Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Exploring Chicago

"Hi," said Jeannine's voice over my cell phone. "How are you?"

"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:
  1. Kevin (whose name isn't really Kevin, but we'll just pretend it is) was going to pick me up at the airport.
  2. We were going to eat lunch in Greek Town.
  3. We were going to go to the Museum of Science and Industry.
  4. 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 . . .

19 comments:

Annelise said...

That's hilarious--although I'm sure it didn't seem so at the time!

Mark Goodyear said...

Poor Kevin. I'm glad he got his car back! Good luck at the conference, absorb tons of information and meet tons of new people!

Craver Vii said...

So sorry. Er... welcome to Chicago. I hope the rest of your visit is better.

I think I've only been to Greektown once.

It would be fun to see you if you get out towards the western suburbs. No, not really... it's actually awkward because there is a void of witticisms-- as cleverness cannot be sustained outside of the electronic universe. But that's okay, I would still like to say hello, even if that's all that comes out and we wait an awkward thirty seconds before finally uttering, "Oh well, see ya later."

A Musing Mom said...

Okay Jenn, but you didn't mention the fact that admission was free to the museum (bonus!). Too bad you went today. We're off to explore there tomorrow and might have passed by you or even stood next to you and never known it. Ah, the fun we've missed!

Well, enjoy your visit to Chicagoland. I'm praying for no adventures of your sort for us tomorrow (and where exactly did you park?).

Stacey said...

Well...I guess Craver already said it...welcome? So sorry you had a rough start and I hope we can end your week better!

Christianne said...

So sorry to hear this happened to you! You tell it so well, though, that I absolutely loved reading about it. Have you ever tried writing for hire, or for contract? I would seriously buy any book you ever write. But I think I've told you that before. :)

PS: My stomach dropped when I read about the extortion part -- so glad that didn't happen to you guys!

The Cubicle Reverend said...

ha ha ha, hope you got some good Souvlaki!

David A. Zimmerman said...

See you tomorrow, Jenn! Sorry about the car; there's probably a fantasy novel waiting to be written about your experience.

Jenn said...

Mom--We-e-e-ll, I kind of thought it was hilarious at the time. I'm not sure Kevin did, though.

Marcus--indeed. And thanks. I feel completely out of my depth and unwriterly and like I can't even talk coherently, but you know, whatever.

Craver--thanks. Of course I'm going to visit you guys. You'll wish you could escape, but you won't be able to.

AMM--the fact that I didn't mention that detail was not neglect, although I should have put it in just to add to the irony that, thinking we were going to get a free visit to the museum, the total cost ended up being almost 200 bucks. How's YOUR car? (We parked on Stony Island.)

Stacey--maybe you should prepare for some sort of freakish disaster. You know. Just in case.

Christianne--thank you. If you ever hear of anyone who wants to publish this stuff, let me know! I don't really know how to get into writing for hire, but I think that might be part of why I'm at this conference.

CR--missed out on the souvlaki. Maybe next time. If there is one.

Zimm--yay! And, um, maybe you can help me find the fantasy novel inherent in this story, because I think I'm missing it. (Actually, probably Kevin could find it, too. He's really into that stuff.)

L.L. Barkat said...

We have a similar tour option in NYC. I suggest taking the subway instead. :)

Inihtar said...

Funny how a well-planned day with a lot of promise turns into something quite different, isn't it? Well, it makes for an interesting story anyway:)

Jenn said...

LL--ummm yeah. Which is what we would have done, had I not had a suitcase in tow . . .

Inhitar! Thanks for visiting--and commenting. I'm sure I'll see you around these (cyber)parts.

GreekGeek said...

dude, I'm not sure I want you visiting me in Scotland any more.... with stories like you always come out with, anyone you visit is almost guaranteed.. an experience...... =] (ok, so actually, you're truly welcome to Scotland, regardless of the experiences you bring with - your company would make it worth it!)

Jenn said...

Mariam--um . . . thanks?

Jenn said...

AMM--PS. Apparently I have no idea what I'm talking about. We parked . . . somewhere. I don't know where. But I expect you found a suitable place and did not have to worry about getting towed. Sorry I didn't get to meet YOU this trip!

jasdye said...

jenn,

sorry, should've warned ya. next time you want to go downtown Chicago, take the train. (although Greektown and the adjacent University of I @ C probably isn't your best bet for parking...). there is no such thing as cheap parking downtown. no. such. thing.

but, we learn, right?

and YEAH on Artopolis. we went there a few weeks ago. unfortunately, there isn't too much town or greek left in greektown (it's just a couple blocks and a few stores now), so artopolis pretty much has to do the trick.

Jenn said...

Jasdye--the train was the original plan. But I had this backpack and this suitcase, and we didn't know what to do with them . . .

Matt Gulde said...

Great story. I only question the artistic license taken in turning Kevin's Incredibly Kind Friend's minivan into an SUV.

Jenn said...

MG--heartfelt apologies. I appreciate that you attributed my mis-description to artistic license and perhaps some malice and sarcasm, instead of what it really was, which is ignorance and laziness. ;) I fear I generally allocate anything larger than a Camry into the "SUV" category, mostly because I can hardly imagine it. I hope I didn't hurt the minivan's feelings. It has such cool doors.

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