Tag Archives: Chicago

Random act of kindness: FAIL

7 Aug

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While I was in Chicago for work last week, I met up with a friend for breakfast one day before the office opened. We agreed to meet at Do-Rite Donuts because it was close to my hotel AND had gluten-free and vegan options. (I don’t even want to know what they use to make a donut that doesn’t contain flour or eggs – I assume tree bark.)

Because I’m mildly OCD (and – more realistically – because she had to take a combination of trains and busses, whereas I only had to walk around the corner), I arrived 10 minutes before she did. I decided to grab a donut and hold a table for us outside since the place seemed fairly busy.

The donut selection was overwhelming, and it became even harder to focus when a homeless man shuffled into the place, slowly panhandling his way along the line leading up to the small counter. Everyone looked uncomfortable, so when he got to me, I said, “I won’t give you money, but I’ll buy you a donut if you’d like one.”

The cashiers heard me and we exchanged a look while they patiently waited for him to point to a donut. (Of course he chose a premium gluten-free flavor.) Then he leaned across the counter and tried to get them to bring him a cup of milk (which they said they didn’t have) and started asking about what else they had back there that he could eat. I felt a bit callous, denying a homeless person food, but I also don’t like being taken advantage of, so I reset expectations with him quickly. “No – sorry. I’ll buy you a donut, but that’s all. Let’s go.”

I paid and left, heading outside to claim a table. He, however, remained inside, presumably asking someone else for something. He must not have been successful, because he emerged a few minutes later, holding the donut I’d bought him. Looking at him, I allowed myself the small feel-good moment that comes with performing a random act of kindness, thinking that maybe we could fix all the world’s problems if we each just help each other out a bit more.

And then I watched as he walked to the curb and threw the donut on the ground. He stumbled around it for a bit, and I couldn’t tell if he was trying to pick it up or what, but he resolved my curiosity by drawing back his foot and kicking it, sending it sailing out into the rush hour traffic. Without a backwards glance, he shuffled down the block.

I guess he decided gluten-free was some bullshit.

Who says aging is a bad thing?

18 May
Image Source: PithyPants 2014

With Karen, left, and Rosaura, right – my college roommates!

I just returned home from a whirlwind visit to Chicago to surprise my college roommate for her 40th birthday.

Alan and I flew out Thursday afternoon and had to keep reminding each other NOT to post anything to Facebook that would accidentally reveal that we were in the Windy City prior to Saturday evening’s party. It was surprisingly difficult, which probably means I can skip any “How Narcissistic Are You?” quizzes that appear on Buzzfeed this year. (But then, isn’t that true of anyone with their own domain name?)

It started when our flight was two hours late departing. The plane’s door closed at 2:30, which was 15 minutes behind schedule. Not a big deal, until the pilot crackled over the PA system, “Well folks, the tower just informed us that we aren’t going to be able to take off for another hour or so due to some severe storms in Chicago. We’re going to have to push back because another flight needs this gate, but we’ll keep you posted.”

We ended up sitting on the tarmac at DCA for close to two hours before leaving. Passengers were remarkably calm, considering there was no beverage service offered and the air conditioning was off. Alan took a nap and had sweat running down his temples. I refrained from posting about our predicament on Facebook. It was unsatisfying.

Image Source: Terese 2014

With Terese, at Pop’s Champagne, after dinner.

We arrived in Chicago just in time to meet our friends Brian and Terese for dinner at Eataly. (We all lived in the same dorm in college 20 years ago, yet whenever we reconnect, we don’t spend much time traversing memory lane. I love friendships that evolve with time – and I love seeing a couple whose relationship has weathered the years gracefully.)

The next day, as planned, I worked from our Chicago office while Alan ventured out to explore. When we awoke to SNOW that morning, I was actually glad to know that my day would be spent at a desk/on a phone/in meetings – doing anything but being outside. (Hello, Mother Nature – it’s mid-May. Don’t you think it’s time to cut these people some slack?)

After work, we took the train to Southport, where our friends Dan and Molly live with their son Eddie. We haven’t visited them since they relocated there last July, so it was great to catch up and re-imagine them as midwesterners. Also? Eddie is now 18 months old, has a contagious grin and an awesome arm on him. He pulled out an assortment of balls shortly after we arrived and demonstrated more strength and accuracy  when throwing than I did when I played softball in seventh grade.

The next morning (Saturday, if you’re keeping track!) we met up with Alan’s mom and aunt for brunch just down the street from Dan and Molly’s house. This is VERY random, since Alan’s mom lives in Virginia. She’s driving cross country by herself to deliver a car to Alan’s brother in San Diego, and managed to time things so that she’d be passing through Chicago while we were there so we could pre-celebrate Alan’s 40th birthday together. Pretty cool, right?

After brunch, we walked to Wrigley Field, where Terese (of earlier Brian and Terese fame) had hooked us up with amazing tickets to watch the Cubs completely shut-out the Milwaukee Brewers. The weather had miraculously recovered from the day before, so we had blue skies and 60 degrees. It was a perfect day for a ballgame, and Alan’s first visit to Wrigley Field. Overall, a win. Thank you, Terese!

The Birthday Girl!

The Birthday Girl!

Finally… with these fantastic few days serving as a warm-up, we arrived at The Featured Event: Karen’s birthday party. It was great to see such a dear friend surrounded by so many people who adore her. She was absolutely glowing. It’s a good reminder for anyone who is upset about aging: The beauty that comes from decades of friendship, from knowing who you are and being confident about your place in this world trumps the effortless beauty of youth.

