Monday, July 10, 2006

Like a Headbutt to the Chest

Like a few billion other like-minded folks, I've spent much of the last month following the progress of the World Cup soccer tournament and mostly leaving aside the pettier details of life--proper attention to nutrition, devotion to my job, the blog, just to name a few examples. This morning brings the inevitable hangover.

One reason I know I'm not alone in this is the spectacle I've witnessed in my library's community. During big games when I've been trapped behind the counter at work, I've rearranged my schedule to take a lunch break coinciding with the second half of whatever game I've been missing. Here in the heart of the city's Hispanic community, there is no shortage of large screen TVs at various restaurants at which to view the Spanish language broadcasts of these games. One unintended result has been the immeasurable improvement of my understanding of the language over the past month, even if the commentators have a hilarious tendency to just repeat ad infinitum the last name of the player who currently possesses the ball. ("Rooney Rooney Rooney Rooney Rooney!!!")

One recent Saturday afternoon in the library, we were in the midst of enjoying probably the most quiet, customer-free few hours in living memory. Rather than the screams of children and the incessant chimes of cell-phones, we could hear the hum of our printers and even enjoy entire quarter hours of stone silence in which to collect our thoughts and contemplate the universe. This was all thanks to the second round World Cup clash between Mexico and Argentina that was drawing the attention of a truly impressive portion of our community. Earlier in the day I had even fielded a phone call from a newspaper reporter working on a story about how the game was affecting our part of town. I confirmed that the grocery store parking lot across the street was nearly empty, the streets were calm, and even the library, for once, was uncharacteristically quiet.

Following the first half of the game at the front desk by means of live internet updates was an increasingly frustrating exercise. Somehow underdog Mexico had taken a lead it was improbably holding up against the heavily favored (and even more heavily dramatic) Argentines. The tomb-like silence of the library was only broken by a stereophonic pair of disgusted groans when my co-worker and I both noticed the telltale flashing dot on the webpage that was graphically illustrating the run of play. The Argentines had taken the lead, and I couldn't stand being trapped behind the front desk any longer. I sprinted over to the nearest Mexican restaurant which was absolutely bursting with hundreds of rapt customers and tried to find my way to a TV screen.

People were pouring out of the front of the building attempting to catch a glimpse of the game's waning moments, and the adjoining half-dozen drive-thru lanes of the neighboring bank were packed with double-, triple-, and quadruple-parked cars and pickups with a truly impressive array of Virgin Mary bumper stickers and back window art. Inside the restaurant, the atmosphere crackled with intensity as the game had turned and frustratingly brilliant Argentina maintained a one-goal lead. Weaving through all the passionately outraged humanity were a dozen Latina waitresses who floated through the scene with the detached amusement I've only otherwise seen on the face of the Dalai Lama while they delivered tray after tray of beer and nachos. I stood among a group of non-paying customers in the lobby and tore at my hair along with them as Mexico came frustratingly close to equalizing, and for a few moments I was able to truly feel a part of this worldwide quadrennial ritual that for one summer month shuts down societies more civilized and appreciative than our own.

After Mexico's heartbreaking loss I trudged back to the library to attend to our few remaining Saturday hours. Even more depressing is the realization I've been trying to avoid for several weeks in the face of curious inquiries by my boss. This morning it hit me like a Zidane headbutt square in the chest: Now that the World Cup is over, I'm suddenly responsible for having to unload all its related decorative paraphernalia and somehow come up with a brand new front window display.


Blogger Adjective Queen said...

May I suggest a "Back to School" theme? Surely you can pull a mannequin out of your back room, dress it in some Kid Gap throwaways, place a backpack in its hands, tip it at a jaunty angle, and call it a window.

Good to have you back at the blogosphere!

9:07 AM  
Blogger Electric Belle said...

Oh World Cup, how I will miss you!

12:04 AM  

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