As a person who was born and bred in New York, I have always thought that it was common practice to be rude to strangers and ignore people who ask you for directions. So you can imagine it came as an utter shock to me when I made a business trip to Chicago and discovered that the people there are (gasp!) nice!
“GOOD MORNING!” boomed the rental car shuttle guy at the airport. “Can I help you with your luggage?”
I looked around to see if maybe he was talking to someone else he knew. However, since it was 6am and I was the only fool flying at that hour, by process of elimination I realized he was talking to me.
“Um, OK,” I said hesitantly. I have to admit, I kind of half-expected that he was going to pick up my suitcase and run away with it. Either that, or crack it open and start selling the contents on the street. Shockingly, though, he hefted it onto the shuttle and then extended his hand to help me onto the van.
“Where are you coming from,” he asked.
“New Jersey,” I said.
“Really? I LOVE New Jersey!” he boomed.
At this point, I was certain he was either an escapee from a looney bin who had carjacked the shuttle bus, or he was an alien from another planet who had assumed the body of the driver in a plot to take over Earth one rental car shuttle driver at a time.
“Great basketball team. Gorgeous beaches. Awesome people,” he boasted.
“Well, I’m originally from New York,” I clarified.
“New York is great too!” he said.
“What do you think of Ohio?” I wondered. I was trying to suss out whether he was simply a fan of every darn state or if he just had an affinity for the northeast.
“It’s OK,” he said unenthusiastically.
Not a fan of Ohio.
When we got to the rental car location, he helped me get my luggage off the van, refused a tip, and then wished me a fantastic day.
I was speechless.
I was thinking that maybe the driver was an anomaly. Then I got to the rental car desk.
“GOOD MORNING!” Boomed the rental car employee. “How was your flight?”
“Um. OK?” I responded. I handed him my car voucher.
“OK, Mrs. Beckerman, I see you got an economy car. Can I give you a free upgrade?”
Free? He wanted to give me something for free? I figured there must be a hitch. Maybe it had no gas pedal and I was going to have to stick my feet through the floorboards and run like they do in the Flintstones.
But no, he actually gave me a much bigger, nicer car for the same price I was paying for the stinky little car.
In fact, everywhere I went in Chicago, people wished me a nice day, held doors open for me, upgraded my rooms, seats and rentals, gave me free stuff, and told me how happy they were to have me in their city.
Finally on the plane home, it dawned on me what was going on.
Everyone in Chicago is colorblind.
They thought I was blonde.