This is a true story.
Last Tuesday, I was on my way to work, walking the eight blocks which comprise the final leg of the commute to my place of underemployment. Up until then, the morning had been pretty typical: I woke up, gave the cats a treat, took a shower, bought a cup of coffee at the station, and took the train into downtown Chicago. No hallucinogens ingested, and this point should be made clear.
It was 7:30 am and I was walking east on Madison Street. Head down, into the wind, like every other Chicagoan. In Chicago, in whichever direction one is walking, one is always walking against the wind. It's an old Pottawatomie curse. They couldn't prevent non-natives from living here, but they sure as hell could make sure we wouldn't be comfortable. To compensate, Chicagoans have developed a unique manner of ambulation. We hold our faces parallel to the ground - like bloodhounds on a scent - and walk rapidly. Chicagoans do this even when it is 72 degrees and sunny because our bodies are locked into a sort of post-traumatic memory loop from previous winters. And autumns. And springs.
(One can immediately spot a tourist in Chicago. Tourists are the ones with their heads up, and they look at you. If you should ever encounter a Chicagoan with his head up, looking at you, I can guarantee that this does not bode well.)
I'll never know what prompted me to stop my single-minded pursuit of a warm place. A quick assessment of my surroundings yielded nothing unusual at first, only my fellow travellers head-butting the wind and counting the steps to a heated edifice. But in front of me - and slightly to my left - I espied a tall, white-haired gentleman trailing a small piece of rolling luggage behind him.
Who gained my full and lucid attention because, suddenly, he jerked his right wrist up to his mouth and spoke into his watch, Dick Tracy-style.
"Team Two! I am approaching Franklin Street! Team Two, take the lead at Franklin!. Approaching Franklin NOW! Team Two, take the lead!"
A most curious thing to do, indeed, and his tone of voice convinced me that this wasn't a junior executive in the throes of some dumb-ass corporate team-building exercise.
I looked down at his luggage and noticed a tag, large enough to be read 15 feet away by a myopic person not wearing glasses (me), and bold-as-you-please:
Seriously? Way to go undercover.
What else could I do? I followed him. And, in a moment of extreme discombobulation, I morphed into Alice, in pursuit of the White Rabbit.
I never did manage to identify Team Two at Franklin Street or figure out what they were up to, and I lost sight of the White Rabbit, who continued to zoom eastward down Madison. But the tone was set for the rest of the day.
I work for an eye doctor, and every so often someone comes in with a pair of glasses in need of repair. Which happened shortly after I arrived at my office.
Yes, we would be happy to fix your glasses, sir. And, yes, per your request, I am also happy to make an appointment with the doctor for you. Name? Birth date? Phone number? Do you wear contact lenses?
At this last query, he glared at me. Thinking he had not heard the question, I repeated it.
"She's fixing my glasses, right? Look at my eyes. What do you think I'm seeing with? She's got my glasses. Yeah, I wear contact lenses."
(Alice speaking with The Caterpillar. My face must have betrayed my confoundment.)
"Okay. So I'm a dick. I'm being a dick."
(Yes, sir. You are. In my upcoming blockbuster-of-a-novel, The Caterpillar will be a trader on the Chicago Stock Exchange. Instead of smoking a hookah and sitting on a mushroom, he will be snorting copious amounts of cocaine and wearing a pink smock.)
Towards the end of the day, we had a visit from a lady with a big designer bag who never took her eyes off her iPhone during our "conversation":
"Why do I have to pay for that? Why? Nobody ever told me I had to pay for that! You never told me that. Nobody explained that to me. Can't you take care of it? Right now? I want to speak to the manager. I'm not paying for that."
( I could cast her as the Red Queen, though this would be a bit of a stretch since she never got around to actually ordering my decapitation. And she was too skinny. And too young. And not scary enough. She will suffice, though, until something better turns up. Which, I have no doubt, it will.)
I think I'll stay in Wonderland-mode through much of the winter. It's fun, being under a spell. Nothing like a little alternative reality to brighten a cold winter's day. Hence, I am in happy anticipation of finding a Dodo, a Bill the Lizard, and a Cheshire Cat. I think I may already have two out of the three, but that's another story for another time.
Now to find a Mad Cocktail Party.
Strictly for research purposes, of course.