Today I drove to the airport, caught an early morning flight to the Windy City, then took the Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line train from O’Hare Airport to my downtown meeting site. I therefore completed the John Candy-Steve Martin business travel trifecta when the day was still young.
The train ride was a pleasant way to get from the airport to the city — much more enjoyable than a cab ride through stop-and-go traffic. The trip took a bit less than an hour. We sat in a clean, relatively quiet car with no exhaust fumes pouring in, rolled past some interesting neighborhoods and buildings, and heard recorded announcements that encouraged us all to be polite to our fellow passengers by not listening to blaring music or having annoyingly loud conversations on our cell phones. It seems like the Transit Authority is working hard to make the train trip more tolerable, and it was.
One part of the train ride made me laugh. At two of the Blue Line stops, you can get out and transfer to other subway lines — one of which is the Pink Line. Huh? The Pink Line? In the Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders? Carl Sandburg would probably laugh and like that development, too.
I was in Chicago today for a meeting, and when I got to my destination I saw this sight. Whoever this bearded, apparently tormented, big-footed fellow is — Poseidon? One of the Titans? A weaver outraged by the high cost of cloth? — he at least has the civic spirit and good sense to wear a Chicago Bulls jersey.
People in Chicago are excited about the Bulls, who are playing the Miami Heat in the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals and have a 1-0 lead. The interest of Chicagoans is to be expected, but I imagine that virtually every other sports fan in the country — including especially those in the Cleveland area — is rooting for the Bulls to beat the Heat. Who wouldn’t want to bring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh and the best team that money can buy down a peg?
I don’t follow the NBA or care much for the NBA style of basketball, but I wouldn’t mind seeing da Bullz knock off the South Beach Hustlers. Maybe then this old guy can take his bath in peace.
Lately I’ve been focused on trying to use things up. It has been a very pleasant and rewarding process.
After the kids left for college, I slowly came to realize that we have lots of extra stuff around. My first step was to inventory what we had. What I found amazed me. We had more than a dozen cans of shaving cream, about 30 unused disposable razors, 10 different kinds of shampoo, and a large box full of bars of soap — and that’s just in the personal hygiene category. We also had countless pens and pencils, notebooks and pads of paper, iPod chargers and earbuds and extension cords. So, I put them all together and, for some time now, have been slowly using these household goods — drop by drop, lather by lather, blade by blade, and pen by pen — until they are used up and can be discarded in good conscience. I’ll probably never have to buy a can of shaving cream again.
This effort has been extremely satisfying, and not just because it scratches my cheapskate itch. I’m one of those people who think the advertising-driven consumer culture makes Americans accumulate too much stuff. We end up with all of these unnecessary possessions, and then we cart them around with us from place to place. It becomes absurd, and suffocating, and embarrassing. No human needs a dozen cans of shaving cream or a hundred perfectly good pens. Using them makes me feel a bit more responsible, a bit more virtuous, and a bit less egregious in our contribution to waste and conspicuous consumption. Every time I use one of these items it’s like I’ve won a small but meaningful battle against the overwhelming forces of consumerism — and that feels good.