I will never agree to attend a baseball game again.
My departmental outing was..what? An architectural boat tour along the Chicago River? A visit to the Robie House? No, It was a Cubs game.
Really, it's a sickness. This summer, emails have abounded among departments ("I got some extra Cubs tickets if anyone wants them." "Anyone got some extra Cubs tickets? I've got clients coming to town." "Hey I hear there might be Cubs tickets.") It's endless.
So when I first came on permanent, I took over the job of getting Cubs tickets for the departmental outing. The dilemma: I didn't want to go, but I work for the department head and I didn't want to offend him. Before the game I spoke to another woman in a neighboring department. She had been invited but had declined.
"I HATE baseball," she said. Now, this was said the in same clandestine manner that Berger showed Laszlow the Free France insignia on his ring at Rick's Cafe Americain in Casablanca. To say you hate baseball, or the Cubs, in northside Chicago is like marching into an NAACP meeting and suggesting that maybe The Klan was just misunderstood. We bonded instantly.
So the day came and we all headed over in clusters, first to a beer garden near Wrigley. We had most of the place to ourselves, and it was cute and quaint, and I ordered all kinds of appetizers for the group, while they ordered their drinks. My boss was going to join us later after he finished some things.
People were drinking and having a good time. I had my usual ginger ale. it was nice, sitting with people and shooting the breeze. The food came out, and people began lining up at the tables to fill their plates. There is one guy in our department who I once told was high-maintenance. He was offended; I told him that it was interesting that he minded being called high maintenance, but didn't mind being high maintenance.
This man called to me, "Joy what do we do if the plates run out?" I turned to see him standing there, surrounded by people and waitresses moving back and forth from the restaurant to the beer garden. I looked at him closely, to see whether it was a joke. Alas, it was not.
"Ask one of the waitresses to get more," I responded, fighting to keep the sarcasm from my voice. He did, and like magic, she brought more!
I'll fast-forward to two women and I heading to Wrigley earlier than the others, and getting stuck in a line a half-block long because our purses needed to be searched. I stood there amidst the crowd, nut vendors pressing in, pitching their pistachios in seductive tones, and I fought off a low-grade anxiety attack. Once inside, we hit the ladies' room, then began the long, long climb to our seats, which were at the very top of the stadium.
The opposing team took the field, and people began to boo at one man in particular. When I asked a co-worker about it, she explained that it was Barry Bonds. People kept booing. I found it annoying and ill-mannered. That, combined with the T-shirts sold outside with antagonistic and just plain rude slogans, reinforced my belief that sports is now the domain of the classless and ignorant. A nonstop frat party with a $42.00 entrance fee. Adios, good sportsmanship.
I sat there, bored, and decided to try people-watching. Bad choice. There was the fat man to my right shoving hot dogs into his face, his lips shiny with grease. The men in front of me drank beer and periodically erupted with loud, animalistic noises. Our other co-workers arrived and sat behind us. Apparently, after we'd left the restaurant they'd begun doing shooters. My boss sat at the end, one row behind me. Lacking a blue-and-red Cubs hat, he'd improvised with a Geico hat, a blue cap with the Geico lizard embroidered in red on the front. He'd also brought a company hat, but I strongly discouraged him from Being That Guy.
With the exception of my boss and I, everyone was stoked, rowdy, and/or drunk. I felt my anxiety level ratchet up a notch.
The Cubs scored 4 and the Giants were up. The crowd erupted into boos again as Barry Bonds stepped from the dugout. The boos grew louder, and I found this annoying as hell. Barry? Barry sauntered to the plate, the first pitch was thrown, and BOOM! Barry effortlessly hit a "Screw you, Chicago" homer over the wall. He turned and sauntered back to the dugout.
"Ha HAAAA!" I yelled gleefully, forgetting myself. Heads turned.
The next batter came up. People yelled. People did The Wave. People clapped in rhythm, stomped their feet. Behind me, my drunken co-workers yelled and screamed, and discussed the various merits of the players.
I stood up, climbed over my row, saw next to my boss and explained that while I thought it was very generous of him to have arranged all of this, I was feeling the way he felt when he had to sit between two people on a plane. (I have had to involve several travel agents in ensuring that this does not happen.)
"In other words, I have to get out of here." He understood, and I bolted. Down, down, along ramps full of milling people and refreshment vendors. Eventually, the turnstyles were in view, NO RE-ENTRY signs posted above them. I sailed through a turnstyle, feeling like the protagonist on Midnight Express, waiting for the Turkish prison guards to realize exactly what was going on and drag me back.
I cleared the turnstyles and hit the sidewalk.
"No Re-entry!" called a chorus of turnstyle-keepers, trying to save me from myself.
"No worries!" I called back.
I got on the train and headed back to the office, anticipating an afternoon free of interruptions, making headway in the never-ending work that would give Sisyphus deja vu.
Yes, you read correctly: I would rather be at work than at a baseball game, even a baseball game where everything is paid for. Because that is just how much I hate baseball.
One of the guys who'd been unable to make the game asked what I was doing back. I sighed, knowing how this was going to play out.
"I left. I hate baseball," I told him, bracing myself. I knew exactly what was coming.
"WHAT?! Really! C'mon! How can you hate baseball?"
"M---, what was the name of the dog owned by the furniture-making boyfriend of Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and The City?"
"Oh, my girlfriend loves that, but.."
"WHAT?!? You don't know?!?!? How can you not know his name was PETE!?! See M---, I hate baseball, don't' really drink, and am a vegetarian, because I want to make sure that I'm as much of an enigma to the average Chicagoan as possible. I want to make sure that I never date here again. I LOVE always being The Thing That Is Not Like The Others. Really, M--; I like my life to be this hard."
M laughed -- he's not a bad guy, really. He's just..Chicagoan.