I’m no big baseball fan, but I was excited to go to a friend’s surprise 40th birthday party at Yankee stadium the other night. In addition to wanting to celebrate with a friend, it felt like a very New York thing to do.
I happily rediscovered that Yankee stadium is really easy to get to by public transportation – Google maps told me I could take any of three subway routes or Metro North. I got there from downtown Manhattan in 30 minutes, taking the A train to 145th street and transferring to the B train along with the guy in the Yankee’s jersey who was trading stories with his 9-year-old daughter who was going with him to the game.
I got off at 161st street and I made my way to Gate 4. There was a guy inspecting each bag perfunctorily and asking each person to turn on their cellphone, which I didn’t pay any attention to until he told me I couldn’t bring my bike helmet into the stadium.
My bike helmet? The bike helmet I wear so that I can use the Citibikes that are Mayor Bloomberg’s pride and joy?
“Why?” I asked.
“It’s a security risk….If you like you can talk to my supervisor.”
The supervisor was worse. He talked to me for a minute, then got a call on his cellphone and disappeared. I waited. Five minutes later I went back to the first guy and asked for the supervisor again. When he came back out, my pleas notwithstanding, he told me there was no way the helmet could come in, no way they could hang on to it for 5 minutes while I got my friend’s car keys to put it in her car, no way I could leave it behind one of the many desks in the lobby. What I could do was go to the nearest locker, which apparently was seven blocks away at a bar.
“What do you suggest I do?” I asked.
“What you do with your property is not my concern, sir.”
(I beg to differ. I didn’t have a “disposing of or storing my innocuous property” problem until I bumped into you.)
So there I am, outside of Yankee stadium, the clock ticking on the “surprise” moment in the surprise birthday party, with an apparently illicit mostly-foam bike helmet that I have no way to store or dispose of. I wish I’d known at the time that there is no mention whatsoever of bike helmets not being allowed in Yankee Stadium on the Yankee Stadium Security Policies web page (though it says laptops are not permitted, and they are), but I didn’t. So instead I pleaded a bit more, I asked for more explanation, and I’m told that a bike helmet can be used as a weapon, at which point it also didn’t occur to me to say that a beer bottle would be a better weapon, as would a full soda can, both of which I later had access to inside the stadium.
Trapped, powerless, and out of time, I gave in. I walked 20 yards to a nearby lamp post and clipped the helmet on to it, assuming I’d never see the helmet again but secretly hoping that the better angels of human nature would prevail; that something hidden in plain sight would somehow be overlooked; or that the surly supervisor would surreptitiously keep an eye on my helmet for me (it was in his line of sight), as a sort of karmic payback for being so woefully unhelpful and unsympathetic.
Sadly, there was no happy ending. When I got back a couple of hours later the helmet was gone.
The helmet only cost me 30 bucks at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and this is mostly a trivial story – except for how patently absurd the whole thing is, how an incredibly low bar wasn’t crossed by anyone who could have said “hey, this is crazy, go ahead” or “let me help in some small way,” and how it’s so easy to have rules and institutions and just a little bit of power, be abused, even in the smallest of ways.
And, if Citibike is going to become a real part of the fabric of New York City life, perhaps our fine Mayor, as a parting gesture, could mandate a blanket permission for bike helmets to be allowed in buildings, museums, and, yes, stadiums.
Otherwise, pretty soon I’ll get sick of buying new helmets, and will be tempted to flaunt all the rules and sit outside the game with my helmet and a 32 ounce soda, jeering.
4 thoughts on “The Yankees put safety first”
Perhaps a smart philanthropic group could set up a roving “helmet+plus” “check van” where for a small free-will donation such articles are kept for the duration of an event and returned at the end. With today’s technology the check ticket could be a quick smart phone picture of the owner holding the object and holding a card with their contact information plainly displayed. Just a thought.
Of course I sadly expect to now read a story of how a sympathetic ticket taker offered to hold someone’s bike helmet for him which will turn out to really be made of plastic explosives and will be triggered from inside the game with the perpetrator’s cell phone. You can’t win, Sasha… safety, terrorism, you makes your bet – you takes your chances. No matter what happens, someone ends up looking bad. I guess at least the guys were doing their jobs, which lots of folks don’t do, even if they weren’t doing it with grace or style.
Sorry to hear about your helmet, Sasha. Welcome to the world of security theater. Bruce Schneier has been writing about this phenomenon for the better part of a decade: https://www.schneier.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-search.cgi?tag=security%20theater