“OK, I think I’ve got this,” I reassure myself. Two beers, two hot dogs, one soda, one bottled water, an order of nachos and a burger. The cups of beer and soda are loaded into one of those pop-up cardboard trays, with the dogs crammed in there as well. The bottle of water is tucked securely under my left arm. As for the nachos and the burger, I’m hoping to snag those with a spare finger or two after picking up the tray. Here goes nothing.
Oh dear. As I lift up the tray, the flimsy cardboard buckles under the uneven weight of the beverages. I adjust, momentarily stabilizing the load, and decide this is my chance to reach for the nachos and the burger. Pinching the lip of the plastic nacho plate, I realize that, like the tray, the plate can’t handle its business either. At this point I am one strike away from dumping 48oz of liquid, meat, tortilla chips and magma cheese all over the counter. I set everything back down. I need help.
I catch the gaze of the guy behind the counter, and I immediately recognize that this is no average concessions worker. His sizable girth, dust-broom mustache and almost comical accent indicate that this man has achieved-yes-Bill Swerski’s Superfan status. As he glares at me, I can see the disdain in his food-loving eyes. But it’s disdain lightly salted with sympathy. This is the man that can save me.
“Any advice?” I stammer.
“First thing, go over der and grab yer condiments,” he coaches. Right… how would I get the condiments after I picked up all that stuff? As I hustle to the condiment stand, I’m now sure that I’m dealing with the Mike Ditka of ballpark concessions. He continues, all in one breath, “Now put yer nachos in da tray. Lay down yer bottle a water in da tray next ta yer nachos. Stack yer burger on da nachos and put da hot dogs in der, too.”
“Now, can ya hold t’ree cups?” he asks, as if a wrong answer would get me cut from Team Manhood.
“Good. Put yer cups in da shape of a triangle. Take yer tray a food an’ put it on top a da cups. Now pick up yer cups… and yer good ta go.” With the slight nod of his large, round head I am dismissed. Tragedy averted and a beer run saved.
Only in Chicago-where encased pork links are deified-will you find this level of food handling expertise. And if you can break a few of her broad-shouldered tackles, you’ll be rewarded with a city full of friendly, no-nonsense folks ready to help. Thank you, concessions guy. You truly are Chicago.