I’ve been having a weird couple of days since I've come back from Vacation. Yesterday I had an appointment to survey a building in the Pilsen burrow of Chicago. I met a lady who was in her late 50s at the property so that she could give access to cut out walls ( walls that are enclosed by the neighboring building). Usually these jobs are a pain in the ass , to start off with, but it was the rambling of this woman that really left me shaking my head.
I made no mistake in quickly noticing that she was a chatterbox, which I usually like. After parking and getting out of the car to meet us, She started rambling about the current “Pay to Park” rules, which she quickly ended with “All I have to say is, VOTE!”
She then proceeded to let us into the building and walked us through a labyrinth of hallways which twisted and turned throughout the building. The building sat on an average size lot in Chicago, which was only about 25 feet by 125 feet, which the majority of the building occupied, sitting 3 levels high. Every turn revealed either another apartment door, staircase, or hallway. Each hallway was only about 2 and a half to 3 feet wide; for me, being a 5’10 and 250 lbs man, this maze made me feel uneasy and, to be honest, a bit claustrophobic. I couldn’t help but begin to fantasize how horrific the “ Murder Castle”, belonging to H.H. Holmes, must have been, having been double the size of the building I was currently in. I started daydreaming about having to run through the never ending hallways, as if running through The Overlook Hotel, trying to find an exit. This thought only traveling to mind because the Holmes Home was only about 20 minutes south, down Halstead Ave. The buildings would have had some resemblance.
As we continued through the building, following the white, linoleum flooring, with little red diamonds at the centers, like red arrows leading us, twisting, turning and climbing, she went on about how that neighborhood is in the middle of a revitalization. She mentioned how her father bought that property for $50,000 in the mid ‘50s and how she is now selling it for more. A lot more. As I listened to her attempting to keep humble , my eyes were drawn to a line of 3 windows, all draped with old, dusty curtains. I reached and grabbed each curtain as I walked past, exposing the beautiful view of the adjacent brick walls.
The little sun, which leaked through the small cracks of the sheet metal being used as a roof extension, illuminating the building cut outs , making the cells take the characteristics of a pit one was to be thrown down for being defiant. Well, if one was to stand at the bottom, the only view they would have would be 4 brick walls standing 25 feet tall, lit only enough for one to understand the horrors of having no escape.
“1 million dollars,” she turned and whispers to me and my partner, regaining my attention. I'm selling for it " 1 million dollars." She says with a tiny smile, showing her age through her make-up. " wow " I replied. I thought it was odd she actually mentioning the actual figures of her sale but I ruled it out to over excitement and maybe a fear of “dead air”.
She showed us to the attic apartment and we were able to get the measurements we needed from that part of the building. Once we were done in the attic, she began to lead us down the network of tunnel, like tiny ants in an ant farm, until we reached some steps that ended our journey at a door leading us outside to the gangway.
As she continued ranting about the building and the neighborhood, she stopped and frankly asked “What part of Mexico are you guys from? You’re from Mexico right?” We both stopped working and looked at each other. “ I’m from Texas” I replied, while my partner followed “ I’m from Indiana”
Oh, she said, confused. “Do you speak Spanish?” She asked. I told her that I do and my partner, who is my nephew, confessed that he did not. “ What?!” She exclaimed in surprise. “ How can you not know Spanish?” She continued. My nephew seeming a bit embarrassed kind of just shrugged, leading me to reply, “ well, when the main language in your house is English there really isn’t an incentive to learn another language outside of general interest. I was born and raised on the border of Texas and Mexico, where everyone speaks both languages, which is why I know Spanish.
She stopped for a minute then continued lecturing him about how knowing a second language could help him find a good job, which is true and something I have told him as well. She mentions how she is fluent Spanish, even though she was born in the United States.
Okay? I said.
She walked away for a minute allowing me and my partner to regain our thoughts and continue working. As we were getting ready to finish, the lady returned with a new rant on taxes and the “ coming war” to which she finished again with, “ All I have to say is Vote! I don’t care who you vote for, just VOTE! Just so long it’s not for that Orange Maniac!”
“ So you do care who we vote for then? I quipped. “ What you are saying is that you don’t care for who we vote for so long as it’s the person you want us to vote for? Or are you saying that you don’t care which Democrat to vote for so long as we don’t vote for the republican?” I laughed.
“ Well, just Vote.” She finished with a bit of embarrassment in her voice. We finished our measurements, thanked her for her assistance and time, and kindly excuse ourselves through the maze and back out to the busy Chicago Street to finish the job.
I found it amusing that she not only assumed that we were from Mexico or Spoke Spanish because we were brown skinned but also assumed that we subscribe to the same political foolery that she does because we are Latino. I can only assume that one who lives in the same area for such a long time and surrounded by those with the same ideals can sometimes be closed off to the idea that people are individuals and have individual thoughts and that those thoughts may not agree with theirs. I can understand this thought though. Maybe, having had owned this nightmarish apartment building for so long caused her to believe she had the Shining? She did not.
Tribalism is not a new thing and does have some psychological and evolutionary advantages. It can also cause extreme Prejudice, Ignorance and Division. It can make a simple conversation embarrassingly awkward. I can imagine that the exchange we had caused her to believe that we must be Republicans, (which also couldn’t be further from the truth) so I made sure to go out of my way to be courteous and polite with her, only replying to her inquiries with short, truthful, answers and her rambles with questions. Just in case she did think we must’ve belonged to the rival party, I at least want her to accept that we were polite and courteous. Maybe that can be my little contribution to changing the preconceived perceptions or others.
I was also going to mention the weird day day i had today but I think i’ll just leave that one for tomorrow but until then I’ll leave you with an excerpt :
“I’m done talking to you! You are an Ignorant and Rude woman!”
Don't be afraid....
That Ringing you hear in your ears
Is just a bit of