Columns

2014.05.21 Pathetic and alone in the Windy City

By COLLEEN LEDDY

I was in Chicago for three nights a couple weeks ago and I am slightly ashamed to admit that I did not take advantage of my time in the city. Partly, that’s because I was there to work (participating in an American Library Association workshop to examine issues related to researching the impact of public library programs) and I was worn out each night. 

Another part is that I was there alone and didn’t really want to navigate Chicago at night by myself. It never even occurred to me to ask any of the other participants in the workshop if they wanted to catch a play or visit a comedy club or just hang out. 

The really sad part, the really pitiful truth, is that I was reading Jeff Yeager’s book, “How to Retire the Cheapskate Way: The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Guide to a Better, Earlier, Happier Retirement,” and I just wanted to sink deeper into it.  I don’t think “Earlier” is in my future, but I would settle for “Better” and Happier.”

Some of you might remember that Yeager visited the library about five or six years ago to talk about his first book, “The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches: A Practical (and Fun) Guide to Enjoying Life More by Spending Less.” He had such a great time here and was so taken with the lunch Liz prepared that he ended up giving us $100 for hosting him. He’s an entertaining guy and also has lots of ideas for saving money and figuring out how to manage retirement issues.

At some point Friday evening, I decided that I should at least take advantage of the many channels offered on the hotel television. Back in the days when we didn’t have a TV at all, the kids were always excited to watch when we stayed at hotels. I could easily get sucked in, too, but I hardly ever remember to watch TV at home. We don’t have cable; we have one of those boxes that converts the digital signal, so we get a few more channels than we used to. Still, I’m not in the habit. Now, for the most part when I stay in hotels, I don’t think about turning on the television.

But I took a break from the Ultimate Cheapskate and flipped through the channels. Wow, what a disappointment. Loads of channels and not a single program intrigued me. Well, not a single program that was actually airing. I encountered an inordinate number of commercials as I searched for a show to watch. It didn’t seem to matter which part of the hour I was channel flipping; there were always a million commercials. And then I hit upon PBS and there was Suze Orman, the personal financial guru. I stopped flipping and gave her my rapt attention.

OK, I know how pathetic that must sound—I was in Chicago! I had access to a hundred channels!—but I was riveted. And elated. Just so happy to have finally hit upon a show with great content and an interesting person speaking about what I was just reading about. 

Just so you don’t think that Chicago was wasted on me, I did wake up early—for me—on Saturday and walked the mile to the Chicago Institute of Art. I really would have liked to tour the museum, but I didn’t wake up that early. Instead, I visited the gift shop. 

Neither Suze Orman nor Jeff Yeager would likely have approved, but art museum gift shops are one of my very favorite places. They always have such interesting stuff and, although similar items might be found in most art museum stores, the inventory mostly varies from store to store. You never know what you might find. Their wares are generally overpriced, though, so it’s entirely counterintuitive to my reading and watching from the night before that I would actually purchase anything.

I don’t want to shock my husband, or you, dear reader, but I spent well over a hundred dollars on the coolest items. Except for a magnet I bought for my refrigerator (of Doris Lee’s “Thanksgiving” circa 1935, a painting depicting a family getting ready for the holiday dinner), they’re all Christmas presents for my kids and grandkids and David. It’s such cool stuff I may not be able to wait seven months before giving it to them, though.

My trip to Chicago made clear my deficiencies. I may need to consult my granddaughter Caroline for guidance. She seems to know how to use time wisely and has a pretty good handle on the numbers game. 

Earlier this month, Rosie said to her, “Into the shower and then you can play with the crayons.”

“No! Why can't we play now?” Caroline complained.

“Well for one, you're naked,” Rosie responded.

And Caroline quickly replied, “What's number two?”