Friday, July 1, 2005

The red-faced zookeepers of the erstwhile White Elephant on East Capitol Street have accumulated 34 years’ worth of baseball rust.

At least that is their story, and they are sticking to it, as officials with the first-place team of the National League East wonder what is so vexing about getting a semi-cooked hot dog to the patrons in an expedient manner.

An occasionally long concession line is perhaps the least of the complaints along the Anacostia River, the odorous waterway that serves as the raw dumping ground of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The players recently left their vehicles in what they believed was a secure parking lot while on a road trip, only to discover that secure is a relative term in the nation’s gasbag capital.

You ask: Who are all those cleaners rummaging through the vehicles of the players in broad daylight?

It beat the Sgt. Schultz disciples passing in the vicinity. They knew nothing.

There is the option of employing a car jockey to babysit a vehicle. The Nationals should make certain they are certified car jockeys, products of our fine public school system.

So here is a belated welcome to the employees of the Nationals.

You are now one of us, beleaguered as we all are by the onerous tax rates, uneven public services and stolen-auto industry.

You should know by now the city’s bloated bureaucracy functions at two speeds, slow and slower, if it functions at all, excluding the ticket-issuing cameras and meter maids that save so many lives and the tow-truck operators, illegal and otherwise.

Allen Y. Lew, sports commission chief operating officer, says the stadium is a victim of its 44 years, implausible or not, given the advanced age of Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.

As Tony Tavares, the Nationals’ president, says, “Old doesn’t have to mean dirty. I don’t want the age of the stadium being used as an excuse.”

Lew has been threatening to fire the stadium concessionaire since April, apparently unaware that incompetence is not cause for termination in the city.

City employees routinely sleep on the job, if not help themselves to the public till, only to be given raises and sparkling evaluations — a few after they have been found to be dead.

A snicker accompanies the news that trash pickup at the stadium has been spotty.

Join the city-wide club.

Just for fun, call 202/727-1000, the trash hot line number whose operators pretend to be employed in the public service sector.

They give a tracking number and a vow to remove the trash one of these decades.

The tracking number is as useless as the hot line, which inevitably leads to the alternatives of last resort.

Pack the maggot-filled refuse in your vehicle and haul it to the city dump by Catholic University, as one of the operators suggested, presumably with a straight face.

Or you could have your Advisory Neighborhood Commission summon one of the dimwit waste representatives to a meeting, whereupon the dimwit hems and haws and acts sympathetic to the burgeoning piles of black plague.

In a related development, the groundskeepers at the stadium are still trying to resolve the incredible complexities of the tarp, judging by their uncertain maneuverings Wednesday night.

They fight the tarp whenever there is a cloudburst, and the tarp wins.

The way the groundskeepers struggle with deploying the tarp, it is a wonder no one has been seriously injured yet.

We never envisioned this scenario in the inaugural season of the Nationals.

We thought the stadium’s employees and city services would outperform the Nationals, along with the opposition in the NL East.

Instead, criminals are hanging out in the player vehicles, the concession line sometimes stretches to the Anacostia Freeway, the field is a rain-induced mess and the Dumpsters are toxic.

“We’re going to keep at this and work through the issues,” Lew says, in Oprah-speak.

Ah, yes. Issues.

That is one way of softening the failure to meet basic assignments.

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