After work on Friday, I was walking from the South Loop to the river to meet family members. I enjoy looking at people. I like looking at their faces and into the eyes and maybe we'll share a smile; maybe the person will look away like I've tried to rob their house; maybe the person just never ever wants to meet the gaze of a stranger because strangers are scary, dangerous, or uncomfortably odd (of which I am proudly the latter). Sometimes you see strangers doing things that make you instantly like them because you know what's going through their heads. Such was the case on Friday.
There is a very nice McDonald's on the northeast corner of Clark and Monroe, right by Chase Plaza. It's in a glass-walled building that allows patrons seated at the window seats to look out and enjoy the city; it allows pedestrians the chance to view them.
As I walked by on Friday, there were three teenagers sitting in the window. One of the teenagers had taken his 49¢ cone and made a very large and handsome ice cream mustache. It was magnificent and the three of them -- two boys and a girl -- thought it was wonderful. I saw this and our eyes met and I smiled. He looked slightly embarrassed but grinned back. It was, after all, a wonderful thing.
When I am strolling around after work, I see a lot of adult tourists. If there are kid or teen tourists, they are usually with their parents or in packs led by two-to-four adults. They are requesting the teens keep up and are at the front and the back of the packs, respectively. The kids are not being given the opportunity to think for themselves. That's how I knew these kids were not tourists.
These kids were escapees.
The wide open spaces of the suburbs are wholly suffocating to them.
They have to drive or be driven everywhere and it was all a chore and so
much work to just get to the library to get a book. The city has busses and subway trains and lots of libraries to which you might even walk.
These kids had the look of kids everywhere who live in the suburbs of exciting cities whose parents, teachers, friends' parents, grandparents, etc., are constantly telling them how dangerous the city is; that people there are killed (or worse!) all the time; that horrible things happen in the city. The city should not be approached. The city was constantly dangled in front of them as the most poisonous of fruits.
These were kids who could hardly wait to take a bite. They had to come to the city to see for themselves. They wanted to experience the danger and maybe eat something and see some art.
Boy A probably told his parents that he and Girl would be spending the day at the mall with Boy B. Boy B and Girl each told their parents corresponding tales. Asses were covered unless something happened.
They didn't want to go to a Cubs game which was as naughty as their friends got. They wanted to walk all around downtown and see all the free art. They wanted to see the Chagall, the Calder, the Picasso, "Cloudgate" by Kapoor (also called "The Bean"), and the Miro. They wanted to touch the Dubuffet. They were going to have their pictures taken at the Oldenberg Bat. They were going into the lobby of the Willis Tower to look at the Calder mobile. Unless weather prohibited it, they were going to dance in the waters of Crown Fountain (from Spanish artist Jaume Plensa) and take too many pictures of the faces spitting water. They would sit and have their $4-Subway-sandwich lunch in Millennium Park while looking at Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion and then sashay themselves over to Buckingham Fountain to check it out. They wanted to pay something -- a dollar was about all they could afford -- and have a run through the Art Institute. Then they would go home.
But first, hey, there's time, let's have a 49¢ cone.
It was a dizzying day and entirely thrilling and satisfying. The McDonald's treat was cool and creamy. And there was a little ice cream on an upper lip, then a lot, then a mustache, then the odd woman saw it and smiled. It was, after all, a wonderful thing.