Saturday, April 5, 2008

Spring Reflections: Observe and Write

I've written before about my long walks that often terminate at the McDonalds at Chicago Avenue and State Street in the Gold Coast area of Chicago, just off Michigan Avenue and very near my future home, The Clare at Water Tower. Between bad knees and bad weather, I haven't been able to take one of those walks for some time, but today, a sunny Saturday, I finally did so.

The crowd at this location today seemed to be a bit lower in collective social and economic status than the usual weekday crowd. During the work week, the homeless and the less fortunate mix with affluent business people, but on weekends, most business people drink their coffee and dine elsewhere, often near their homes in the suburbs.

Why, in a neighborhood of exotic dining spots, do I choose McDonalds as a desitination? Well, I don't eat there; I go only to drink a small black coffee and to rest. My long walk requires athletic shoes and comfortable exercise clothing, so I don't look presentable enough for the average Gold Coast restaurant. I like the anonymity of looking a bit shabby (or perhaps I'm basically a slob). And as a writer, I like the usual variety of interesting people to observe, all ages, all races. Here's what I saw today.

First of all, I noticed several morbidly obese people. I am a bit heavy, but seeing these people (most of them with full trays, not cups of black coffee) reminds me of the folly of overeating. I feel compassion for most people with weight problems, since I am one of them, but I need that reminder. I was also reminded of how easy it usually is for me to avoid or ignore the less fortunate members of Chicago's society. At this particular McDonalds, they are in full view.

Today, one older, shabbily dressed, obviously demented man was talking to himself in a loud voice. I couldn't quite understand what he was saying, but every sentence seemed to contain the profane GD words, and worse. Finally, a plain-clothes Chicago policeman asked him politely to quiet down, and for the most part, he did. I wondered about the man's problems. Is he alone in the world? I admire the social service workers who try so hard to help. I have no such talents.

Remaining aloof as usual, I finished my coffee and walked to the nearest bus stop, where I used my senior free fare card. Soon, I hope to be able to walk both ways, but I'm not ready yet. I could have paid full fare, but . . . Anyway, the walk brought a combination of hope and despair. Perhaps I sound like a snob, but it's not my intention to put down those less fortunate than I. I do have to admit, however, that they make me feel lucky, as well as slightly uncomfortable.

Be an observer of people. Have a cup of coffee at a place slightly ouside your usual realm or your comfort zone. You may get some good story ideas. Perhaps that's the search that keeps me going back to McDonalds at Chicago and State.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne


Grandma Julia said...

... more than just an observer, touch them. Make them a part of your life in a way you know best. It uplifts the spirit.

Grandma Julia said...

And yes, it was an adventure walking through your blog Marly. Thank you