Okay, I didn’t literally dodge any bullets. But it felt like that last week when I was in Chicago, getting my daughter settled into art school.
It was my first-ever visit to the City of Big Shoulders, about which Saul Bellow famously said, “No realistic, sane person goes around Chicago without protection.”
Day One: My husband and I are eating in our hotel’s cafe when we hear a symphony of sirens filling the air. Outside the window, police cars are jamming into the street. We quickly discover that an aggressive panhandlers has gone ballistic; when the police try to pepper-spray him, he grabs an elderly man and holds a knife to his throat. The police surround him and shoot him at point-blank range. The panhandler is dead, the elderly man is okay; a police officer is also hit, but saved by his bullet-proof vest.
Day Two: Sometime during the move-in of my daughter into her new dorm, my wallet gets lifted by a pickpocket. Within two hours of the time I lost my wallet, the pickpocket buys a bunch of stuff at Bed, Bath and Beyond and launches a shopping blitzkrieg into Best Buy.
Day Three: During the parent orientation at my daughter’s new school, an administrator tries to reassure us about safety. They say that the kids can be escorted from building to building. Somehow I am not comforted by this announcement.
Day Four: I try to cash a check at our Marriott hotel (where we’re staying), and am told that I need my license to do that. I spend copious amounts of time discussing with a stone-faced clerk the reasons why this isn’t possible, since my wallet has been stolen. I even produce a copy of the police report. Stone Face is not impressed.
Day Five: I discover that it’s easier to get on an airplane without ID than it is to cash a check at the Marriott. Overall, boarding a plane sans license is a very instructive experience. The TSA grills me about the streets outside my home, where I was born, what states I’ve lived in, specific addresses where I’ve lived, the names of current and former employers, where I went to school, etc. I find it a bit alarming that the government has so much personal information in a file that they can access instantly. Then I start to worry that I’m flunking the test, because the TSA and I disagree about which states I’ve lived in. However, they let me board the plane.
Day Six through Now: In addition to suffering from empty-nest syndrome, I worry that I’ve released my chick into a flock of knife-wielding, pickpocket seagulls.
Of course, it’s all great material for a writer. But I seriously would have preferred to come up with a pickpocket story without the “research.”
How about you? Have you had any summer adventures you can share?