New Yorkers learn difficult lesson: patience

Extra security at World Series meant fans waited more than two hours for a seat.

Imagine a giant hourglass where the granules of sand, instead of flowing in a thin but steady stream, drop from one cone to the other, grain by grain.

That's what it felt like getting into Yankee Stadium the other night.

Even for those who arrived early at the Bronx baseball shrine for Game 3 of the World Series, the crowds were funneling through the gates so slowly that the streets had become an impenetrable mass of people, pressed together chest to back, shoulder to shoulder.

Is it a sign of what's to come? In a city of almost 10 million people, shoulder-jostling crowds and long waits are nothing new to New Yorkers.

On the streets of midtown Manhattan, taxis and pedestrians rush around one another like a hive of yellow jackets and colony of ants living together in a single commune. And on the subway during rush hour, reading the newspaper of the person in front of you is almost the same as having it in your own hands.

Yes, it's an odd intimacy New Yorkers share. But in this new era of air-tight security, will these daily routines ever be the same? While inconvenience and hassle is just as much a part of this city as bagels and cream cheese, New Yorkers expect progress in the chaos.

For a while, the World Series seemed - literally - at a stand still. Even though each gate featured a row of a dozen or so metal detectors, the thousands of people outside filed in person by person in a tedious ritual of security.

"There were checking everybody going in," says Vinni Todino, who waited in line for two hours with his son. "You had to take everything out of your pockets - keys, wallet, everything - and then if the alarm went off, they checked your whole body. Yo, man, they did one person at a time."

Even getting to the stadium was more of a hassle than usual. On the No. 4 line to the Bronx, packed northbound subway cars had to stop at the Grand Concourse, about 15 blocks away.

Since President Bush was throwing out the first pitch that night, an police officer outside the station said, they weren't allowing public transportation to come through. "We came 2 hours and 15 minutes by boat," said a fan from New Jersey, clad in a blue Yankees jacket, as he rushed to find his seat. "And then you had to wait over two hours to get in! We missed the opening ceremony."

For many of the fans standing in packed streets outside the stadium, the only thing they saw of the opening ceremony was the two jets that roared overhead at the start of the game.

As more and more of them became impatient, they started chanting, "Let us in! Let us in!"

When a person jumped a barrier to get to a different gate, three cops swarmed to intervene. But after a few harsh words, New York-style, they simply made the guy get back in line.

Even as the crowd became more frustrated, there was still a sense that the security measures were necessary. Nonetheless, some exasperated fans blamed the president, and started chanting, "Bush go home!"

"It's pretty lousy," said Kevin Hayes, an attorney who waited for hours to get in the stadium. "But I would say there was a much greater tolerance today than you normally would have had. "I think everybody realizes you need the security. But I think the question is: Is this the right place for him to come? I know the flip side, it's nice to see him out at a major event like this, but ... a lot of people were put out. I wanted to see the beginning of the game."

By the middle of the second inning, most people had finally made it to their seats. But the Yankee crowd was more subdued than usual on this chilly night as Roger Clemens struck out nine Diamondback players on the way to a 2-1 Yankee win.

As a city famous for its millions living in a constant rush, New York has always reveled in its bustling crowds and rowdy fans. Many even revel in the jostling shoulders and high intensity of daily living here.

But this week promises to provide a new challenge to the ethos. While the World Series funneled more than 55,000 fans into a few blocks in the Bronx, the famous Halloween parade in Greenwich Village sometimes draws more than 1 million revelers, as does this weekend's New York City marathon. But while the World Series was protected by 1,500 police officers, these events will require more than 2,000.

So now, with these kinds of security challenges in the wake of what has happened to their city, New Yorkers may have to learn a new kind of patience: How to stand quietly, and wait.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.