Let's See How This Plays Out

We were drinking beers on the Covid-era patio in the sun at Malt & Mold with a few neighbors while our kids plowed through ice cream from Ralph's next door. A kid who walked past and saw the ice cream stood on the sidewalk screaming for one of her own. There was nothing uncommon about the scene, but the degree to which this kid dug in took it to a new, impressive level. And I'm afraid she caught the mom on a day that involved issues more serious than ice cream, because the mom had hit a breaking point. It happens to all of us, and we all politely ignored the yelling in a voice perhaps too loud, even by American or even New Yorker standards. She said she would leave her kid there, and she made good on her promise and walked to the curb while her daughter stood rooted in place screaming. 

The whole thing would have resolved itself in a minute or two. Then I saw her, the elderly woman who stopped one day to tell me that my dog needed a vet who had graduated from Cornell. Another time she stopped to complain to me that the sidewalk was dirty, and she went inside to tell them to come out and sweep. I was grateful for her help that day. She also told me that I needed an accountant that graduated from Cornell. (After she left Geoff said she'd told him the same thing a few days earlier.) She walked up to the crying girl and stood staring at her for a few heavy moments. "Oh god no," I thought. 

"Why are you crying little girl?"

Between scream sobs she got out "ice cream".

The woman pulled a handful of change and started counting it. "I'll get you some ice cream." 

Do I have a responsibility at this point? Warn the mom that the lady is a bit off her rocker? Do I warn the young girl that she may have to commit to Cornell to get the ice cream? Or do I let it play out and see how the poor mom, already past her breaking point, will deal with the situation. 

"You want another beer Rocky?"

"I'm going to see how this plays out."


Awkward Trains

A train pulled in at evening rush hour. I walked along the open doors, picked the least-packed one and started to step in. "Really?" a guy just inside the door said to me. I paused for a fraction of a second, more surprised someone had spoken to me than anything, and then I stepped into the train. "Really!" he said. I took my left headphone out and we looked at each other. We were standing four inches apart, so it would have been hard not to look at him. "You could take your backpack off," I said. Someone packed into the other side of the train let out a bark of a laugh, which I very much appreciated, and I used that as a break to look away and put my headphone back in. At the next stop no one got off and three more people pushed their way in. I thought the guy's head was going to explode. You could tell everyone was shuffling around, checking him out of the corner of their eye to see how it would pan out. At the next stop, the guy pushed his way out and lurched across the platform. Anti-climax for sure but I'm glad I didn't get punched, or shot, which seems to happen more often these days.

Chicago is the only civilized city on Earth where no one takes their backpacks off on crowded trains, and I don't know why the CTA hasn't added a looped announcement saying, "Please be courteous and remove your backpack during rush hour."

The Best Part of the Internet

Phone rings. “Hello! This is Todd from Xfinity. I see your introductory 12-month contract on your internet is nearly up.”

His story checks out, we moved into our place a year ago. “Yeah, I’ve been meaning to look into that.”

“I just have one question for you: What’s your favorite thing on the internet?”

Wow, tough question. A loaded one to be sure. Is Todd looking at my internet browsing history right now? I think for a few moments and say, “Well, if I had to pick one thing, I guess I’d say the free exchange of ideas. I mean, look at everything that’s happened, socially justice-wise in the last decade from marriage equality to the collapse of dictatorships. I don’t think any of that could have happened without the rise of the internet.”

“Okay,” Todd said. “Based on your response (pause) I suggest you stick with the 75mb with BOOST internet plan!”

“Ah, now I see where you were going with that question Todd.”

First Takeaways

I was walking Otis the other day past the Langham, a hotel across from Trump on the Chicago River. Strolling down the sidewalk my mind somewhere else I heard a guy yell, "Is that a goldendoodle or a labradoodle?" It's a question I get 10 times a week. People ask about my dog, most of the time as a vehicle to talk about their dog. It's fine. I'm content to pass a few minutes exchanging pleasantries with fellow dog people.

