Last Saturday was a beautiful day. Sunny and warm, it was t-shirt weather until the sun set. It was the perfect day for a baseball game, and my first Orioles game since Opening Day over a week prior. As we drove to the park I contemplated what I'd get to eat for the first time at Camden Yards in 2014 (on Opening Day we filled up on Faidley's crabcakes prior to the game). We stopped on Eutaw Street so that my husband could pick up some bacon on a stick, then headed up to our seats in the upper deck.
Not that hungry, I decided to wait until after the game had begun to get my dinner, which was my first mistake. In the six months since the 2013 season ended I had forgotten how slow the lines are once the game starts. As the second inning came to an end I hustled out to the concourse, hoping to pick something up and be back in my seat before I missed too much action (it turned out there was very little action at all in that game, but that's another story).
I took only a short glance at the long line for nachos before setting off to find the perfect combination of good food and short lines. I passed a few stands before arriving at O What A Dog, which only had a handful of people waiting. A hot dog, perfect! Why not start off a season of eating at the ballpark with a classic? I got in line behind a single man and a group of three teenage girls and looked up at the TV. Bud Norris had just begun pitching to Brett Lawrie to start the top of the third inning.
I don't know what the lone man at the front of the line was getting, but it took him forever to complete his transaction. I watched the game on the TV hanging on the wall and tried not to be annoyed. The three girls finally stepped up to the counter and ordered three hot dogs and three cokes. Easy order, right? As they stood there the top of the third inning came to an end, the TV took a commercial break, and then the bottom of the third inning started. I was getting frustrated, but I was so close! I'd invested too much time in this stupid hot dog to turn back now.
The girls finally walked away with their hot dogs and sodas, and it was my turn. "One hot dog, please," I said to the grumpy looking woman working behind the counter (not that I blame her, I'd probably be grumpy too in her position). She glanced behind her at the roller thing that had hot dogs on it, then looked back at me and said, "We don't have any hot dogs."
WHAT? But this concession stand is called O What A Dog. Making hot dogs is their primary mission! I said, "Seriously?" She motioned to the hot dog roller behind her, "They're not cooked." I continued. "I just missed almost an entire inning waiting in line and you don't have any hot dogs in the third inning of a baseball game on a Saturday night?" Then, the thing that infuriated me and sent me back to my seat fuming happened. The concession lady said to me, "Lots of stands around here sell hot dogs, go wait in line somewhere else." I didn't even know what to say to that, so I just turned and left.
I returned to my seat just in time to see Adam Jones strike out to end the third inning. I had missed an entire inning with nothing to show for it. The combination of my hunger and my frustration over an all-too-familiar problem at Camden Yards made me very cranky. (If you don't believe me, just ask my husband. Or the couple sitting behind us who seemed to be listening)
This isn't a story that I like to write, but this is a scene that plays out over and over again at Camden Yards. Once the game starts it is nearly impossible to get through any line at any concession stand in less than an inning. If the lines were actually very long (which sometimes they are, certainly), I'd be understanding. But often they are not. This is not the first time that I or someone that I know has waited in a long and/or slow line only to be sent away because the pretzels aren't cooked or the nacho cheese isn't hot or they ran out of peppers and onions during the first inning.
I do not complain about the amount of money that I spend at baseball games, because I do so freely. Along with my in-laws, my husband and I have a 29-game season ticket plan for the Orioles. I regularly purchase food and drinks at the games despite their cost because I like ballpark food and the ballpark atmosphere. But I don't think that it's too much to ask that, when I'm willing to shell out nearly $15 for a hot dog and a beer, those in charge of running the concession stand find a way to do their job in an efficient manner and operate so that they don't serve all of their cooked hot dogs before beginning to cook the next batch.
I did get my hot dog eventually. I tried again in the seventh inning after the crowds had died down and I went to a different O What A Dog. There was no line, they had plenty of hot dogs cooked, and the gentleman serving me was friendly. But it was four innings too late to earn my good will.
So what about you, citizens of Birdland? Do you have your own horror stories about the concessions at Camden Yards? When I tweeted out my situation on Saturday I got more than enough responses to know that I'm not alone in this.