I live about twenty-five miles from downtown Chicago. Today I decided to meet two friends in the city for a late morning breakfast at a neighborhood spot I had never been to, but wanted to try.
Ann Sather's is famous on the northside of Chicago for its wonderful
breakfasts and homemade sticky buns. Ann herself is memorialized in a
large painting that is hung in an ornate frame over the fireplace at her
original restaurant. On weekends there are people waiting in lines that go out the
front door and wind around into the parking lot.
Having said that, the place we went to was better.
I got there first and the maitress d' in the pink sweatshirt and
turquoise eye shadow served me a small cup of fresh squeezed orange
juice, while I waited for my friends to show up. I'm a whore
for fresh sqoozed o.j. so I drained the first cup and whined for a
second. No deal. I had to wait until I could order more at the table.
While looking out the window for my friends, several pairs of handsome,
thirty-something men set off my gaydar as they came and went in
matching black leather jackets with studs or cashmere sweaters and
suede vests. This place must have really good food I thought. Not that
gay people are the only ones who frequent good restaurants. But it sure is a good sign when they do.
Unexpectedly, a gregarious lesbian couple struck up a conversation with
me, probably because I was in polar fleece, workout pants and wearing
my Merrells. Our flirtation came to a screeching halt when my tall,
attractive male friend came in and joined me to wait for our pal to
find a parking spot.
The breakfast was tasty, as was the charming fifty something server who
had the raspy voice of a smoker and worked a second job as a pharmacy
tech. My friends ordered eggs, sliced tomato and English muffins. I
wanted to try the signature French Toast with fresh strawberries and
whipped cream, with a side order of sausage links. Eggs are pretty much
just eggs. But fabulous French toast is forever. They were going to have to roll me into
my car when it was over.
The aisles were filling with people waiting for a table, so we decided
to continue our conversation after driving to a nearby Starbuck's a few
away. I had never been in this part of Chicago before, although my kids
had lived in a nearby neighborhood at one time. As we walked into
Starbuck's I said, for no particular reason, "I bet I run into someone I
The place was crowded. Sunday does that to Starbuck's, especially in a
city neighborhood. No two of them are ever quite the same, but there is
always a certain familiarity. Coffee and high prices. I stood for a
bit until a table opened up and I went over to save it.
As I began to sit down, someone said my name. There, at the very next
table, calling to me to get my attention was . . .of all people. . .my next door neighbor
-- the neighbor who lives about twenty feet away from me on the other
side of her driveway, in our typical American suburb, almost twenty-five miles away.
What are the chances of running into her like that? What are the
chances that I would also have the sense that I was going to run into someone I
knew? And said as much out loud?
What is the reason for these odd juxtapositions of people we know appearing in
places we've never been, the two converging far away from home?
One of my friends pointed out that he would never cheat on his wife by
sneaking off to spend a secret weekend across the ocean in South Africa
on a mountain in a secluded village. Because the next morning he would
step outside to discover that a bus tour had arrived with four of his
wife's best friends who had just put film in their cameras.
I guess the farther away you think you are, the more likely you are to meet someone you know.