"Well now," I said. "That's an interesting question. I'm currently in Chicago, under a bus shelter because my friend's car was just towed and we're trying to figure out how to get it back." It was raining, and neither of us had jackets. My friend was on his cell phone, too, attempting to make less social phone calls.
"What?" she asked drily. "Are you just making this up as something to put in your blog?"
This was how the day was supposed to go:
- Kevin (whose name isn't really Kevin, but we'll just pretend it is) was going to pick me up at the airport.
- We were going to eat lunch in Greek Town.
- We were going to go to the Museum of Science and Industry.
- Kevin was going to drop me off at the Ogilvie train station, where I would meet my cousin Mary Anne and travel back to the suburbs for dinner with her and Auntie Shelley.
We got through steps one through three pretty successfully. It wasn't hard to find each other at the airport, and after some discussion as to what (among the well-researched list of possible day's activities) we were going to do, we headed off to Greek Town. We lunched at Artopolis, a pleasantly informal cafe-ish place which boasted two kinds of mighty fine baklava. (We had to try both, of course.) I accompanied mine with Greek coffee. Kevin doesn't like coffee, but I guess we'll forgive him.
It took a little while to find parking for the museum, but eventually we found a spot along the street just a stone's throw from our destination. We scanned the area carefully for "no parking" and "tow zone" signs and didn't see any, and then hied ourselves off in the direction of some scientific and industrial enlightenment.
"It's too bad," Kevin said later, "that we didn't get bored at the museum or something and come out just fifteen minutes earlier."
I think someone set up a sign where there wasn't one, just after we got out of the car. But however it happened, there definitely was a sign we hadn't seen before, telling us that cars could not be parked on the side of the road where we had been, from 4-6 pm. The non-discovery of Kevin's car set off a chain of events which included getting rained on, getting splashed by a car with the impressive ability to turn a moderately-sized puddle into a tidal wave, and a ride with a probably senile cab driver to a police station with a notorious past and reputation for torture. Even though I believe the torturing happened in the 1980's, they subtly kept up the ambience with an inhospitably chilly room-temperature, particularly for two jacketless and rain-sodden people such as ourselves. We had to spend about two and a half hours in these sub-Arctic temperatures while Kevin tried doggedly (and eventually inspired-ly) to track down the information that these law enforcement officials required to be able to located the whereabouts of his impounded vehicle.
After that had been ascertained, an incredibly kind friend of Kevin's drove down to the station and ferried us to the impound. It was in a part of Chicago of which the city is evidently so ashamed that it only shows up as a white void on the most detailed of road atlases, so we had to find another police station and get them to tell us that it was down a sort of dirt road with a trailer at the end of it and a lot of cars. It was, indeed. The aforementioned trailer was the impound office, and when I tried to go in there with Kevin, I was sternly warned off by an intimidating character inside who proceeded to shut the door in my face.
"This," Kevin's ferrying friend intoned comfortingly when I shuffled back to sit in his SUV, "is where the extortion starts. 'Excuse me, sir, but we found some cocaine in your trunk, and until you give us $500, we can't release your car.'"
Fortunately this did not happen. The car was released, having gained new ornamentation in the form of numbers scrawled on the window with orange grease-pen. Then Kevin, whose own suburb is in a totally different direction, graciously transported me to the one I was headed to, instead. My aunt, likewise graciously, allowed him to come in and share the leftovers of the dinner I was supposed to have eaten with them four hours before.
Kevin says this is his Summer of Exploring Chicago. I think he had no idea . . .