Where the strangers are friendly… and pogo sticks are helpful?

13 Jan

Today my work brought me from Chicago up to Milwaukee. I’ve been here two other times, and each time, it has left me wanting.

Not because there’s anything inherently wrong with Milwaukee, it’s just that I expect to see two people (specifically Laverne & Shirley) dancing down the streets on their way to work at a bottling plant. And it hasn’t happened. Yet. (I remain hopeful.)

This morning I was debating between the 6am or 8:30am train from Union Station in Chicago. I harkened back to my last visit, and remembered the odd desolation of Union Station at 6am. I arrived at 5:30am and the place was DESERTED until 5:55. If memory serves, I went so far as to take off my belt in case I needed to clock someone in the head with the buckle.

So clearly this morning I opted for the 8:30 run. MUCH better, with the exception of hailing a cab at 7:45. Apparently that’s shift change, so countless cabs when whirring past without giving me even a sideways glance.

When I finally landed a cab, I spent the greater part of the drive using my arms to brace me since I couldn’t find the seatbelt and his driving indicated that either a) the roads were a sheet of ice , or b) his tires were bald. Considering I didn’t hear any other cars driving as if their tires were dentist’s drills, I’m thinking it wasn’t the road.

When we arrived at Union Station, we practically hockey stopped at the entrance, spraying pedestrians with snowy slush.

Fast forward two hours and I’m in our Milwaukee office, where the people are exceptionally nice and friendly, as midwesterners tend to be. (Garrison Keillor really should’ve worked that into Lake Woebegone’s motto.)

So do you know what the surprise of the visit was? In Milwaukee I found something COMPLETELY original, that I have NEVER seen in another professional office in the entire history of my life. (Not to over-state it or anything, but…)

They had a an automated shoe-shiner in the ladies’ room. WHAT!? I actually didn’t know what it was. I thought it was some sort of golden pogo stick, so I tried to stand ON it. But as soon as I did, the brushes started whirling and I almost ended up face down in a toilet.

I returned to the device like a cat chasing a laser, confused but curious. On second glance, it looked like a housekeeping tool from the Jetsons. I tried standing on it again, one foot  at a time. And that’s when I realized what it was: GENIUS.

But also: ODD. I mean, of all the bathrooms I’ve ever been in, I can’t name ONE that has an automated shoe buffer in it. It’s not something that seems like it goes hand-in-hand with a restroom. A bidet? Perhaps. A tampon dispenser? Likely. But a shoe buffer? Not so much.

Although, maybe it’s a polite midwestern thing. If Garrison Keillor starts a sister show to A Prairie Home Companion that is set in Wisconsin, I think his motto should be, “Where the strangers are friendly, Laverne & Shirley are laid off, and their shoes are always shined privately?”

At least it would be accurate.

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