The one thing I never want to lose is my ability to find pure joy in simple things.
Few activities are worth getting up at 6 a.m. for in the summer, especially those that aren't required of me by a work contract or family obligation. But wake up at 6 a.m. I did to take the Amtrak to Chicago with three of my best friends.
We were pleased as peaches with ourselves to be so filled to the brim with maturiosity that we could ride the rails all by our lonesome, and combat the big city with our Midwestern smiles. The train ride went wonderfully thanks to conductor Robert and his dedication to stopping by and talking to us about our day. I have to hand it to Mr. Robert for being more fretful than me, the self-proclaimed queen of worrying, because he told us our free time in the windy city would essentially consist of about 14 minutes once travel time was factored in.
God save the pessimists.
Fresh out into the world from Union Station, we managed to get lost and then found all over again within our first ten minutes in the city. We wandered to a CVS Pharmacy to buy ultra-hip one-day transit passes and then contacted our various sources to figure out which bus would take us to the Lincoln Park Zoo.
When we found our bus stop, I was struck by how true the principle of wait time is that I was taught in Transportation Economics. In cities across the world, transit stations have added clocks that count down the wait time to the next train. Pedestrian reaction has been extremely positive, as all a human being really wants to know is how long they have to extend their patience. Patience is quite bothersome, is it not?
So there we were standing at this glorified street sign and I was dying. I was itching to know when bus 156 would arrive and I couldn't take the wait.
In our fit of dissatisfaction, we wandered into the savior of my generation- Starbucks. And there we were lucky enough to find a jackpot of something most cities are said to be devoid of: kindness.
First, there was the worker who talked through the buses with me. Then, the other barista who made the quickest and most delicious frappacino I could ever dare ask for. And finally, the wonderful Jill.
Jill noticed my friend almost kill her $600 camera when it fell off the table in our attempt to self-time, and then wondered about what we were up to all day. She saw the stress written all over me when I brought up our bus worries, and after thinking over the route said, "You know what? I'm headed that direction. Why don't you girls just ride with me?"
Okay, I know what you're thinking. Midwestern trust? More like Midwestern hankering to get ourselves killed.
But Jill was awesome. And thus, we rode with her. Besides, how is an adult woman supposed to simultaneously attack four 20-year-olds? (Don't answer that...)
A happy ten minutes later we were at the entrance of the Lincoln Park Zoo and beyond. On to the otters and the giraffes and then a sunny outdoor cafe for lunch with a view of the Chicago skyline.
From the zoo, we ran like maniacs to catch the bus back into downtown, and widdled away the rest of the afternoon shopping, laying out at the beach, and eating at the ever-delicious cheesecake factory.
It was a perfect day.
And when I stood in the train hallway watching my hometown rush by the half-open door, feeling the night air blow across my face, I knew that sometimes you have to stop asking yourself when life is going to get better, and ask yourself how life ever got to be so good.
Today's thought of the day from my admirable friend, Tim:
"Every day I try to improve, I think I grow closer to a solution with each one that passes, and that's just what I do."
Peace, love, and perfect days.