Wednesday, April 25, 2012

grabbing dollars in Ditkaland: part one

One desperate winter, I worked for the Chicago Bears.
I was a quasi-personal assistant for this mobster type union boss that winter, and it was a joke. It had been the only job on Chicago craigslist requiring union organizing experience and I was probably the one person who had any that applied, so I was it. I'd been unemployed for five months and living in Chicago for two already, so I really needed something, anything to kick my 22 year old momentum back in gear. The actual job required very little knowledge of anything union related and I was paid unreliably, under the table. My tasks could include anything from designing a catalogue of union-made items for the local members to driving my bosses brand new Benz through the bustle of downtown Chicago to drop him off or pick him up from his lawyers office, or the doctor, or anywhere he was. If he showed up at all. Most days he didn't bother to show up at all so I'd sit on the sixteenth floor peering down at the city and panicking about money, which I had none of. When my boss did show up for work it was usually for periods of less than 15 minutes and would almost always involve him telling me we were going to lunch at Gene and Georgettis, a place where people like the owner of the Chicago Sun Times had lunch. Important people. Rich people. Powerful people. People who were not me.
I met the owner of the Sun Times one day. I was under dressed.
Missed opportunities abounded during my times in the windy city.
I'd always order the cheapest thing on the menu at these lunches, some kind of salad, because I honestly never knew who was paying. I never did. I'd shake hands with everyone to whom I was introduced. Everyone from the restaurant owner to the valet would greet my boss with a man hug. I felt like dead weight, dragging myself along behind him.
People were constantly giving my boss presents. Some expensive cologne here, some Gucci cuff links there. And the booze. Bottles of vodka and wine would materialize out of nowhere and he always just shrugged and passed it along to me. He never took any of the booze himself, claiming he only drank Kettle One. He liked me because I was young and always around when he needed me, but I think I was secretly a disappointment to him. Here I wanted to grow a union, what I'd been hired for, and all he wanted to talk about was where all the hot parties were in the city and where I'd gone out the night before. I was too embarrassed to tell him I wasn't really the club type, or in any sort of 'know,' so I made up stories. Really, I'd walk down to this dive called Estelle's, the closest place to my apartment in Wicker Park, and drink alone a lot of times. They were open until 4am, so I rarely left Wicker.
One day my boss asked me if I wanted to work for the Bears at home games for like 20 dollars an hour or something and of course I said yes. I figured it'd be more of the shady shit he already had me doing, but I was pleasantly surprised when they handed me a W-2 on my first day. Not that I wanted to pay taxes, I was just psyched that they were going to pay me in something other than  expensive salads and handshakes and bottles of red wine. I love those things, but they don't pay the bills or the parking tickets.
And I was quickly accumulating parking tickets and living in perpetual fear of The Boot.
I was instructed to show up at nine in the morning for a Sunday noon game, given only a gate number. Naturally, I had my roommate try to drop me off at the Bear's stadium on a game day and it was a fucking zoo and I ended up walking around to the lakeside as far as I possibly could from the place I was dropped off. It's freezing and the lake effect is all up in my face and the wind is stabbing me maniacally through my coat. I'm wearing ballet flats with no socks and a pathetic excuse for gloves. 45 minutes later and I'm practically crying in pain, pacing around, looking pathetic or deranged or both, probably, and still no one has shown up.
Improper footwear has been a trending commonality for most of the physical discomfort I've suffered in my life.
I try calling my boss like four times but of course he can't be bothered to answer and I finally give up on getting a hold of him because I don't want to be annoying and desperate. Except I'm freezing and I want to go home and watch trashy tv on the DVR with my roommate on the couch, where it's warm. Obviously. But I reason with myself that I really CAN'T do that because I don't even have money to pay rent this month and this five hours of work will be almost a hundred dollars. And because the one thing I have left going my way is that I honor my commitments.
And also I have no idea how I'm going to get across town anyway.
So I stand around and freeze my ass off and wish I had thicker gloves.
To be continued......

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