a few months ago I posted about this idea I had (it was only two posts ago in this comm), about writing a story based on the lyrics of broken star. Well, I have finished the first part of the story...it mainly just covers the first song (15 minutes), and is about 1400 words in total. It is posted under the cut...let me know what you think (good or bad).
“Capitalism at its finest” I remarked shortly after merging onto the Eisenhower from the Northwest Toll way. This portion of the road and the exit used to gain access to it provided a great view of a bustling suburban shopping complex, known to most as the Woodfield Mall.
Also in the vicinity of this lovely mall was the only IKEA to grace Chicago-land …wait that’s not right…a new one in Bolingbrook opened just a few months ago.
Well, however many of the Swedish owned modular furniture superstores there are in this area, I had just driven past the one built first. Included with this store was a parking lot which at any given time could probably accommodate over 10 million dollars worth of automobiles.
From my perspective on the on-ramp, I was subject to a seemingly endless scape of minivans and SUV’s, all swarming around each other like a pack of wildebeests on the plains of Africa. Except in this part of the world, the minivans were the predators, not the prey. Each minivan was full of mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, and even pets; all hoping to find that awesome fifteen dollar IKEA PS BÖDA bookshelf, or the brand new RATIONELL knife tray that they couldn’t live without, and conveniently priced for only…$13.99! Or something…
The emboldened large blue IKEA sign with its bright yellow letters painted the skyline above suburban Schaumberg in a most unpleasant manner, and I turned my thoughts and eyes away and looked upon the great mall that is as well known to most Chicago Suburbanites as Wrigley Field or O’Hare Airport.
The mall itself is over 2.2 million square feet, and is the fifth largest shopping mall in the United States. Inside its concrete walls and massive, foreboding exterior were over 300 stores, and an equally massive amount of people.
Despite driving past the mall on a daily basis, I never grew tired of looking at the parking lot and all the people milling in and around the entrances; not to mention all the cars exiting the parking lot after finishing their day at the most visited tourist destination in Illinois. All of those people had some sort of motivation, some sort of life, and some reason for doing whatever they were doing. For some reason, imagining their home lives outside of Woodfield was quite intriguing.
But right now I had other things to worry about. It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving, which meant that the Walgreen’s on East Lake Street in Addison would be swarming with shoppers. This in turn meant that I would have no time for anything except finding ad items in the stockroom, helping people find the gravy, and generally doing nothing productive but helping the retarded customers who graced my enchanting store.
At least I was a bit ahead of schedule so far, and my stomach was definitely reminding me that I had neglected to eat breakfast that morning. Luckily, Walgreen’s was less than a block away from Portillos, and yeah, that was reason enough to justify driving twenty minutes to work in Addison everyday from my apartment in Hoffman Estates.
I turned off of 355 onto highway 20 and headed southeast towards the store. Traffic was unusually heavy today and it seemed as though every red light had my name on it. I hit a few yellows but was uneasy about blazing through them, as most of these intersections have those red light cameras.
I stopped at the intersection of Highway 20 and Mill road, and that light seemed to take forever. Time just kept passing and the light just stayed red. Strangely enough there were no cars crossing Mill, so it was like the light was staying red just to spite all of us on highway 20.
After a minute or so had passed I started looking around to see if any other drivers thought this was an unusually long wait, but it looked like they were all paying attention to other things, not really aware of what was happening outside their own little world. Up a block or so ahead of me was a McDonalds, and undoubtedly a few of the folks who shared my lanes of transit were headed there; happy meals for the kids and Big Macs for adults…I think there is some special going on today, Big Macs for 99 cents maybe? I resolved to read the reader board as I drove past in what would hopefully be not too much longer.
It was strange though, in every car I was able to look in, no one really seemed to be very enthused about anything, except the kids at least. The white Honda Odyssey next to me had 2 toddlers in the back seat, a busy mom in the passenger seat who was turned around facing her kids doing who knows what, and an utterly unemotional looking father in the driver’s seat. It looked as if he was letting his wife deal with the children, who were undoubtedly enjoying their drive to wherever; perhaps they were headed to McDonalds?
I was outright staring at them by this time. Luckily they were too wrapped up in the extravagant goings on inside their own van to realize that the twenty-something year old dude sitting in the Honda next to them was taking a perverse satisfaction in their situation. What sort of perversion it was I don’t really know.
I had to stop watching this exciting scene, however, when some guy in a big Ford truck behind me decided it would be nice to honk at me. Apparently the light had turned green while I was being a voyeur.
Luckily there was only one stoplight now between me and my big beef sandwich, and this one finally let me through without turning yellow. I pulled into the Portillos parking lot and made my way into the drive thru, where their efficient (and odd) drive-thru system was in place. The first girl standing out in the middle of the drive-thru line took my order, the next girl took my money, and before I had even arrived at the window, some teenager took my ticket, handed me my sandwich and I was off to work.
Upon walking through the automatic doors of Walgreens, I was immediately subjected to a site of seemingly endless checkout lines. I hurriedly made my way into the office and sat down, hoping to get some quiet time with my sandwich before having to face the army of shoppers out there.
No such luck.
“Hey Mr. Leventin” yelped a young cashier named Robby, who apparently started work today at the same time I was scheduled.
“Hello Robby” I responded, barely looking up from my wonderful hot beef sandwich (with peppers).
“Oh so’d you stop at Portillo’s today?” the obviousness of his question was apparently lost on him, as there was not only a Portillo’s bag on the counter, but I had also just taken a sip out of a cup with “Portillo’s” written all over the side.
“Yes Robby, that is what I did.” My sandwich wasn’t even half gone yet, so I had much more important work to do before carrying on a ridiculous conversation with this boy.
“Looks pretty busy out there today” Robby observed, looking out the two way mirror from the office that lets us gaze upon the dazed and confused customers ambling about the store, searching for something we may or may not actually have in stock.
I grunted an affirmative, my mouth full of hot beef. This sandwich was almost gone, and I was almost too stuffed to finish the rest of it…
“Must…not…waste…hot…beef…” I thought to myself, finishing every last bite before taking a big gulp of coke, washing the delectable lunch down and trying to convince myself that I could handle being the only Assistant Manager on duty for the next eight and a half hours.
Determination was on my face as I stood up from my seat at the office counter. My lovely 50% cotton 50% polyester grey “manager” vest was wrapped perfectly around my torso, and I sucked the last bit of coke from the bottom of my cup. I felt like a death row inmate, reserved to his fate after eating the last meal.