On my own for the day, I was in Chicago on a gazing and shopping excursion, but it had taken some doing to get there. On this, the last day of a trip with daughter-in-law Gail, and Great-Grand Maddie to visit son Bob, who was working in the big city, my vacation plans had run into somewhat of a delay. As sometimes seems to happen when things don't go her way, my laptop Fannie Mae had poked her bottom lip out. A few hours later, after having Frettin' Fannie repaired and her feelings mended at a computer store, she and I were back in each other's good graces.
All in all, I now felt rather adventuresome. Relieved that the old lady was no longer in falling apart mode, we had been Ubered to the Woodfield Mall, one of the largest shopping centers in the country.
It was exciting to be out and about and on my own. Back home, the busiest places I go to are the grocery store, the country club buffet, and sometimes Brent's for an egg and olive sandwich.
"Be sure and close your mouth when you look around," I told myself, walking toward one of the many entrances. "You might slip-slide on your own drooling if you don't."
Once inside the multi-storied mall and done with rapidly eating an Ahi Poke Burrito for lunch, I decided to wander the main passageways and orient myself a little bit. It didn't take long before I was overwhelmed--cellphone punching, thin-lipped, shoulder-twitching, important looking people hurried past, on their way to what must have been very serious meetings. Some of them may even have been running a country or starting and ending wars from this shopping center.
After a quick, gap-mouthed walk, glancing at people and window displays along the way, it became time to hit the aisles.
In the few stores I visited almost everything I saw looked like it was either for vastly overweight folks, or fishbone skinny young'uns. Some of the clothes, I couldn't make up my mind if they were for boys or girls and I lifted a few price tags that took my breath away.
The aisle cruising didn't last too long; I felt like I'd been trapped in a revolving door; in more ways than one. Not that it mattered, but on this shopping expedition nothing fit my taste or budget. It was all too high falutin' for the likes of me.
"Am I an endangered species?" I asked myself. The truth may hurt, I thought, so don't ponder it. I was done and ready to head back to Bob's condo. Not sure how to call for my ride, I didn't want to slip up and delete the Uber name Gail had put in for me; a little assistance was needed. I approached a lady at a "Welcome" stand and took my cellphone from a back pocket.
"Ma'am. I hate to bother you, but I need someone to lend me a hand. Could you please punch an Uber number that's here in my phone and have them pick me up?" I asked.
Although no one else was in line, she shook her head. "Busy," she barked.
"I sho 'preciate your hep, ma'am," I dragged out. "Have yourself a nice day."
I walked through an exit door. Not knowing what to do, or exactly where I was, I stood outside the mall. Behind me was a world I either had no part of or couldn't afford. All I had in hand was a backpack, nervous Fannie Mae and an Uber number, one I wasn't sure how to call, or who or what to ask for if I did.
Then I saw a well-dressed, middle-aged lady sitting on a wooden bench. She had a large book in her lap, and I could see the title, A Picture Book of Today's Saints.
My kinda folks, I thought. "Excuse me," I asked. "Can you help me?"
"What do you need?" She smiled and closed the book.
"I need to call Uber. It's here in my phone, but I'm not sure how to do it," I said in an apologetic voice .
She looked like a hungry cat who has sighted a food bowl. "What's in it for me?"
After a moment of silence, "Nothing that I am carrying in my pocketbook," I answered.
She laid herself back on the bench, opened the book and thumbed a page. "Figure it out yourself."
"I'll see you in the funny papers," I muttered.
I consider myself to be mostly civilized, sometimes with a taste of mint julep in my mouth and, mayhap, a few mint leaves on my lips every now and then, but truth to tell, I did feel a little like country come to town. And now, what to do?
"For one thing, keep your mouth shut," I begged myself. Hoisting my nose a bit, I sashayed away. "You can do the fuming and cussing when you get back to the condo. Not in the middle of Chicago."
Then trip-stepping toward me I noticed a tall, thin young man dressed in a tuxedo. He had golden curls floating halfway to his waist and was swinging a jewel-tipped cane.
For some reason, I made an instant connection with him.
"Oh sir." I waved my hand as he trotted past. "I do so hate to bother you."
The dandy tossed his head, flipped a wingspread of curls, and whirled around. Silver gray eyes looked down at me.
"Sir. I'm from Mississippi, and I'm kinda lost up here in this big city."
The cavalier tilted his chin and leaned forward. We exchanged smiles.
"I need to make it back to my son's condo in Palatine. I just might need me a little help getting in touch with some Uber folks though." Was I getting a false sense of security from this silver-eyed man? I hesitated a moment, then went on. "My daughter-in-law put the number in my cellphone, but I'm kinda scared I might push the wrong button and lose Mr. Uber."
"Ma'am. I'll be glad to take care of it." The courteous young man propped his cane against his leg.
He reached for my cellphone, punched in, spoke for a moment, then handed the phone back. "Ma'am. A Honda Civic will be here in eight minutes." He waved his cane. "The driver’s name is Li."
Once again I had an old, familiar, comfortable feeling. Lawdy, Lawdy. This gent must have had him some kinfolks from somewheres back close to home
"That accent." He flashed a smile. "Reminds me of one I used to hear when I was a little boy. My grandmother was from South Carolina. I remember smelling her Chanel Number Five perfume when I came through the front door, sitting on a blue velvet couch, and watching one of her favorite movies, Gone With The Wind. I watched it many times with her."
Once again he leg-propped his cane. "And I learned a few things while I was down there in the sunny south. Sassin' can get you in lots of trouble and most of all, manners are a must." He took an uneven breath. "You're in Chicago now, not down in the sunny south."
He arched his eyebrows and spread his arms in a large circle, as if holding a worded plaque for me to read. "On the other side of these river walks, museums, and shopping centers, there are some tough streets with boarded up windows and survival of the fittest.
"Now, bless your heart. You be careful little lady, have a good time, but remember." He whipped his corn-silk hair back with a tattoo-covered hand, and said, "There's drastic traffic, a gritty city, and some horror stories on either side of this big-shouldered town."
I had made eye contact with a gallant. This damsel in distress had been rescued.