Saturday, August 13, 2005

Rex Grossman Owes Me Seventy Bucks

Those of you who have clicked on my profile may have noticed that among my interests I included the Chicago Bears. I am a big football fan. I played back in junior high and high school, and I have been Bearing Down since I moved here. I am extremely fortunate to have a wife who enjoys the game as much as I do.

A year ago my friend Clayton managed to score two tickets to a preseason game against the 49ers. The Bears won, not that it matters in the preseason. We had fancy seats in the fancy section (the "Cadillac Club") which basically meant there were more opportunities to spend money than elsewhere in the stadium. To commemorate the momentous occasion, we made our way to the gift shop and threw down a big hairy shitload of money on jerseys. Clayton got himself a Mike Brown, I bought a Brian Urlacher for Mandy (my wife) and I got #8, starting quarterback Rex Grossman, Sexy Rexy, for myself. And all was right with the world.

The season started well. I was in a play at the time, but a number of cast members were also football fans, so a bunch of us got together at a bar near the theater every Sunday before our matinee to watch the first half. We also had a crappy television with awful reception in the theater's green room, and we would run offstage between scenes to get updates on the games. I seem to recall we lost the first game of the season in spite of a pretty fantastic showing, but then we beat Green Bay, which really was the pinnacle of the season. Then we played Minnesota. We should have won. Could have, in fact, but old Rex, in only the sixth starting game of his career, went down with a leg injury bad enough to sideline him for the rest of the season.

The rest is just depressing history. The Bears had one of the worst seasons in recent memory. We started three more quarterbacks, lost about half the starting lineup to injury, and managed to finish the season with a 5-12 record. The one shining light was the knowledge that next season, all of our starters would be healthy and ready to play.

And now, the punchline:

Last night, in the second preseason game of the 2005 season, Bears starting quarterback Rex Grossman BROKE HIS ANKLE in the second quarter, and will be out of the game for three to four months. Again, I am in a play, but this theater does not have a television in the green room, so I did not find out what had happened until this morning. Mandy is still in bed, and I can't wait to see her reaction to the news.

And to top it off, the Bears once again failed to pick up a veteran backup quarterback in the off-season, so we're stuck with one of the backups who sucked last year, and a guy out of college we just picked up in the draft. Granted, the draft guy, Kyle Orton, has looked pretty good so far this preseason, but he's been playing in the fourth quarter against other teams' third stringers, so we really don't know how good he is yet. But that doesn't matter. The first game of the season is still a month away, and I've already got a bad feeling about the whole thing.

And if Grossman doesn't manage to at least come back in November and finish the season on a high note, I am gonna start to feel like all those poor bastards stuck with Cade McNown jerseys.

You Bears fans know what I'm talking about.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Urban Heat Island

As some of you may have noticed, it's been a tad warmer than usual these past few weeks here in ... the world. Also, the number of hurricanes and tropical storms have almost doubled. But I'm sure it's nothing to be alarmed about. If there was a problem, our stalwart leaders in Washington, DC, would be on the case faster than--

Sorry, I couldn't keep that going any longer.

In the wake of this global-warming-induced drought, I learned a term I had never heard before: Urban heat island. An urban heat island occurs when there is not enough wind to disperse the heat energy absorbed by the asphalt and metal of large cities. These materials absorb the heat from the sun quickly during the day, but release that energy slowly overnight. If there is not sufficient air flow, the heat energy just accumulates, making conditions a little hotter every day. This is what happened here in Chicago in 1995, when a five-day heat wave killed almost 740 people.

When I first learned about this phenomenon I found, in my own self-centered way, that it made a decent metaphor for the way I handled my job. Until a few days ago, I worked in customer service for a company that specializes in foreign and independent films and documentaries. It sounds cool, but let me assure you it is not. It may have been cool once, back when it was the only place that did what it does, but now there is nothing my company provides that cannot be gotten faster and cheaper through My company pretty much completely failed to keep up with the times, and now the only people who call are extremely pretentious film twats or people to old or too stupid to handle the Internet.

I sat at the same desk doing the same job for four years. I enjoyed it for a while because I dealt in movies, and how fun is that? But soon I learned that I didn't quite have the patience necessary to make this job truly enjoyable. The type of customers who called, combined with the shoddy way my company is run, made for a number of very stressful phone calls. Unfortunately, I was never able to just shrug off the frustration from one call gone sour before the phone would ring again. My patience was like the asphalt and metal of the city, and the customers would radiate heat that wouldn't begin to dissipate until the weekend. Occasionally, there would be deaths.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

I suppose I got burned out. It reached the point where I felt my pulse elevate every time the phone would ring. I would slam the phone back into its cradle at the end of every call, no matter how the actual call went. Sometimes I would just stand up and announce to anyone within earshot that I had been sitting at this desk too long and I need to find another job before I killed someone.

For some strange reason, the managers decided it might be time for a transfer. They called me into a meeting to let me know that "some changes were coming down the pipeline." I would finish the week on the phones, then make a permanent switch over to our warehouse.

At first I was indignant. They gave me no choice in the matter. I stewed overnight, and was still simmering the next morning, until I completed my first phone call of the day. After slamming down the phone once again, I thought, Well, I don't have to talk to that asshole ever again.

I have been working in the warehouse for a week now. It is not air-conditioned. It involves a great deal of paperwork and heavy lifting. Occasionally trucks need to be unloaded. My dad will probably think I'm not living up to my potential, or some such thing. But I gotta tell ya, ever since I ended my last phone conversation with my last idiot customer, a cool breeze has been blowing, and my own personal heat wave is lifting. I think there will be more temperate days ahead.