Chicago Snapshot no. 1
It’s a 1.5 mile walk from my apartment to the University where I work. Today it was raining at a consistent, mild patter the whole way, and I had an umbrella up, and I was hurrying so I could catch up on some regression with interaction terms analyses on a new data set. I’d wasted half the day at home, trying to wait the rain out, and now I was in a mild rush to get there and get it all done.
Two blocks from my office, a miniscule old woman took a firm grasp of my wrist.
"I am going to Metropolis," she garbled. "I don’t have an umbrella."
She turned toward the intersection and waited for the walk signal, not releasing my hand, not trying to debate with me, just assuming I would escort her.
"You’re going to…"
"Metropolis," she said. "I need my coffee and my donut. $1.65. Right?"
"I thought coffee was 2.19," I said, "2.89 for a large."
The light turned and we crossed the street. She never released my arm.
Metropolis was two blocks south and one block west of where we were standing. We were heading away from my destination. We were heading obviously in the exact opposite direction that I had been heading when I came across the woman, which she surely had seen. But she didn’t care.
For half a block we were silent. My body was tilted at an odd angle to accompany her shortness, keep my arm secure, and ensure she had enough umbrella coverage. I kept walking too fast, but then she would tug at my arm and jerk and slow me down. My backpack was swinging off my shoulder at an awkward angle. We passed a few other pedestrians and my eyes dropped to the concrete — I felt that my discomfort was obvious.
"Is it going to rain tomorrow?" She demanded to know.
"I don’t know. I think so?" I pondered. "It’s a 60% chance of rain all day, and some chance of thunderstorm tomorrow."
"But it’s raining today, it will rain tomorrow?"
"I think?" I felt the need to keep the conversation going. "You live around here?"
"Yes, Sheridan & Rosemont. You?"
"No, I work up here. I live on Foster. By Argyle?"
"Oh! Argyle! You walked here??"
"Yeah, I always walk up here."
"You go to school here?"
"No. I teach here."
"Did you eat?"
"I need my coffee and my donut." She said, exasperated. We rounded the corner. "My sister went to work and took the umbrella."
"Oh." I tried to sympathize. "My umbrella is always breaking."
The rain slowed, then seemed to stop. I began to close the umbrella then she swatted at me.
"No, don’t, stop," she said. "It’s still raining."
Finally I delivered her to Metropolis. I tried to say, “See ya!” but she waggled her hand and scowled to make me stay and escort her back.