We spent the weekend in Chicago. Of all the times I’ve visited, I never had a chance to see the city from the top of the Sears Tower – before they tore it down and built the Willis Tower in its place. I was drawn to the new-ish observation ledges where you can see the city straight down over 1000 feet below.
Even with limited visibility the tower was crowded that Saturday. The lines were long and people were getting restless. The family in front of us begrudgingly towed along their chatterbox mother. She wanted to be our best friend. She let her daughter cut her in line so she could cut her. (not knife cuts, but jumping in line cuts) “Cuts for cuts” she said looking back at us. “You remember that? Cuts for cuts from school? We used to do cuts for cuts all the time! It was so funny!” I nodded my head. However, at my school we called letting someone jump ahead of the line so you could cut them “being an asshole”.
We stood in back of a seemingly endless queue of roped-off, switchback lines. When the line looked hopelessly long I felt a tap on my shoulder. I spun on my heels to find nobody. Then I looked down and saw a dwarf of a woman holding a walkie talkie, looking up waiting for an answer. I stooped down to hear what she was telling us.
“The faster way up is over here! Come this way!” she beckoned with her cute little hands.
She didn’t have a badge on or an Sears Tower markings or tattoos, but you can always trust a person with a walkie talkie. It’s just a reassuring feeling seeing someone with a walkie talkie because you know they can call for help or order food with the press of a button. Seeing this as an opportunity to escape the line but more importantly, the Chatterbox’s prattling on about her long distant grade school memories, we followed the walkie talkie lady to the “faster way”.
She led us down a concrete hallway to a giant stainless steel door, which turned out to be the freight elevator. We were herded into the elevator with a large group. I was disappointed to see the Chatterbox woman and family shuffle in beside us. Chatterbox proceeded to narrate the elevator trip as she most likely does her entire life.
“Oh look girls, we are in the freight elevator. We’re going up like luggage. Look at all of the buttons. Let me get your picture with the buttons. Could everyone in the elevator scoot to the sides so I can get a picture of Jordan and McKenna with the buttons? We are on vacation from Wisconsin. This is an expensive camera but I got it on sale at Target. Sometimes I say TarJAY to make the sound more exotic. Ha ha ha! My husband works but I just stay at home with the kids- OH MY GOSH WE ARE STOPPING?! I think we are at the TOP!”
The elevator attendant had said that we would make a few stops before reaching the top. If everyone was listening and not talking, they would have known that already. We stopped on the 67th floor and there was a couple of dudes waiting for the elevator, holding a couch on its side. They looked kind of surprised to see the freight elevator full of people. The freight doors were tall enough to scoot the couch into our already cramped elevator. The couch guys gave us a ‘sup’ nod, so I knew they were cool.
The Chatterbox started asking questions, “Where is this sofa going? Do you live here? How much does it cost to live here? Do you have to work on Saturday? Do you get paid more for that? How much do you get paid? Has this couch been in your family for centuries?” One of the dudes covered his ears and refused to remove them when we stopped again on the 87th floor. His buddy was ready to move the couch out of the elevator but the other wouldn’t uncover his ears. Seeing an opportunity to get away from Chatterbox, we volunteered to help.
We walked the couch down a hallway to an apartment. The dudes told us where to put the couch 3 or 4 times until it was in the perfect spot. I love to help people, but now I was getting kind of mad because we paid $17 each to help a guy move a couch? I still had to see the The Ledge! Plus those guys were only faking being cool before because as soon as we got to the apartment they sat down on the couch and started playing Angry Birds. “Hey I want to see the ledge now! Where is the freight elevator troll?” I asked, kind of mad. The guys did not answer so I went over to large apartment the window.
From the 87th floor you can see just as much of the city as anyone on the 100 floors. I folded out the top window so it was parallel with the ground. With the help of my wife and an end table, I was able to crawl out on to the window. It was a lot like what I thought The Ledge would be like so I was getting more happy! I crawled out on the flat window far enough so I could stand up and look straight down and see the city. It was an exciting thrill, but with such a little ledge, it got boring quickly because I couldn’t do a handstand or get a good picture taken.
I crawled back inside and yelled at the dudes on the couch. Still playing Angry Birds, they paid us no mind. So they didn’t mind that I taped a bunch of their mail to heavy odds and ends (like a clock and some glass decorations) and threw them out of the window. Think of it like the pool game where you throw colored rings or sticks into the deep end of the pool and then you dive down and try to find them all (for points). We left the apartment and ran down the stairs (exhausting!) and went out to find the trinkets we threw out of the window. But, there were a lot of police outside when we got to the bottom. Also some broken cars. The Police were hogging the find-the-trinkets game pieces and putting little yellow tags on them to count up how many points they got. Cops ruin all the fun. At least they will find the dudes’ apartment so he can get his stuff back.
I learned a lot from this trip to Chicago, but the most important lesson was to never help people move.