- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

An Impostor at Shea

As it happens, I too have been mistaken for a member of the New York Mets. Though I had a (reluctant) hand in the misidentification.

Time has erased a lot of the details, but I know it was the spring or early summer of 2000, and I was facing a particularly dreaded New York City transportation maneuver: coming into La Guardia and having to get a cab to Shea. Dreaded because a) any problem with the flight means you'll be late for the game and strand anyone you're meeting there; b) cabbies hate waiting in line only to get saddled with a podunk fare, and often take out their unhappiness on the passenger; and c) even if things go well, you're stuck dragging luggage around a baseball stadium. (This was the more-innocent era where a large bag in Shea was chiefly a problem for its bearer.)

So I was coming in from somewhere or other (I think it was Atlanta) and set to meet Greg soon after I landed. For once everything went swimmingly — the plane was on time, and the cabbie was philosophical about going to the Shea instead of to Manhattan. Except for some reason he tried to go in the main parking lot on the water side instead of dropping me off on Roosevelt Avenue. He waved off my suggestions that this wasn't the best idea until there were so many cars behind us that escape was impossible.

Sure enough, the cabbie and the dispenser of tickets immediately fell to arguing about whether or not one had to pay to take a passenger across the parking lot. People behind us began to honk in that less-than-gentle New York City way. I hung my head, psyching myself up to cut this charade short and drag my not very small suitcase across a very large parking lot.

And then I heard the cabbie say, “You don't understand — I got one of the Mets here in the cab. And he's gonna be late for the game.”

What? We locked eyes in the rearview mirror. I looked like I'd just been hit over the head with something. He gave me a look that was half-pleading, half-warning: Don't you screw this up for me, buddy. And then the ticket taker narrowed her eyes, squeezed herself out of her booth and began waddling toward the cab.

Think. Think. Think. Think. You're a Met. Which Met?

I'm decently glib — in fact, I've got a somewhat-overweening confidence in my own ability to talk myself out of most anything. But that's given a little warning. Improv? Not my specialty. In fact, I usually freeze.

Think! THINK!

Inappopriate 2000 Mets started popping into my head.

Hi, ma'am, I'm Armando Benitez.

It's me! Mike Piazza!

Baby, you gonna make Rickey Henderson late!

No, it had to be someone obscure — someone whose name would ring a bell with a Met employee, but not someone she'd recognize. And I was coming up empty, even given the extra time accorded by the fact that this particular Met employee was Weeble-esque and conserving energy.

Frantic to think of an obscure Met (I have fricking baseball cards of every Met in history — why am I coming up empty?), I thought of a new wrinkle: It had to be a Met who didn't look particularly athletic to untrained eyes. (Yes, this was overthinking things. Are you really surprised?)

And then it hit me. Young pitcher. Pretty obscure. Gets those weird, really unathletic-looking spots in his cheeks when it's hot. The ticket taker arrived and peered into the back window. I stuck my hand out and said, in a surprisingly calm voice, “Glendon Rusch. Nice to meet you.”

She looked at me for a moment. And then, incredibly, said, “Hey, you were great last time out!”

Even the cabbie looked amazed by that one.

“Thanks!” I said, and was waved into the Shea parking lot neat as you please. So what's it like being a momentary Met, at least as far as one employee's concerned? It beats walking.