We decided to leave around seven in the morning. We wanted to be in Chicago around ten. Friday had started out warm and clear. We hadn’t hit any really hot humid weather yet. I had to remind myself it was still spring, summer wasn’t going to officially start for another couple of days. In New York you could count the number of perfect days in a year on one hand. In New York, even if Al Roker had predicted a sunny day, a grey haze would come hand-in-hand with the sun preventing visibility from extending much beyond the island. In Madison, this year, we’ve already had more perfect days than I could count using both hands. If it’s sunny here you can see miles of rolling hills, painted in amber and emerald green under a cerulean blue sky. This is one of the big differences between New York and Madison, where Madison has the edge.
We had gone on line to rent a car for the day. The Sorency-mobile isn’t trustworthy enough to make the three hundred mile roundtrip journey to the loop and back and besides that it doesn’t have any air-conditioning. We were making our first trip to the Merchandise Mart and neither of us wanted to arrive dripping sweat or looking like a couple of derelects. For the week of Emmy’s graduation we had rented a car from Enterprise. It was an education in debit card etiquette. Since a car rental is open-ended (gas charges, mileage calculation, any damages to the car and various other tiny print stipulations) your actual charges can’t be debited to your account until you return the vehicle. When Rick went to rent the car at Enterprise with his debit card they wouldn’t let him do it without a copy of his utility bill, his most recent pay stub and the results of his last colonoscopy, none of which he was carrying with him when he approached the rental counter. This was a lesson learned. We made a second trip and came back prepared with the proper documentation. For our Chicago rental we made the arrangements through AVIS. Rick’s wallet was sufficiently stuffed with all his vital information this time, but AVIS wasn’t Enterprise. For them, if you hand them a debit card, they don’t want all the information, instead they do a credit check. No credit card – no rental. It was back to Enterprise and the nice young man who remembered Rick and gladly accepted the clean bill of health documentation and rented us an air-conditioned car more likely to make the round-trip to Chicago and back without breaking down somewhere near the Illinois-Wisconsin border.
The Merchandise Mart is Chicago’s version of New York’s design and gift buildings rolled into one big indoor mall for designers, decorators and retailers. Unlike the suspicious folks in New York, nothing was asked, no ID required, we just roamed the halls unnoticed, unquestioned and unsupervised on the road to re-establishing our brand under a new moniker. Madison requires a presence in order to get noticed, so we’ve finally bit the bullet and now we’re out to establish our identity through the wonders of retail. This is a blog I’ll save for later.
Chicago, in turn, decided to show its approval of our new venture by presenting us with the most glorious storm Chicago had seen in a long time. When we had finished perusing the halls of floors thirteen through eighteen at the Mart the skies were already broiling to a pre-ignition charcoal grey. Umbrellaless, we decided to make the one and a half block dash to the parking garage and our full size black Ford Fiesta fortress. The prepayment kiosk for the garage was located on the bottom floor. Rick paid the ticket and then we took the elevator to the fourth floor where the car was parked. The garage was one of those open sided structures, By the time we got out of the elevator the wind had climbed to over sixty miles an hour. I, being the coward I am, ran to the car. Emmy and Rick, either through some sort of unbridled courage or extreme stupidity ran to the open ledge, cameras in hand. The rain started pelting them as it shifted to a horizontal trajectory. Lightening was striking everywhere. A canvas sign attached to the side of the building ripped in half. I remained safely inside the car out of the way of flying glass and debris. Storm chaser is not the occupation I was going to be auditioning for in Chicago.
We waited out the storm until we thought it safe enough to start the ignition and wind our way down from the fourth tier of the parking garage to street level. All systems were set to go until I slipped the parking voucher into the automated gate release. We had exceeded our grace period between having paid the fare and then left the facility. Once again we had to pay up for Mother Nature’s mighty tantrums.
Safely back in Madison the verdict is still out as to Mother Nature’s omen. Was she telling us to get out while we still could or was she encouraging us with a strike of lightening to the branch were standing on to flap our wings once more and take flight?