Today I had a fantastic city day. And by that, I mean a day that blends all of the adventure that the city offers with an awareness that all of these things wouldn't be happening in one day if I had not made the decisions I've made in my life to bring me to this point.
I wrote about days like these when I lived on Orcas Island. I think it only fair that I stay up a little later to write about it now.
I woke up this morning with the alarm at 5:30 and swished around in my flannel sheets for awhile. Around 6:07, I decided that today would be the day that I took off of work a little early and got off the train in the middle of downtown to file the last of my small claims paperwork and to buy my city sticker for my car. I have been driving with Washington plates all of this last year. They expired last week when the calendar flipped to November. Luckily, I had gone to the DMV a week before my conference and gotten Illinois plates and an Illinois license. However, I did not put the plates on my car because I hadn't bought a city sticker and that is an easy target for police: Illinois plates with no sticker showing where it is registered. However, stickers can't just be bought anywhere and when I tried to go get one before the conference, the satellite office of City Hall only had one clerk for 43 people in line and I had a plane in 2 and a half hours. So, I decided to risk expired plates while I was out of town but parked on the street. I got back and there was no ticket on my windshield and since that worked so well, I got a little lazy. Not too lazy because I've actually been in the car twice when people. ("That will never happen to me") But this morning, instead of feeling groggy, I was awake almost immediately and got to enjoy the softness of the sheets. First thing in the morning is my favorite time of the day because I can savor my comfortable bed and the total bodily relaxation that is the result of a night's sleep before I go and ruin it all by abandoning the horizontal position for the stress and cold of walking around. Because I was inexplicably alert, I decided that today was the day.
So, I got up and did my routine and went out the door to catch my train. It arrived almost immediately and was not too crowded. I got to read my book all 45 minutes on the way to work. Does any day start better than that?
Work is busy since I was out of the office all week last week and my fax line was clipped by the phone guys while I was gone, which is unfortunate because tomorrow is the deadline for request forms for Christmas toys, which means that people have been thinking their faxes that they were sending all week were going through when actually they weren't. So, I've had to call everyone that I haven't heard from. I slogged it out for 4 hours but really wasn't feeling well. Yoga last night kicked my ass a little and I think my body was trying to work out some of the toxins that had been trapped in long-unstretched muscles that I stretched last night.
So, I left around noon once all the work that had to be done was finished. While at the conference, I built up 19 hours of flex time. I'm an hourly employee and all conversation and meals were networking and talking about business, so I counted any hour over eight that I was talking with someone as work. So, I used four of them and headed home with a quick stop downtown in the middle. (My El train runs into the city from the northwest, where I live, and back out of it to the west, where I work.)
At this point, I should tell that it was a gorgeous fall day today after so many uggy days of the early freezing rain type. And it wasn't expected to be. It was supposed to be overcast and rainy. So, 62 degrees and sunny was heaven to walk around in.
I had Jimmy John's for lunch, which never fails to make me happy, the went to the Daley center. I did not have to wait in any lines there and concluded my business with no snarls in less than 10 minutes. I wandered around the area a little bit, enjoying the people, then ended up across the street at City Hall. There was no line there, either. The nice young man did not charge me a late fee, even though it is 9 days over the 30 grace period that I had to purchase my sticker. (My lease began October 1.) That took less than 5 minutes. Two bureaucratic tasks in less than 15 minutes. Pretty amazing, huh?
I got back on the train and came home, where I closed my eyes on the couch and let the tension from the toxins and the pace from downtown fall away from me. It was one of those beautiful naps where I was aware that I was losing consciousness, even saying to myself with satisfaction, "That's not something I normally think about. I must be asleep," without waking myself up. I did wake up naturally about 20 minutes later and headed out the door to go to my friend Jess's house, which is a couple of blocks south of me.
As I walked, I approached where my car was parked and saw that a classic Chicago cop was ticketing the big white van that was parked behind me. He was in his early 50s, had normal sized legs and I giant torso, wrapped up in a bulletproof vest. He had unfortunate facial hair and the hair on his head was full and dark, but plastered to his forehead with sweat, despite the fact that it was 62 degrees out. Worried, I tried to figure out why the white van was being ticketed and whether I was guilty of the same violation. As I passed the van, I realized that its two passenger wheel were up on the curb, so my worry abated and I kept walking. Then, I realized that being close enough to the van to read the VIN off the dashboard, the cop would be right next to my expired out-of-state plates. Also, I hadn't seen his car parked anywhere with its lights on. What if he worked behind the desk in the police station across the street and was walking around the neighborhood ticketing petty offences of parked cars just to have an excuse to be outside in the beautiful weather?
At this point, I decided it would be prudent to turn around and go back to my car. I had the license plates in there and screwdrivers. So, I sat in the passenger seat and pulled my city sticker out of my purse and proceeded to apply it to my windshield. This done, I reached down and picked up the license plates, still in their plastic wrapper. At this moment, the cop came around and said, "Darlin', do you know your plates. . . " I popped up from the car very perky and said, "I do! I'm putting the new ones on right now!" All smiles. He smiled at me and moved along. Like there was nothing to see here. As I walked away from the car towards Jess's house after completing my tasks, I saw that my theory was correct; the cop was leaning over the windshield of a car around the corner, reading the VIN to write another ticket for a petty offense, this time with a cigarette in his mouth. Definitely looking for an excuse to be outside. And to earn the city a little money, of course.
I arrived at Jess's house and had a beautiful open and intimate conversation with about how I've felt abandoned these last few months and she reacted without hostility of defensiveness and thanked me for not letting her pull away from me because her life has been difficult in ways she has been reluctant to tell me about. I was so worried that the chemistry that I felt with her when I first met her last spring was going to end up being ephemeral, like all relationships are. I just didn't want to move into the next season so soon. That kind of friendship happens for me so rarely. I had been so sad about it. But we're OK. She was so affirming and upset that she had hurt me, both without going over the top trying to make me understand how understanding and regretful she was. She just was those things and let me see it.
I left Jess's house two hours later because we were both a little exhausted and went home. Daniel had called me around 3:30, when he usually gets home from work to see when I would be home so that he could determine whether he should wait to watch a couple of episodes of Season 7 of the West Wing, which he just bought. I told him that I would love it if he took a little nap, then watched two episodes with me when I got home. And so it happened. Boy, do I love Toby. And Margaret.
Then, at 7:00, I went out the door, got on the train again and headed north to my friend Camilla's production of The Crucible, which was only 90 minutes long because it had two drummers keeping it from slowing down and getting pedantic. It could have been better in a few places, but it's probably the best Crucible I'll ever see. And of course, the costume were gorgeous. I love having truly talented friends. Let's face it, I could fake enthusiasm for their lives if I had to. I mean, I don't have so many that I can afford not to be supportive, regardless. So, it's particularly neat that I don't have to. She really is bugely (big + huge) creative in designing the costumes and super-competent is constructing them. We stayed because she needed to be there for a "talk-back" with audience members who had questions. Then, she drove me home.
Look at how many cool things happened to me in one day. And I never felt rushed to get from one to the other. They all just fell into place. Actually, when I got home at 11:00, Daniel had texted me to tell me that he was playing a show with his country band, Barely American, at 10:00 or 10:30. Since he didn't get home until 11:45, I could have added that to the list of things I experienced today. But, instead, I sat down to record it all.
Despite the days when my soul feels like it is matte-finished, or maybe because of those days, I want to make sure that days like today do not get taken for granted.
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