She walked to the tall, gleaming stainless steel rack and took one of the blue, hard plastic trays from the stack, yanking mightily to finally break it free. She shook her head in disgust as she stepped lightly to the shorter shelf loaded full with Chicago Sun-Times newspapers. She bent over the full-color front page, reading the grim headline.
"IT RAINED ON OUR PARADE", the paper pronounced, with a picture of a rain-soaked and saddened Brian Urlacher blazened across the tabloid-sized page.
"Yes, it certainly did," the woman softly muttered. At that, I could not contain the giggle that burst from my lips and shook me the whole way into the expansive cafeteria.
Most of the time, the huge area is busy with people chattering and ordering, gathering their sundries for breakfast, recounting their weekends. Friday, February 2, 2007, it was absolutely bustling with people abuzz about the upcoming Super Bowl, the blaring music of the long-dead "Super Bowl Shuffle" from 1986 roared over the speaker system and all the blue-and-orange clad workers were dancing and toe-tapping as they stood awaiting service at either the food prep counter or the registers. It was an absolute middle eastern market, filled with laughter, joviality and plans for victory parties and celebrations to come. There was much boasting and recollection of the "glory days" of the last time a Chicago team had gone to a Super Bowl. The anticipation of again returning as conquerors was tingling through the air.
Today, the cafeteria was an absolute morgue.
No one spoke as they moved monotonously through the register line -- which was short and somber. The food preparation area was nearly deserted. A few hushed whispers of those that clearly aren't football fans wisped through the air, drown out by the blasting furnaces working against the sub-zero weather in the expansive, high-ceiling auditorium.
I laughed aloud as I gathered my breakfast -- an apple fritter, a rare treat for myself, and hot coffee to warm the chill in my bones from the frosty cold outside. I saw the same shaved-headed lad who works the registers most mornings today, quiet but friendly, no longer pushing his audio bytes of various plays from throughout the Bears' season through the laptop he'd brought in on Friday. I chuckled from my belly as I moved through the line and paid my total, watching the downcast, hollow eyes, the long faces, the lack of smiles. The auditorium was so quiet; no one sat in the dining area. No one was laughing. No one was wearing any Bears jackets, hats, pins, ties, belts, buttons, sweaters. And no one seemed to be buying newspapers, for some reason.
"IT RAINED ON OUR PARADE."
"Yes, it certainly did," she agreed. And I laughed aloud again recalling it.
I laughed all the way back to my desk -- up a flight of stairs, a walk of a few hundred feet, and around a corner. I suspect I'll laugh a lot today, as people bemoan the death knell of the Bears' Super Bowl run. And I can see in their eyes, in their worried tones and furrowed brows, that they wonder if it will be another 21 years before they can boast and brag again about the "Monsters of the Midway."
I hope so.