Or will I? Alan just told me I look old.

Or will I? Alan just told me I look old.

As I close in on my 40th birthday later this year, I’m grateful to Karen for leading the way.

I booked my ticket to Chicago simply hoping to help a friend ring in a milestone. I returned feeling overwhelmingly fortunate for all the people who make my life so much richer than it was when I was half this age.

I’ll gladly trade wrinkles for them all.

(As long as I can post about it on Facebook along the way.)

Whole new meaning to the expression “Feeling Stabby.”

28 Oct

I’m in Chicago for work this week, training a crop of new hires. We’re booked at a hotel I’ve stayed at half a dozen times before, a short walk from the office.

Only this time, after checking in, when I told someone where I was staying, they said, “Oh.”

You know, the sagging, “Oh” that leaves you wondering what the rest of the story is?

Turns out, someone was stabbed to death in my hotel two weeks ago. AWESOME.

I checked the BedBug Registry, but didn’t think to look at police reports. The good news? It doesn’t appear to be a random attack – of the variety in which some creeper is hiding under your bed. But that hasn’t stopped me from checking the shower every time I come in – just to be on the safe side.

It’s gotten me thinking about what happens in my hotel room before it becomes mine. While someone dying in my room is a pretty long shot (I hope), there are other situations that probably have occurred. A prostitute turning a trick? High school kids throwing a party? A drug deal going down? A marriage ending? A child conceived?

I’ve gotten you thinking now, haven’t I? It’s kind of hard to stop once you imagine other people in your hotel room.

I could try to be all deep and extrapolate some moral from this situation, like how interwoven our lives are or something… but instead I think I’ll just leave a juicy tip for housekeeping. Thanks to them, I can pretend I’m the only person who has ever used this room.

I want to keep flying those friendly skies.

6 Apr

I know, I often bitch and moan about the little things on this blog. Not today. I am here to marvel for a moment in the fact that sometimes, people do not suck.

I flew home from Chicago last night and I have to say: from the moment I set foot in O’Hare, I did not encounter one sucky person. In face, everyone was actually pretty awesome.

First: security. It was a breeze. When I went through the “poofer” machine, the TSA person actually complimented me. “That’s the most perfect posture I’ve seen!” she exclaimed. “You could model this machine!” I took a bow upon exiting.

As I put my shoes back on, a young TSA guy approached with my bag. “Is this yours?” he asked. I confirmed and he said he needed to swab it. He opened it up, pulled out my white noise machine and swabbed it.

“Every time I fly they want to see this. Do you know what it is?” I asked him. He didn’t, so I explained it. He was cracking up by the time I was done telling him about the whishing sound of static it creates. Given his laughter, you would think it was a joke machine. I felt a wee bit proud of my device and it’s apparently jovial properties.

Then on to the gate. I was there early enough that I could hop a flight that left 60 minutes earlier – for $50. I chatted with the gate agent. “My opinion?” she looked at me. “Go spend the $50 on a nice dinner and some wine and you won’t care that you’re getting in an hour later.” Nice. I like the way she thought, so I took her advice.

Then when it was time to board my flight, I was surprised by the number of foreign passengers boarding. They all had Air Iberia boarding passes and were speaking rolling Spanish. Despite the fact that they had clearly just gotten off an airplane, they acted as if they weren’t quite sure how the process worked. But instead of being annoying, it was endearing.

Case in point: the guy boarding before me seemed rather superstitious. As we stepped from the bridge into the plane, he paused, rubbed the outside of the plane, knocked it three times, then kissed it. Yes, please! I like flying with people who are that eager to bestow good karma on the plane. (Especially since it was a 737 and I was imagining a huge gaping hole in its roof, a la Southwest’s flight this weekend.)

I think this poor guy had jetlag, so I took his picture, which might mean that I suck:

Once seated, I ended up next to a retired couple from Portland who were traveling to DC for the first time. They were excited and had only a loose agenda for everything they would like to accomplish, so we spent the majority of the flight engaged in a “tourist Q&A” of the city. When we got of the plane I walked them down to baggage claim and made sure they knew where the rental cars were. I’m pretty sure they wanted to hug me.

Finally, my cab driver was an older Muslim man who was very friendly. As we hit the first light in DC (after crossing the 14th street bridge), a homeless man was standing on the median. My driver pulled over, carefully picked through his ashtray and handed him some quarters. I wanted to hug him.

So there. I don’t constantly complain, and people don’t constantly suck. Happy hump day!

Wait Wait! I’m going to tell you…

27 Feb

Full disclosure: I’m an NPR junkie. My idea of a perfect weekend involves bottomless chai, my recliner and a steady flow of NPR programming. One of my favorite programs is Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.

If you’re not familiar with WWDTM, it’s an hour-long quiz show hosted by Peter Sagal and Carl Kasell, featuring three comedian panelists answering questions about current events. I recognize that this format might just qualify its fan base as ranking in the 99th percentile of nerdiness. So what.

Each week Peter Sagal notes that the show is recorded live in front of a studio audience from the Chase Auditorium in downtown Chicago. At some point in the last six months, this prompted a light to go off in my little nerd brain: DID HE SAY CHICAGO?

Hell, I’m out there twice a month for work. Why haven’t I made a pilgrimage to the seat of my personal religion?

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