It all started so innocently on that July morning ...
Y'see, back in '99, I took my (then) daughter-in-law and two-year-old granddaughter to Chicago so we could witness Kaela's dad graduating from boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Air Station.
I said the trip started innocently enough: Since I hadn't been to Chicago since 1897, I thought it was safer to take the Greyhound™ bus. Nothin' to it: Buy tickets, load baggage, find seats, relax. Right??
Yeah ... uh-huh ... suuuuure ...
Since the night before had been a long and sleepless one, I dozed off just before the bus approached the Indianapolis station for one of its famed stops (long enough to get a drink, not long enough to use the bathroom). Suddenly, I heard Kaela's unmistakeable cry.
(Now, for this next part, PLEASE understand that I was groggy. Please?? Thank you ...)
So, still mostly asleep, I instinctively reached over, rubbed her arm and mumbled, "There now, honey ... grandpa's here! You're gonna be okay!"
Suddenly, I was hit by a wadded-up piece of paper, and my name was being whispered loudly but urgently: "Chuck! CHUCK!!"
I barely cracked open my eyes when I noticed Kaela ... sitting with her mother ... on the other side of the aisle!!
I went from a drowsy to "freshly-poured-ice-down-my-pants" look in .015 milliseconds. If Kae's up there with her, then who was ....??
As they (and a few other passengers) began laughing, I slowly, hesitantly glanced beside me.
Now, I dunno ... maybe the sailor was coming off leave or something ... but, fortunately, he was still asleep! Thank goodness. Maybe I was off the hook? Probably not, considering it wasn't his arm I was stroking (NONONO!! It wasn't, er, "that" ... it was his leg! His LEG!! ONLY his leg!! Geez ...)
And I was right. By the time we pulled into the Indy station and I started to g-e-n-t-l-y get up to retrieve K's diaper bag, he tapped me on my hand and slipped me a piece of paper with his phone number on it! (And, no, I didn't, so don't ask ... let me suffer in peace, willya??)
Finally, after pulling into the Windy City (I'd moved to another seat. By myself ...), we got off the bus and into a cab, heading for the Metra™ train station.
Now, for you who've been there, you know there are some revolving glass doors in front -- and Chicagoans move faster than the speed of light through those things ...
ummm, until I showed up.
Carrying all the bags so K's mum could focus on carrying her, I waited until just the right moment and finally jumped into a vacant door ... which was smaller than my load ...
and jammed the entire system!
Y'know, people look a mite funny when their faces are pressed against glass ...
Eventually, I got out ... just to see my daughter-in-law nearly bent over in laughter ... red-faced, but laughing at me (imagine ...)!!
On the escalator going up to the elevated train platform (remember, me: pack mule. Daughter-in-law: protective mum), one of K's shoes fell off. Gallant granddad to the rescue. I reach over to retrieve the shoe ... a couple of bags fell off my shoulder and sped down the escalator and ...
remember the old bowling alleys?? Well, replace the pins with humans, and ...
All I could do is run down ("down" an "up" escalator!), grab the bags, look around in embarrassment whilst trying to save my butt by mouthing "I'M FROM KENTUCKY!" and run back up the moving staircase while keeping my head bowed (at least that way they wouldn't see the foot in my mouth!)
On the train, the conductor would come back and announce each suburb on the route as we reached it. The first time, little K. looked confused. The second time he came back, she looked angry. The third time he came back to announce the suburb, she jumped into the aisle, put her hands on her hips and yelled out, "NO S--T!!"
We finally got to the train depot at GLNAS (no, that's not me in the pic. My hair didn't start turning grey until after this ...) and had to get over to the gym where the commencement was to be held.
But there was a problem: A wicked-looking barbed-wire fence separated us from the main area!
Natch, Mr. Braveheart took all those bags and negotiated the fence ... pulling barbs out of his torn shirt, wiping off a little sweat and blood with my hand. FINALLY ... I'd made it! I turned around ...
to see K and her mum standing in front of me ... and they were (do I haveta say this again??) laughing!!
Six feet from where I went through, the fence had stopped, allowing anyone (with any sense) to go around it ...
We finally got to the gymnasium and the ceremonies (and, I've gotta admit, when Tim marched in with the grads to Anchors Aweigh, I jumped up, tears flowing, and shouted. The guy behind me did finally apologise for burning my butt with his cigarette, though ...*).
After a fantastic July 4th weekend with him (and a great stay at the Great Lakes Navy Lodge), we took another stop in Chicago -- a very brief and cautious one (eyes watched ... and remembered) -- and headed home.
*(Alright, I've gotta 'fess up: The reason behind the tears and shouting was that I was proud of my boy. I'd raised him and his bro, Mike, by myself since they were pups, and to see him marching out there, so dedicated in his perfectly-pressed Navy whites, made me feel tower-tall ...)
But I wasn't done with Chi-Town ... yet:
A year later, whilst on the way to work with a client up in Canada (I took a non-sailored Greyhound™ this time), I stopped in the Windy City; since the next bus wasn't due for another eight hours or so, maybe I could make up for the mess I made last time.
Yeah ... right ...
I put my cigarette out in the ashcan as I turned around and headed for the terminal. With enough time on my hands, certainly there'd be enough time to take in one of the city's famous blues gigs.
Suddenly, people started running in and out of the station, yelling excitedly. I looked out and saw the unmistakable flickering of fire!
Apparently, somebody'd thrown a cigarette ... into ... the ... wrong can. One marked ... 'garbage'!
It was all just a simple mistake. I mean, any balding Kentuckian could've done it ... right??
Anyway, after viewing the resulting festivities ... er, from a distance, I thought it'd be a good time to exit the station right then (or, until the next bus came). So I checked my pockets and realised that ... I'd lost my ticket!!
No problem, really. Since I was sitting in the station when the flames started flickering, I just backtracked. There it was ... fifth seat from the right. I grabbed it, put it in my coat pocket, and took off.
"Hey!! HEY!!" The guy who was running after me had blood in his eyes: MINE!
"Who the hell do you think you ARE, man?? Gimme back my ticket NOW!!" Judging from the way he was reaching for my coat lapel, I don't think he wanted it for warmth! But I obliged (either that, or this 6'4", 275-pounder was gonna make me "late" -- and I don't mean for the bus; it's what my friends would've called me ...)
"Look ..." I stammered to him (and the now-gathering crowd of mostly-roughnecks) as I pulled it outta my pocket. "I bought this ticket in Ashland, Kentucky, and I'm headin' for Canada. See?? It clearly shows I'm heading to ...
Boston, Massachusetts ...
So, as I was fumbling my apologies and handed it back to the man, another guy looked over and under the seats. "Here go one for ..." he checked it out ... "Calg'ry, Canada ... an' IT from Kentucky!" He handed it to his friend who grabbed my lapel, opened my coat and shoved it in the side pocket.
No, my friends ... I don't think Chicago, Illinois, will ever forget me. That's why I now have insurance ... and a good set of fake glasses-and-nose in the event fate lands me there again!
(DISCLAIMER: Don't get me wrong; I really love Chicago. The events that occurred in these posts actually happened, but does not reflect the city or its people ... most of whom I hope to see if I'm ever allowed back there ...)