Up out of the deepest part of the Bunker Archives – 1987. Go Cubs!

Being disliked, mistrusted, and generally held in contempt by a potentially hostile mob that completely surrounds you is the ultimate feeling of isolation. When we came into the area where the crowd started forming several hours earlier, there was a momentary hush. Their disdain for us was obvious. Their scowls were so electric that the very thought of that many pairs of hostile eyes directed at me made me shiver and caused the fine hairs on the back of my neck to bristle.

We had taken the usual care in preparing our uniforms. However, their crisp blue appearance did not appear to impress a single member of the crowd. Now, each of us wondered if each piece of our equipment would perform its necessary function when needed – and we knew it would be needed.

There was a growing lump in my throat. That, along with the acidic taste in my mouth was starting to make me a little nauseous. I was sure that my queasy stomach would embarrass me at any moment. That would probably not be good for an authority figure in the position I was now in. It would be akin to the lions cutting a weak animal from the rest of the herd.

I made a slow 360-degree turn. As I did, it confirmed my fear that we were now completely surrounded by the crowd. This only reinforced in my mind the thought that if the crowd should decide to direct its rage toward us, our position was not defendable.

The confrontation we found ourselves in the middle of had been brewing for several months. The crowd had formed into two opposing, hostile mobs. Insults were being shouted back and forth in a rising crescendo of noise. Even with a cursory glance the most inexperienced of us could pick up on the clear line of opposition we stood in the middle of. It was painfully clear to us that one group or the other would not like any move we made. The jeering and insults being passed back and forth between the two sides was now nothing more than an indecipherable roar of noise. The insults being shouted at us from both sides, however, were as clear and distinct as they would have been if only one person several feet away had uttered them. We were our only allies and neither side wanted us to forget that.

Another hush fell over the crowd. Our leader, a thick-skinned veteran of many such confrontations, had just summoned the leaders of the two groups. They approached hesitantly. Neither was willing to approach the other and much less was their eagerness to get near us. As they got near, their carriage and stone like facial expressions made their leadership obvious. They were greeted by the same stern, stone like expression from our leader. A brief discussion followed their meeting. Hands reaching into pockets, nervous fidgeting and shuffling feet only added to the crowds’ curiosity about what the gist of this conversation might be. The meeting was over as quickly as it started. Abruptly, our leader turned and walked swiftly back in our direction leaving the two leaders standing alone. They momentarily glared at one another then turned and quickly headed in opposite directions. Again, the noise of the crowd became deafening.

When our leader returned to us, the grim look on his face was not reassuring. The gum he always had in his mouth was being nervously worked over. His look only caused me to think again about how vulnerable our position was. We were like the toyed with prey of a large cat – there, whenever he wanted to finish us off. Our leader took on an air of calm as all great leaders do in such situations. He had already made his decision. As he issued us our final instructions, we knew that he intended to make the first move and try to gain control of the inevitable confrontation. He directed us to our assigned positions. We moved to them directly, but with caution. The adrenaline was starting to flow and our senses felt charged with electricity. The farther we got away from one another the greater the sense of isolation and vulnerability we felt.

When we reached our assigned positions, our leader gave each of us a look to ensure we had followed his precise instructions. It was even more obvious now that he intended to make the first move. Even at a distance of nearly one hundred feet I could clearly see him nervously working the wad of chewing gum in his mouth. The noise of the crowd was again rising. All eyes were on our leader in anticipation. While surveying the crowd he made some minor adjustments to his equipment confirming that all he needed was within reach. Then, he very calmly lowered the protective mask over his face while making momentary eye contact with the leaders of each group. Then in a very loud and commanding voice he yelled, “PLAY BALL!”

Copyright© 1987, J. D. Pendry, All rights reserved.


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