring it up then they get a look of disgust. These are all good people and they love and take pride in their job, I know them, I see them work every game.
Just so we’re clear on what’s going on here and you don’t think I’m being a nut. ANY IDIOT CAN NOW WALK IN OFF THE STREET IN THE MIDDLE OF A FLYERS GAME CARRYING WHATEVER THEY FEEL LIKE AND NOT BE SEARCHED AND NOT NEED A TICKET!!! Are we clear as to why I’m angry? That’s right. That pedestrian gate is going to be locked every night this year and I’m still going to have to walk an extra city block to get to the game late!