Tuesday, May 1, 2012

grabbing dollars in ditkaland, part two

Finally, mercy appears in the form of a gigantic man wearing one of those hats I most often think of as worn by cabbies. What are those called, anyway? He's round and not wearing gloves and doesn''t even look a little bit cold. Lucky bastard. He ambles over toward the Will Call building, set apart from the stadium by a wide walkway, directly across from the gate I was told to go to. He tries the door, locked. I can just tell he's here for the same reason I am. I can practically smell it.  I stiffly pace over to him and ask him if he's working? For the Bears? I was told to come here? And no one has showed up yet? And I'm not sure where to go? Name drop my boss?
 Because I'm idiotic when I'm uncomfortable and everything comes across as an annoying, childlike question.
At the mention of my bosses name, he grins and assures me that I'm in the right place, jokes that I should have known my boss is never on time to anything. Yes, silly me, I should have known. My poor frostbitten toes should have known not to be punctual. But I'm relieved to be in the right place, and sure enough a person with a headset and clipboard appears seconds later to unlock the door of the will call building, dispensing paperwork and barking instructions.
'This is what I'm doing,' I tell myself, because no one else bothered to tell me. I'm in the ticketbooth. I'm in will call. Fanfuckingtastic. Have I mentioned that I spent a short time as a cashier in a retail setting as a teen and my hands would tremble uncontrollably every time the line grew to more than three people? I must have a complex about making people wait or something, I feel like it's a lot of pressure.
The next thing I know, I'm shuffling into the unheated building as the lights inside it slowly grow to full glow and an odd assortment of native southsiders trickle in. It's a small narrow space, a line of windows facing the stadium. To tell the truth, the little building never got warm enough to be much of a comfort to me, although I never made the mistake of not wearing socks again in the middle of a Chicago winter. Some lessons are just more painfully learned than others,
I liked the job, surprisingly enough. I loved the people seated on either side of me as I worked the window for L-R. (the beginning of the alphabet was too concentrated to trust a first-timer.) They were encouraging and kind and part of the union, it made me feel at home. I got into a rhythm. I made jokes and conversation. I made a friend, Diana, who would walk the mile or two back to her car with me and then drive me home from the first game, bless her.
It was funny, the fans, the people who came to will call. They were so excited to be there and some were drunk and almost all were dressed ridiculously for the sake of passion and fandom. And so many firsts. It was dads taking kids to first games and first dates and tourists from out of the country who wanted to see an American football game. It sort of made me love football again. There's a look that people would get in their eye when I'd shuffle through the stack and find the ticket with their name printed on it. A mixture of relief and glee and goodwill toward man. There was something particular to Chicago fans too, that I never did pinpoint- and I hate to call it "Midwestern," but I think that's part of what it was, There we were in the middle of a huge city that's moving so fast all around, trying to get to a game,  and they're still making small talk with the girl in the will call booth.
Eventually, my boss showed up and gave me a 'Hiya, Sara." and a look that suggested he knew I could fend for myself all along.
And sure I could. But I still felt a little stung. It was before I realized that bosses don't always assume the role of older sibling/aunt/uncle/parent and look out for you, which was what I'd always had before.
I was told by the others that he didn't trust most people to do the Bears job, this is one he reserved for the people he held in very high regard. As with most things whispered reverantly to me about my boss from nearly everyone that knew him, I let it lull me into a state of complacency and privilege. He was a person worth knowing. People knew him. He had some power, some pull, I'd hit the lottery. Yes, I let these things drown out the hysterical voice down inside me that screamed, "But he's not paying you!!!!!!!!' I was working so hard to be breezy and cool in the big city.
I kept promising myself that soon knowing him would pay off. I just had to be patient and soon enough I'd be running with the wolves, doing lunch at fancy restaurants for my three closest and extremely succesful gal pals and taking midweek shopping sprees on Michigan Ave. I was mere handshakes and high fives away from Sex and the City: Chicago. But truth be told, I've never been patient, or particularly good at using my connections with people for personal gain. Plus my credit card was fast approaching it's already ridiculously high limit. It was winter in Chicago, even my attempts to pick up a bartending job were thwarted by lack of clientele braving the weather for a beer.
After the last Bears home game of the season, I told my boss we needed to part ways. I gave him two weeks, screened all the emails that came from his craiglist ad for a new assistant, and called and scheduled interviews with potential candidates. The irony that this was the first actual assistant work I'd done since I started wasn't lost on me.
Despite everything, I liked him.
He didn't show up on my last day, and I wasn't surprised, not really. I left him the spreadsheet of my hours and calculated that he owed me over five hundred dollars. And I was being generous, not greedy.
Two days later my mother showed up and helped my load my thing and took me to a final lunch in Chicago before heading down to Indianapolis.
I didn't hear from him for at least two months, until one day I got a piece of mail from the union he ran.  Standing on one leg in my parents kitchen, I ripped open the envelope, hoping against hope to find a fat check. Or at least the 500 dollars I'd actually charged him for. Instead, it contained only a crisp one hundred dollar bill and a post-it that said "Call me if you ever need work in Chicago!"
The Bears checks all arrived on time, pity they didn't have enough home games to keep me afloat.

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