Seeing Things Clearly in the Dark

May 18, 2007

Any baseball fan worth his or her salt has sat through a rain delay at a baseball game, waiting for the skies to clear and play to resume.

During a rain delay, some fans leave and others stay, huddled under the roof of the stadium, watching the sky for a sign of parting clouds.

But during last Saturday night’s baseball game in Granada,Mother Nature was not to be blamed for the delay in the sixth inning. No, this was all man’s doing.

With Estelí batting in the top of the sixth inning, trailing by four runs to the hometown Granada Sharks and being thoroughly dominated by ace pitcher Julio César Raudez, the stadium lights went out. In fact, the lights went out all across Granada.

The stadium, without a generator of its own or any backup exit lighting, was instantly cast into pitch blackness. Fans sitting in the stands couldn’t even see the person sitting in front of them.

The several thousand people in attendance all started yelling and whistling, holding up their cell phones and lighters as if asking for a curtain call at a Pink Floyd concert.

Sales immediately picked up for the vendor selling flashing “koosh balls” and an additional odd assortment of other glow-in-the-dark gismos, whose stock quickly rose from cheap novelty item to indispensable survival devices to help people get out of the ball park.

On the field, with their faces completely obscured by the darkness, the baseball players lit up cigarettes – only the red flaring embers of cigarette tips could be seen from the stands.

Several people in the stands joined them in solidarity. Other vendors, no strangers to blackouts, continued to try to sell their cokes, beers, quesillos and peanuts – shouting out their wares in the dark.

Kids continued to run around looking for empty cans to collect.

The reaction to the blackout was wonderful. No one panicked and everyone seemed to have a sense of humor about it.Many went on their business as if nothing had happened. People who decided to leave the park did so in a careful and orderly fashion, and those who remained in their seats jokingly yelled for a refund.

As I sat there in the dark, wondering how long I was willing to wait for the lights to come back on, I couldn’t help but think how this same situation would have been one of utter chaos or panic in other parts of the world. Imagine a similar scene at a sporting event in the terror-panicked United States – it would have been total pandemonium.

But not in Nicaragua. Here it was no big deal. Life goes on.

After 30 minutes of waiting, I decided the lights weren’t coming back on anytime soon (I was wrong, they came back on 30 minutes later, play resumed and I missed seeing Juan Carlos Urbina smack a grand slam in the 7th inning – that will teach me to leave a game before it’s over).

As I left the stadium, I had to step gingerly down the dark ramp with its unknown steps and gutters lying ahead of me, waiting for me to insert foot.

It was equally dark out on the street, as people made their way ploddingly toward their homes, guided intermittently by the headlights of passing cars.

When I got back to my neighborhood, I walked down the dark street and said hi to my neighbors, all of whom were sitting out on the front sidewalk in their rocking chairs in search of a breeze. Everyone had the front doors of their homes open, in a city with no light. Again, I couldn’t help but think: where else in the world do you find a place that feels safe and familiar enough where people’s first impulse during a blackout is to open their doors and sit on the sidewalk?

When I finally made it back to my street, my neighbor, who is always sitting out front in his rocker, blackout or not, shined a flashlight ahead of me so I could see my feet and eventually see my door clearly enough to figure out where to put the key.

Although the night didn’t turn out as I had planned it, and I missed some of the best excitement of the baseball game, it was during that one-hour blackout last Saturday night that I was reminded of everything that I love about Granada,Nicaragua and its people. Sometimes it takes total darkness to see things so clearly .

Tim Rogers is the Editor of The Nica Times.

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