In the port-a-potty line, everybody’s got their two cents.
Football strategy, the stadium debate, the weather, nitrous oxide balloons – you hear it all while waiting for your turn in the stall. Everything, thankfully, but presidential politics.
It is pure, opinionated, loud-mouth Philly tawk.
On the afternoon of the Eagles’ biggest home game of the season, I take my place in line . . . and listen.
Two guys – one’s wearing a Donovan McNabb jersey, the other a wool Eagles cap – get in behind me. There are actually two lines, for the two stalls ahead, and they consider their options.
“There’s like 15 people in this one,” says McNabb. “Two minutes each, that’s a half-hour. ”
“I’m standing over here,” says wool cap. “I count 17, but you’ve got three chicks in front of you. I’ve got none. Ten bucks says I’m finished before you. ”
“Gimme odds.” says McNabb.
He takes a pull from his brew and sighs. “This is ridiculous. I got season tickets for the Ravens. You never stand in line for anything in Baltimore. ”
You hear a lot of stadium envy at the Vet these days. And it’s not just the lousy accommodations we suffer – the high-priced food served from grease-caked concession windows, the shoulder-to-shoulder johns, the trash-strewn, urine-smelling ramps. These are football fans, and many of them are plain worried about the injury threat the players face every time they take the field.
“You see that guy in front of the stadium protesting?” says wool cap, referring to a grass-roots fan demonstration held yesterday in support of a new stadium.
“Yeah, I like that sign: ‘Break ground, not players. ‘ ”
“Look what happened to Duce. ”
“Remember last year,” continues McNabb, “what we did to Irvin? ”
A voice from behind – a blonde in a green parka – chirps up: “Youse guys are sick. Michael Irvin almost got paralyzed and youse were cheering. ”
“I thought you were going to wait till we got inside the stadium,” says wool cap. “These port-a-johns are disgusting. ”
“Oh, I just hover above the seat. You never want to sit down,” she says.
“Hey, you sit down, you freeze your butt in there,” says McNabb. “Yo, I think my line’s moving faster now. ”
“Two johns for 5,000 people. . . ”
“Hey, you’re lucky,” says McNabb. “Last year, there were none. ”
Suddenly there’s shoving and loud voices at the rear of the line. Three or four young guys with walkie-talkies are in the face of an older man with a duffel bag.
“Get that s— outta here,” says the biggest. They’re security guards, and they’ve got themselves an illegal t-shirt vendor.
“Busted, dude,” says wool cap. “I was going to buy one of those shirts, ‘F— Dallas. ‘ But my girlfriend says I’m stupid, like, when am I going to wear it again. ”
“They’re cracking down on the vendors because no one’s selling balloons today,” says McNabb.
It’s true. I haven’t seen a balloon all day. The nitrous oxide dealers – knowing the cops would be in full force for the Dallas game – smartened up and took a holiday.
“It’s a start,” says wool cap. “I mean, I like getting high, but those balloons are disgusting. ”
“I brought my son down here last year,” says McNabb. “He says, ‘Daddy, can we buy a balloon? ‘ ”
The security guards run off the illegal vendor. Meanwhile, the promised land is in sight as my line surges.
“We lucked out – that one girl was just here to hold hands with her friend,” says the blonde.
“You’re going to owe me 10 bucks,” says McNabb.
“No way – we never bet. ”
“Double or nothing on the game. I’ll give you the ‘Boys and a touchdown. ”
“Randall QB-ing for the Cowboys,” says wool cap. “Can you believe it? ”
It’s my turn. The port-o-john door says “Royal Flush. ” I grab the handle and hold my breath.
The door slams shut behind me. And it takes exactly three seconds – I counted – for someone to shout:
“Yo, hurry up in there. ”