GREGOR SAMSA awoke one morning to discover he had not received his opening day Oriole tickets. It was no dream.
Gregor managed to fit his six pairs of spindly legs in his specially made orange and black double-knit slacks and headed for the light rail. As he swung his VW beetle into the Timonium park-and-ride, he discovered the 80 places had been taken by automobiles with stickers from the Ruxton-Riderwood Community Association. So he couldn't take light rail.
Before Gregor left the house, he had called the Oriole offices. The lady on the other end of the line had told him he must have lost his tickets. She said they were scheduled to be mailed out last week. She said there was a possibility that Gregor's mail had been tampered with. She said the Orioles had gone to great trouble and enormous expense to make special opening day tickets. She said that Gregor should be thankful that he lives in a free country where people can lose their tickets. All this made Gregor feel very guilty.
Gregor headed toward the stadium by way of the Jones Falls Expressway. A few moments later, the expressway became a parking lot. Several thousand other people had had their mail tampered with, and they were headed to the stadium to wait in line for their opening day tickets. Thousands of cars waited on the expressway, so they could wait in line at the ticket window. They all felt guilty.
When Gregor finally pulled his car off the expressway, he discovered the Orioles had scheduled a downtown parade at the same time, so that it would be particularly difficult to find a place to park. He found a space in Little Italy. He traveled as fast as his little legs would carry him. When he finally arrived at the ticket line, he waited for 20 minutes until one of the nice ushers with the new uniforms informed him that he had been in line with people waiting to pay $3 to watch the Orioles have batting practice on an off day. Gregor felt very guilty.
When Gregor finally found the proper line, he waited for 35 minutes until he got his turn at the window. He tried to be polite. He knew what repercussions there can be when one is not. While he was waiting his turn Larry Lucchino, the Oriole president, went by in the parade. Gregor waved four of his arms.
At first, the man at the ticket window insisted that there was absolutely no record that anyone named Gregor Samsa had ever existed. Gregor pushed his driver's license through the window opening. They argued a while longer, Gregor's feelers standing upright in excitement and amazement.
Finally, the man at the ticket window told Gregor he must have lost the tickets. Gregor insisted that he hadn't. The man suggested Gregor's mail must have been tampered with. The man finally gave Gregor new tickets, but he never explained why there could have been two sets of tickets for the same seats the same day, if one set had already been mailed out. The man kept Gregor's driver's license, just in case the authorities needed to get in touch with him later. Gregor felt very guilty.
On the way home, Gregor thought about how the Orioles had promised him "comparable" tickets to those he had had in the old stadium. He wondered whether the authorities had something to do with his new seat assignment, which seemed much farther away than his old seats. Gregor mused about how he and the other citizens of the state had paid for the new stadium. He knew how strange the world can be, but he wondered why no one had said thank you. Gregor thought about all this a while longer. All of this made him feel very, very guilty.
It was no dream.
Stephen Vicchio teaches philosophy at the College of Notre Dame. His most recent collection of essays, "Ordinary Mysteries," was published by Wakefield Editions.