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My First Cab Ride, the Queen of the Internet, and other Baseball-related Tales

My very first taxi ride happened on a school trip to Paris, or maybe a vacation to Manhattan.  It was a while ago, and this story won’t go back that far.  This is about my first cab ride to my new home, and the events leading up to it, which began earlier in 2012.

I love the near-perfect location of my condo: it’s a short walk to shops, restaurants, and the Metro, yet it’s in a residential neighborhood that’s easy to drive to and park in.  My ten-minute walk to the Metro, though, has no cafes along the route to duck into during a storm and not much pedestrian traffic after dark.  When I first moved, I figured that at night or in bad weather, I could take a cab.

For months, I avoided taking the cab.  I discovered that even in the middle of the night I feel safe, and have continued walking home after dark, despite fox spottings and the creep who might have followed me if I hadn’t lost him.  (After that, I added pepper spray to my bag, but otherwise have not changed my routine.)  I scoffed at the idea that bad weather would necessitate a cab.  Commuters into the city take the same route back and forth to the Metro every day: if they can handle the elements, so can I.

Some night journeys have been after baseball games.  I tend to be indifferent to sports (except for football, which I increasingly find myself hating), but I actually do love baseball.  For a while in high school, I even collected baseball cards.  (I know – it’s inexplicable even to me.)

At one of the Nationals games earlier this year, my sister and I noticed a fan sitting near whom we dubbed The Viking.  In between innings, in a viking hat, he performed choreographed dance moves to the rock songs playing in the stadium.  (My sister: “I bet he practices in the mirror.”)  My favorite was when “Here I Go Again” came on and he tapped the imaginary watch on his wrist in rhythm with Whitesnake’s singing, “I ain’t wasting no more time.”

We’ve seen him at nearly every game since, always in a different weird getup (clown wig, houndstooth suit, sparkly top) and usually with a Michael Jackson sequin glove.  We kept calling him The Viking even after the viking hat disappeared because we knew nothing else about him.

After one game, on the Metro, my sister and I were chatting, when suddenly her eyes grew wide and she began gesturing to something behind me.  “Huh?”  Finally, she mouthed, “The Viking” and I turned to see two men behind us.  Although one was wearing a tshirt of the opposing team, they looked like normal sports fans.  Then I noticed that the Nats fan’s bag contained something glowing, and a rainbow-colored clown wig, very similar to The Viking’s from that game, was peeking out.

Soon, we had to change trains and my sister went another way.  The Viking and his friend were getting on the same train as I was, and I followed them in dazed awe.  Listening to their conversation, I deduced they were lawyers, or in similar work.  I was transfixed: this nutcase not only looked normal out of his costumes, but also appeared to be intelligent and capable.  Meanwhile, my sister was frantically texting me to speak to him.  Just as I was working out what to say, though, they left the train.  That night, intrigued, I tried googling him but found nothing.

For my father’s birthday, my sister and I took my parents to a game and we once again had seats near section 135, where The Viking sits/performs.  The whole family was amused by The Viking’s between-inning shows (and those of another uber-fan, Terrance, who runs – runs – back and forth revving up fans and plays air guitar on a folded plastic chair).

My sister and I decided to ask for The Viking’s autograph, so we skipped down to his seat during a break.  He wouldn’t stop his dancing to sign my sister’s playbook, which was a bit disconcerting.  (Maybe he really does prepare his routines in the mirror can’t stray from them?)  As we were leaving with the autograph, the guy at the end of his row said to me, “Don’t you want one, too?  He can sign your chest,” and then tugged at the top of his t-shirt, indicating where said chest would be on me.  “I bet he would,” I laughed and turned to go.  “I would, too!” he called after us.  I’m still not sure if I should be flattered or really creeped out.

Back at our seats, my mother was determined to figure out who he is.  My sister reminded her that I had tried internet sleuthing once before, with no success.  “I bet I can find him.  I’m Queen of the Internet.”  My mother contends that “no one can hide on the internet” and her ability to uncover what people think they’ve hidden is a point of pride.  She assigned herself The Case of The Viking and began searching on her iPhone.

The Nats lost to the Cardinals.  My sister and I eased our disappointment with gelato, then made our respective ways home.

The sky was spitting as I exited the Metro station, but, unconcerned, I started home in the dark anyway.  Then, it began really raining.  Soon, the lightning started.  I have no idea how far away it actually was, but the brightness startled me and I jumped back once or twice.  The thunder grew loud and booming.

I could remember no facts about being struck by lightning, but I reassured myself that the odds were so low as to be near impossible.  That comforted me for about forty-five seconds.  Panicky, I darted into a neighborhood where I ran onto a porch.  Almost as soon as I was under cover, the rain began pouring.

No one seemed to be home, though the fact that I was trespassing on someone else’s property was the least of my worries.  In my Nationals cap and shirt and with my Vera Bradley bag, I’m about as unthreatening as you can get.  (Even my pepper spray is pink.)  I was certain anyone would take instant pity on me.

I considered my options.  After I had exhausted the possibilities of friends and family who could retrieve me, I decided to call a cab (or, rather, summon one using an app on my phone), even though I was THISCLOSE to home.  Like my mother’s being Queen of the Internet, my refusal to get a cab had become a point of pride.  But that pride withered from the anxiety of watching lightning strike over and over.

A five dollar cab ride later, I was home.  Immediately, my phone was dinging with new emails:  in messages reminding us that she is “Queen of the Internet,” my mother had forwarded The Viking’s name and some other biographical info (including that he went to law school), a brief write-up on his antics, and several pages and fangroups dedicated to him.  She even located a video of him from the game in which she spotted my sister and me running down to get his autograph.

Moral of this story: do not attempt to interrupt someone’s dancing to ask for an autograph.

Photo: The Viking, Nationals Park, May 2012
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