First it was the #147 bus driver, cruising south on Michigan Avenue. Having lost a lane-takeover battle to a cab driver, he sighed heavily and I said, “Long day, huh?”. As I stood beside him waiting to get off.
“I’ve only just started, ma’am”
“Oh, long night ahead then?”
“Naw, it’s not that. Most of the city is grateful, but there are some who just get on yo nerves, ‘chu know what I’m sayin’?”. The last 5 words spoken so fast that it basically sounded like one long word, chunoewatimsayin’.
He saw my (well, Rue’s) camera and he said, ” Wooh! Why don’ you take a picture of me, man? I just kiddin’!”
He dropped us off at the Congress Parkway Loop and bid us farewell with “You have a blessed day now!”
I should have made him pose for that picture!
“Well, well, well, look at that… The lights are starting to come on”, he said as I was busy figuring out the setting of the camera so that I can take pictures without resorting to a tripod that I don’t have.
“Not a bad view, huh? Must be nice to see such a beautiful landscape at work every day”, I replied.
“Well, I only get to see it when I’m closing, in the evenings, but yes, it’s a privilege”
Renee is a security guard at the Skydeck in the 103rd floor of the Willis/Sears Tower. At 1,353 ft. in the air, his office view is magnificent and is indeed a privilege to be able to see the city change itself through the twilight period. He continued to tell me there are often wedding proposals done on the Ledge with the city serving as a backdrop. He told me stories of how the whole floor could be decked out for private functions and how the tower would probably close a little late tonight because of the number of people here. “Well, I’ll be making my rounds, so if you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask, okay?” I nodded in reply.
Before I took the lift down, I said good bye and thanked him for making the experience better and he said: “My pleasure. Hey, let me know next time you are in town and I’ll get you up here for free. Enjoy the rest of your time in the city!”
“I will!”, I said, and boy, did I really enjoy my time in the city!
I stood under the warming lights on the Quincy train platform, trying to decide what I should do next – Lincoln Park or window shopping on Magnificent Mile? – when I noticed a lady standing beside me.
“Hi, what do you think of the Lincoln Park Zoo”
“Is cool”, she said, with the “l” spoken so softly that the word sounded more like “coo” than “cool”, “I don’t know whether the animals will be out, but is cool!”
She ended things with, “Next time you come, you gotta go to the Brookfield Zoo, though!”, said with such high confidence, as though she was sure that I would come back.
She could be right. Maybe I will come back.
I stood confused on the East side of N Michigan Avenue (aka the Magnificent Mile). I was suppose to catch the 151 bus to the Lincoln Park Zoo, but the pole at the bus stop does not have the number listed, which can only mean one thing: the bus does not stop there. A man clutching a plastic bag and dressed not in the cleanest clothing, came up to the bus stop and stood beside me. Left with no other choice, I asked him, ” Excuse me. Do you know where I can catch the 151?”
“Why? It doesn’t stop here?”
“Well, the number is not on the board”
“Okay okay, so you gotta walk down there”, he said as he pointed south, ” or you catch ‘em from up there, in front of Marshall fields”, realizing his mistake, he loudly chuckled to himself, put his hand over his mouth, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “Marshall fields! Macy’s! You gotta walk to dat stop in front of Macy’s!”
It was only a direction, but the way he chuckled was so endearing and it brought unexpected joy and laughter to both of us. I am embarrassed to have stereotyped him and judged him solely based on his appearance.
Despite reading The Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine and learning from the queen of small talk herself (aka Rue), I’m not one to have the ability to carry a conversation with a stranger. Granted, the anecdotes above were brief exchanges, but even then, I’m still not one to ask questions. I’m usually very reserved, preferring to figure things out on my own rather than asking someone else for help. It’s both my greatest virtue and my worst flaw.
Maybe it was because I traveled with Ella, who so readily could ask the next person for directions or for their help in taking a group photo of us. Maybe it was because I was in a different mood over the weekend. Maybe it was just one of the many side effects in travel: it changes you and gives you a confidence boost. Or, and this is probably the most accurate reason, maybe the people of Chicago are just extremely friendly. They were generous with their smiles and they were always eager to help out a confused traveler.
The architectures of the city wowed me, the views from the top amazed me, the efficiency of the CTA trains and buses impressed me, but it’s the people of Chicago who left such a memorable impression on me.
Definitely the people of Chicago.
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