“The best laid plans of mice and men.” My unhappy laptop, Fannie Mae, was in a full-blown funk and was showing her backside, so unfortunately, my expectations for a tourist day of sight-seeing and shopping had dumped into a rat hole. I wasn’t really excited over spending the last day of a Chicago vacation in a computer store, but Frettin’ Fannie’s meltdown left me no choice.
Daughter-in-law Gail, Great-Grand Maddie and I had driven up from home for a visit with son Bob, who worked in the windy city. We were leaving the next day and I needed to get the cranky old lady in harmony for our long trek south.
With me not knowing where to go or what to do, as they’ve had to do so many times, my family stepped up to the plate. Before he left for work, Bob had made arrangements for me to be ubered to a computer store he’d used before, a branch of one I often frequented back home. When the car arrived, Gail made sure I was loaded up and had all the utensils I’d need for this outing. She then talked to the driver and got me moving in the right direction.
Once at the store, a very patient young lady worked with me and the dog-eared laptop. It took her about two hours, but she managed to calm the machine down and get not one, but two nervous females back on track.
When the repair work was over and done I slid Fannie Mae into a backpack and slung her over my shoulders. Relieved that the old lady was no longer in misbehavin’ mode, all in all I now felt rather adventuresome.
You’ve been on a detour, so enjoy the scenery. “Could you give me a few thoughts about something else?” I asked our helper. “I’m up here from Mississippi and on my own today. Before my family and I head back I’d like to have a nice late lunch, do a little shopping, and if there’s time, maybe spend part of the day visiting some art galleries. I have no idea where to go, though.”
“I know just the place,” the computer guru said. “I’ll give you a name.”
She pulled a small tablet from under the counter, wrote something, tore a page off and handed it to me.
“Woodfield Mall,” I read.
“It’s one of the largest shopping centers in the country and it’s not far.”
Truth to tell, I needed a little exercise, and when she said it wasn’t far, striking out on my own got my attention. Ambling through the big city, there would be so much to do. I kind of like exploring things by myself--wandering down a side road or two, checking out a good eating place, browsing through shops and stores, seeing how folks in other places are dressed, and maybe visit with a few of them along the way. Then time permitting, meander through a book store or art gallery.
“First, turn around,” the thoughtful lady said. She leaned over the counter, stretched out her hands and zipped my backpack. “You need to be careful. Your laptop could have fallen out.”
“You said it’s not far, so do you think I can walk?”
The young technician arched her back. “Not knowing where you’re going and walking by yourself – oh no!” She gave me a tight smile. “Not a good idea.”
“I came by Uber. But I don’t know how to call them.”
“I’ll see that you get to the mall, the same way you got here.”
She contacted Uber; above and beyond she also graciously waited outside with me until the car drove up.
My helper spoke to the driver. “This lady’s visiting from Mississippi, and she’d like to do some shopping. Would you take her to the Woodfield Mall?”
I patted my pants pocket. “Wait a minute,” I said. “If this gentleman is in a hurry we may have a problem.”
“I can’t find my glasses. I may have left them in the store.”
My new-found guru smiled and pointed. “They’re on your head.” She turned to the Uber driver. “I’d like to ask you to do something. When she gets out of the car make sure she picks up her backpack, and that she has her glasses.”
He nodded, but deep frown lines etched his face.
I was so very appreciative of this young lady; in so many ways she’d gone above and beyond. I touched my heart and gave her a goodbye wave. She did likewise with me.
Once in the car, and on the way I took a deep breath and leaned back. Not off to a great start but the rest of the day was going to be a good one.
The traffic had picked up; there was a humming, whining, hornet’s nest of vehicles as we sped around the freeways. More trucks than I even imagined were in the country zipped and zoomed past. Goodness me, I thought to myself. No bones about it. Chicago’s full of hustle and bustle. Several times I tightened my jaws, closed my eyes, and my hands clutched the edge of the seat. After long, exhilarating minutes, when we finally pulled to a stop in an unloading space at the mall and I stepped out of the car, my legs wobbled like my feet had slipped out of a pair of flip flops and onto hot sand. I lifted my backpack out, set it down, grabbed the door handle, and leaned against the car.
“The lady said you were from Mississippi.” The driver breathed a painful sounding sigh, then puffed out his chest and smiled as if he’d just won a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ contest. “You’re probably not used to all the tall office buildings, world famous museums and fine art galleries we have up here. You’ve made it to the third largest city in our country, and I’m guessing this is the trip of a lifetime for you.”
There was a brief expectant hush after he spoke. I was glad that before I left home my purple Dora the Explorer backpack had been replaced by a black nylon Samsonite one.
“And where I’ve brought you--there’s some first class shops in this mall. Being as how you’re from the south you might want to check out a few of them.” He looked a bit down his nose, bowed his head and yawned. “You might come across some things your people down there need,” he muttered.
I glanced down. I had on a long sleeved white T shirt adorned with turquoise and pink sequined flamingos and was wearing ankle-length, tight fitting, rhinestone sprinkled jeans. My gold tennis shoes were embellished with thick gold thread spelling out, I Love Slots. They were adorned with red embroidered cards; small glittery dice hung from silver laces.
I drew up to my full (now shrunken) five foot two inches and hoisted the nose a bit. I longed to open my mouth and say words I’d probably be sorry for later. But I felt a small touch on my shoulder and soft intermission music played a tune in my head.
“Lottie Elyne. Lottie Elyne.” I could see a sad head shake and my grandmother dabbing the corners of her eyes with a lacy handkerchief.
“Behave yourself now.”
I kept my mouth shut and didn’t say what I’d been thinking.
Instead, “I may not be the most sophisticated traveler who ever hit the road,” I said in my slowest, cold molasses southern drawl, “but I’ve kinda been around the block a time or two.”
“Because of the places I’ve been, and the things I’ve seen, I guess you could say, I’ve come to appreciate home a liddle bit more. It’s been a blessing and a privilege to grow up down south a’ here. I live kindly high on the hog.” I smiled. “Bless your heart. I do hope you and yours have some nice days, some safe times. An’ don’t y’all get blown away, up heah in this windy city.”
As I lifted the backpack and slung it over my shoulder, Lawdy Mercy, Frettin’ Fannie came close to bumping the Chicago man in his nether parts.
I guess, for better or worse, she and I are just liddle ole southern ladies, behavin’ ourselves the best we can.