Lots of things have changed for me these days. Instead of walking along the water, Frankie and I sit at the handicapped ramp and watch the waves. I avoid Publix at 5:00 on weekdays, festivals and flea markets, and crowds in general, but I used to like going into a packed bar on a Friday night. I wake up rested and alert at the crack of dawn with nowhere to be. When I was employed, I’d hit snooze 15 times after 7:00 and still struggle to stay awake. Most everything is different: my friends, how I get ready and where I go. But not too long ago I experienced something that was almost exactly as I remember it. Baseball.
Call me slow, but when we entered there seemed to be an inordinate number of walkers, wheelchairs and canes.
I am slow. It was the Jacksonville Suns Disability Night. Admission was free to a Duval County resident with a disability. I wondered briefly if you had to prove this. Then I decided there weren’t many people trying to escape the cost of admission by pretending to be part of this crowd.
It was wonderful. Handicapped people (and socially sensitive able-bodies) were everywhere. If someone wasn’t disabled themselves, they were with a friend or family member who was. Or they were a caretaker. (Each disabled person could bring a guest for free.) Here was a crowd I could be part of. Instead of feeling like a side show act at the circus, I could be part of the audience again. It felt… normal.
Friends and I sat in the handicapped seating back by the food, which was also free. Those that could do so without much trouble brought snacks back for the rest of us. Popcorn, peanuts and big, soft pretzels. It was all terrible, but it didn’t matter. I laughed at myself as popcorn missed my mouth and at a friend who spilled her beer. I can’t tell you what the score was (or even who was playing!) but as far as I’m concerned baseball has never been the point of going to baseball games.
So, I’m revising my opinion. Crowds aren’t so bad … if you’re part of the right one.