By Dave Coulter
Do you remember that dismal rain Tuesday morning?
Out on the One Ten (aka Chicago Kansas City Expressway) there were thousands of cars going nowhere fast. Predictably - and as we locals have all come to know - almost all of the inbound cars had Missouri tags on the bumpers, I could just make out the Kansas City Royals hats on many of the drivers - their windows fogged up in the damp morning air.
Damp. Humid. Yeah…..they’ll fit in here in Chicago....
I ducked into that new Target on Mannheim to make a phone call. I could scarcely believe my eyes. It was 5:30 in the morning and the expansive parking lot was almost full. I’d say it was Christmas except for all of those Missouri plates - again. It was like a tailgate party save for the fact that it was drizzling. Nearly everyone that was outside their vehicle sported a Royals poncho or jacket. I squeezed into one of the few spots left, wheeling my truck next to an old man and a kid standing outside a Jeep. They eyed me with a mix of fear and anticipation. The old guy had one eye. We nodded to one another cordially. I finished my call and stepped out of my truck to get behind the seat for my backpack.
The kid started, “Hey mister, are we in Chicago yet?”
I told him they still had a ways to go, but what with rush hour and all they may as well relax. Go get a cup of coffee. I guessed him to be around eleven years old. He wore a Royals cap. I asked them what was the deal with all the Missouri cars in the Target lot.
“Why we’re a-goin’ to Chicago” ventured the old man. I soon gathered he was the boy’s grandfather. He waved his hand in an expansive arc gesturing at the other cars, “We’re all a-goin’ to Chicago! Why, we been a-plannin’ for this ever since they opened the One Ten!” His eyes shone with something close to joy.
But his brow furrowed and his mood changed when I asked why they didn’t simply take I-70 to I-55 on in. The boy got real quiet too. I wondered if I’d said something wrong. The old man paused, and in hushed voice, choked with emotion said, “Quincy...that‘s why.”
“Quinces?? What?!” My hearing isn’t so good.
“No, Quincy! The Belle of the Mississip!” We exchanged puzzled glances wondering who or what was crazier. I was already running late, so I bid an awkward adieu to the travelers. I turned the key, and the motor sparked to life. I gave the truck a little gas.
As I waved, the kid leaned out and hollered, “Hey mister, you a Cubs or Sox fan?”
I hollered, “Sox!” and gave him a fake smile and a thumbs up.
The kid smiled a big Midwestern smile and shouted, “Hey! Me too! I can’t wait to see that Ozzie Guillen - he’s a crackerjack. He’s my favorite!”
I just didn’t have the heart to tell him.
It was still a little misty. Maybe it was me, and maybe it was the rain. I'll never know for sure. So I turned on the wipers and headed back to the One Ten.