Curse of the coffee achievers

In the three-week existence of Nationals Park as a functioning stadium, there probably had never been the demand for coffee as was experienced this morning before Pope Benedict XVI’s Mass.

For one thing, the Mass was a morning event, starting at 10 a.m. This meant that people had to get to the park early to go through the security measures.

And, because parking at the ballpark is at a premium even on game days — and made worse due to road closures to allow for the safe and smooth transit of Pope Benedict and other VIPs, most people coming to the Mass had to take the Metro to get to Nationals Park. And Washington’s Metro system has a strict rule against eating or drinking while inside the subway system.

On top of that, police allowed no food or beverages to be taken into the stadium, with very few exceptions. And coffee was not one of the exceptions.

That made coffee, er, lovers quite anxious to get a cup of the brew once inside. A lot of requests for coffee early on were met with “We don’t have any coffee” or “we don’t have any coffee yet.”

The ballpark ran out of coffee from the vending booths that did serve the stuff.

“I’m dyin’ for a cup of coffee,” said  Vinnie Bellezza of La Plata, Md. He was about 60th in line. He said he had done some “pre-emptive eating ” on a church bus from LaPlata to Nationals Park. By the time he, his wife and a friend had completed a brief interview with Catholic News Service, there were 26 additional people in line behind them.

At 8:15 a.m. one nun, tapping her wristwatch for emphasis, remarked how she had been in line for “nearly an hour” waiting for a cup of coffee. There were still four others in line behind her, and the line didn’t move in the five minutes after she tapped her watch.

“An example of poor planning,” said a woman fourth in line behind the nun. “They should realize that in the morning,” she added, slowing down her words for emphasis, “People. Want. Coffee.”

“I swindled my way into getting some coffee,” boasted Rachel Pantazis to her seatmates at Nationals Park. “There was a long line of people,” she told them, extending her left (non-coffee-holding) hand after far as it could go, “and there was this cashier at an empty stand. I walked up to her and said, `I want some coffee.’ She said, `It’s going to be 10 minutes.’ `That’s fine, I’ll wait right here,'” Pantazis said, using the same hand to indicate the stand she took.

“And I got my coffee.”

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