(The only time it went wrong was on St. Patrick's Day. People in line for the bars when I took Otis out at 7:30am were nice. But by 3pm I couldn't walk 50 feet without someone yelling "Can I pet your dog!" I tried to pretend I didn't hear them, but that didn't work, so instead I'd look at them and smile and say something like, "So sorry! In a rush to get to a party!" One guy got me good. His friend asked, "Is his name fluffy?" I smiled but didn't say anything. His friend said as I was walking away, "Is his name asshole?")

Anyway, this guy outside the Langham in his leather jacket and newsboy hat was talking to me while smoking his pipe, and a lady with a mane of silver hair walked over in a long silver and black fur coat smoking a cigarette. They were together and told me about their golden doodles. After a few minutes I said something like, "Have fun in Chicago, got to get going." And while walking away I was thinking about the first thing I noticed about them. The smoking and the lady's long fur coat, and I wondered what people's first takeaway is when they see me walking. Our first takeaway is based more on personal prejudice, I would argue, and my noticing something like a huge fur coat says more about me than them. I pondered what someone's first takeaway of me would be. Probably my beard, and if they added a second (and it was towards the end of the day) it'd be "the guy with the beard who smelled like beer."

Just then a woman trotted up to me on the sidewalk and stopped to talk to me. Short of breath and with wide eyes she said, "What did Paula Deen just say to you?"

The Great Smokeout

We had a problem with our neighbors: smoking. It's a non-smoking building, so we had the right to complain. I've never lived in a building like this, but when the person downstairs from us fired up a cigarette, it was not a subtle smell. With no exaggeration, I can tell you that it smelled as if the person was sitting next to me on my couch smoking a cigarette. My bedroom smelled like a 90's bar. We complained (to them personally several times, then managment) and they stopped smoking. There was a bit of a language barrier so it took a week or so, but they stopped in the end. But now they've taken to cooking at 2am. It's the oddest thing. My bedroom smells like a Chinese restaurant. I doubt they're doing it intentionally to get back at me, but if they are, well played. It's not like I can complain about someone's cooking late at night.

People Here Understand Me Better

I moved to Chicago about three weeks ago. A lot has changed. One of them — people understand me better. I used to pop into Starbucks at 7th Ave and Grove street a couple times a week to pick up a large iced coffee on my way to work. I always order a "Venti iced coffee" (I speak their silly coffee language when I have to), and then I wait until they say "sweetened or unsweetened." I drink my hot coffee without sugar, but I like the milkshake quality of sweetened iced coffee. But, since I'm a Midwesterner at my core, I'm compelled to fill every vacant moment in my speech with "Uhhhhh." So when they ask, in spite of myself, I always say, "Uhhhh, sweetened." I never once got a sweetened coffee in New York. All they ever heard was "Uhhhhnsweetened." But here, it hasn't been an issue.

The Great Thing About Kids

There are a lot of great things about having kids, I'm sure, but the one I'm enjoying most right now is that I can wear my old shirts that have stains. That one button-down with the grease stain on the side from carrying a box of pizza like a football? It's back in the mix. Any shirt I put on will end up with drool and strange spit-up on it. There's no point in fighting it. Embrace the stains. Another great thing about having a kid? If I stay out too late at the bar and look like I've been run over by taxi the next day I have a built in excuse: "The kid had a rough night." Sure, they think I'm telling them that my child didn't sleep well the night before, but that kid always sleeps great; I'm referring to my fantasy football team "The Kid" losing their asses in the late game while I stay up and watch.

iPhone Gone Phishing

I’ve received several phishing texts the last few days. A text from a number in Ohio or Florida arrives telling me that my lost iPhone has been found, and that I should go to iCloud and login to get it back. It provides a helpful iCloudish-looking link, but it’s not a real iCloud link; it sends you to a mockup of the iCloud site that collects your username and password and then steals your contact list, forwards the same text to them, and then does I’m-not-sure-what-with the reminder of your personal info on iCloud. Maybe the people behind the phishing attack look for incriminating photos or emails and then blackmail you. Since the text came to me, I’d guess that one of my friends received it and had their contact list that i was on stolen. But I haven’t heard from whoever fell for it. Is it you? Perhaps there’s something you’d like to get off your chest?