Monday, July 19, 2010

Sometimes a lot more is communicated without words...

It is better to just listen. Sometimes words just get in the way. This simple fact is often forgotten, but was confirmed to me twice today, within minutes, and in two totally different circumstances.

The first was unspoken communication between guys in the presence of a pretty woman. I was in line at Portillo's in Park Ridge, directly across the Dempster Street from Lutheran General Hospital.

For readers outside Illinois, Portillo's is a Chicago institution that serves hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, and a plethora of other heart-attack inducing delicacies. Anyway, at most of their locations they have combined with Barnelli's, a sister restaurant that serves pasta, salads, wraps and healthier stuff. Needless to say, I've never tried their fare. The line to order at both places are next to each other. I was in line for Portillo's and when a woman and her boyfriend walked in and got into the other line. I don't remember what the guy looked like, but the woman was dressed like she was going to a club and was a real traffic-stopper. I looked at her and then noticed another guy who was seated and eating was looking at her. Hell, every guy in the place turned his head! Anyway, I made eye contact with the guy and we both smiled. No words were spoken, but I know we both were thinking the same thing: "Wow!"

Finally after a couple of minutes the line in front of me had disappeared and the guy who was eating looked at me again, probably wondering why I didn't step up to order. I looked at him again and this time opened my mouth, telling him that I didn't want to block his view by moving up. He laughed, I smiled and then finally ordered and got my food. I was amused by our unspoken (till that point) communication and probably would have forgotten it if I didn't encounter another stranger as I was leaving.

As I was walking towards my car with my leftover pop in my hand I noticed a woman in the parking lot wandering around. Thinking she couldn't remember where she parked I shouted to her, asking her if she was lost. Before looking at me she responded yes. Walking up to her, I asked her what type of car she had, and that's when we made eye contact. I could see that she was crying and instantly realized she wasn't upset about a car.

I just looked at her for a minute and didn't say a word or move. I asked if she "had someone at the hospital?" and she nodded yes. I didn't ask anything else. It didn't matter. I could see it on her face. I learned a long time ago covering homicides that often the family just wants someone to stand by them. I don't know if anyone close to her died, and if so I doubt they were murdered, but her pain was the same. I wasn't covering a story, I just felt like she needed someone to be by her side for a few minutes. I noticed she was wearing a bathing suit under her outfit and wondered to myself if something happened at a pool, or if her day of relaxing was cut-short by a family tragedy. The only other thing I asked was if she needed to call anyone or wanted a ride across Dempster Street and she politely said no. I noticed her nose was running and realized I didn't have tissues in my car, so I ran back into the restaurant and got her some napkins. She thanked me and we just stood there looking at each other. Without saying anything, she reached out and grabbed the pop out of my hand, took a sip and handed it back. We remained frozen just looking at each other. Then, what seemed like a long time but probably was only a few minutes, an old man pulled up in a van and she said she had to go. I gave her my card and told her if she needed anything to call me. She said her name was Kathy and said she would and apologized for being such a mess.

As I was driving away I said a little prayer for her. I wasn't upset or depressed. Instead I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that no one knows when wake up in the morning if they will have a good day or if it will be the worst day of their life. I also found it very interesting that I had unspoken communication with two different strangers, minutes apart, about two completely different things. Not sure what it all means, but I'll just remember it as another interesting day.

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