Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lesson Unlearned

So I had an incredible evening at the Portland v. LA match last Wednesday. You can read about it here, but, trust me, the words alone don't do it justice. I think we all showed up expecting just to do our parts as good supporters and were surprised (and delighted) by the win.But before the match I was involved in an odd incident and I thought I'd mention it just...well, just to see what you thought.

First let me explain how the seating works at Civic Stadium (a.k.a. "Jeld-Wen Field"). The North End - what we call "The Shed" - is where the Timbers Army stands. In the old soccer tradition this would be "the terraces", home of the hoi-polloi, the rabble, the working class yobbos, where the penny-ticket supporters would be herded to stand all match long. Portland has made good changes to this tradition, so the Army is made up of both men and women, young and old, and in my obviously biased opinion marries the best of the old British terrace traditions to the best of American sports fandom AND the best of Portland's happy anarchic spirit. We call ourselves the "People's Republic of Portland " for good reasons, and some of the best are on display in the Shed End on a matchday.The Army has always had open seating - since we don't use the seats - and sections 101 through 108 are "general admission"; first come, first stand.

I sit in the next section over. Well, actually, we don't sit - we stand in front of our reserved seats. I like to call us the "Timbers Army Reserves"; we're too staid for festival seating but too raucous to sit down.

Occasionally we get people with general admission tickets who sneak down before the match. We usually warn them that our section is "reserved", and that if the ticket holders show up they will get chased off, and they usually grin and admit to taking their chances. A couple of youngish guys showed up for the Toronto match and were nearly immediately evicted when the people who had the seats showed up, but they just stepped down to the front of the adjacent aisle and stood in front of the capo stand all match. Nobody had any problem with that.

But this week I ran into something a bit different. We arrived to find a woman and her daughter standing in front of our seats. I informed her that they WERE our seats, and she replied that we were wrong and that our section was general admission.

Now I'm a fairly peaceable guy; not VERY peaceable, but enough to keep me out of casual brawls. But this woman was visibly not interested in discussion. She was a bulbous, tattooed sort of Southeast Portland gal. The uncharitable description would be "trashy" and I'm inclined to be uncharitable, since when I informed her that she was wrong and that she was in a reserved section she loudly informed me that I was full of shit and that she was damn well not moving.

I suggested that she look at the number of the seat she was standing in front of and the number on my ticket, at which point she said she didn't care what was on my damn ticket, ripped it out of my hand, and repeated that she wasn't moving.

At that point I stopped being peaceable.

Now while she was an obnoxious fat slag she was also a woman who had not offered physical violence, so I held back on my initial impulse to step in and pop her one. Instead I stepped up and put myself right up against her, well inside her personal space, chest-to-chest, and suggested pretty sternly that she move her fat slag ass to another place.She started protesting loudly that I was threatening her and that she had a twelve-year-old daughter with her. I repeated that I didn't care if she had a chimpanzee monkey with her and that she and her daughter needed to go find their seats. She moved, cursing and loud, and I sat down and went about my business.

And then came the odd part. About ten minutes later along comes one of the staff who informs me that the woman has reported me to the ushers as threatening her, that the woman was misinformed by the stadium staff about the seating so she was not "at fault", that her daughter was crying because of what happend, and that I needed to go to the ushers if I was confronted by another similar "misunderstanding" in the future rather than confronting the offender.

My first reaction was just surprise; that the woman, who must have found out from the ushers that she was wrong about the seating, would have been indignant rather than ashamed and have tried to set the ushers on me rather than slink away quietly. But on reflection I recognized that shame is a rare quality in 2011.

But my second reaction was irritation with the officialdom. The ushers had not bothered to find out what had happened, and, having done their job poorly to begin with, were upset with me because I corrected their error in a way that caused a rude and stupid woman's child some distress. I informed the usher that I was perfectly capable of corrective training for both present and future Gresham hootchies and that, while I had not so much as raised a hand to the woman, that she had obviously been looking for trouble, picked the wrong person, and found it. And that I had no intention of deputizing other people to stand up for me; I was perfectly capable of that myself, being over the age of consent and all that.

The usher repeated her warning, I repeated my position, and we parted in mutual dissatisfaction.

My final opinion on the whole ridiculous business is that the worst part of it is that the woman whose aggressive ignorance was the cause of the entire mess is still out there, still convinced that she was hard done by and browbeaten by the mean nasty man, still ready to jump up in the next unsuspecting chump's face with the same rough insistence of her own rights - whether she's right or not.

She learned nothing from the entire mess, other than perhaps to feel more grieved, more put-upon than before; nothing about the evening, other than perhaps my ferocity, gave her a moment's pause.Reasoning did not touch her, reflection or self-doubt was not in her, civility was useless against her...nothing moved her but raw, naked force. And even when she was exposed as a misinformed fool her reaction was not shame or remorse but self-righteous anger.

What the hell can you do with someone like that?

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