No matter where I travel, I always seem to return home with a story or two. Some have been quite interesting. Others downright show-stoppers. Last August’s girl trip had its moments as well. At first, we almost cancelled the whole shebang, because I am adamant about staying downtown near the Magnificent Mile. Because we dawdled a little too long, I wasn’t finding a hotel room for under $400. I love my girls, but that price was way over what I wanted to spend for a night’s lodging. I am in no way getting paid for this, but at the very last minute, I searched www.booking.com and (Shazam!) found a room for around a hundred dollars only a couple blocks from the American Girl store (which I failed to mention yesterday had moved locations since the last girls’ trip). I would be lying if I said I didn’t prance around the house saying, “Booking dot Yeah!” for a few hours.
When we arrived at the very upscale hotel, the concierge explained that if it was okay, we would be staying next door at their sister property. My elation at a good deal felt like the rug was just pulled out from under us. I am nothing if not a seasoned adventurer (Trust me people, I have slept in my van – not down by the river however – with three dogs while travelling back from North Dakota because there was no room in the inn for my four-legged buddies). My friends hate that I do that, but at least, I’m not like my one friend who used to camp out in cemeteries while bicycling across the country. I had no choice other than to agree to the relocation and hope for the best. The property really seemed more like an apartment building, but as long as we had a bed and bathroom we would be fine. We opened the door and nearly fell over laughing. We walked right into a one-bedroom townhouse complete with living room, dining room, kitchen, more closets than we could count, office, and lofted bedroom. We’re no dummies, and we thought we might be guests at the Roach Motel, but instead ended up feeling like we were real Chicagoans.
As unexpected as the accommodations were, my favorite travelling story happened before we even left the station back in St. Paul. Due to the oil boom in North Dakota, the Empire Builder is now historically late. In fact, we had been notified that we might be placed on a charter bus (which has happened to me before) to get to Chicago. Since we had a sleeper car and were not connecting with another train, we were part of the group that was left to wait for the train. The delay was only a couple hours; so, we did the best to occupy our time while waiting.
Eventually, the station master signaled the call for all travelers to line up for the platform.
After making it through the ticket gate, we descended the long escalator from the station to our assigned location. When you travel with little ones, you rarely get anywhere quickly. At the bottom was a smiling station security officer. As we were heading to our area, I heard a voice behind me.
Miss. Excuse me Miss. Do you have your ticket?
Sally and I both stopped and turned around, thinking the officer thought we were perhaps trying to sneak our way onto the VIP section of the train. I grabbed my boarding passes to show him.
No, I’m sorry, ma’am. I am speaking to this little girl here. Miss, does your friend (pointing to Kit, the doll Santa had given her a few years earlier) have her ticket?
A quick glance up at me told me she was asking if this guy was for real. Her glance was met with a shoulder shrug on my part.
Um. That would be tiny little ticket, wouldn’t it sir?
Indeed, it would be. Where are you two girls heading?
Chicago. We are going to the American Girl Doll Store.
Well, I see. This seems to be a pretty big occasion. I will trust that you have your papers in order, but that is such a tiny little suitcase for your friend. Do you think she has enough clothes packed for such a big day?
Well, we are only going to be there for two days. I packed her pajamas and a special dress for when we get to eat at the fancy restaurant.
Do you think you might need to buy her an outfit while you are there?
That was kind of the plan.
Okay, well that sounds good. Has your friend ever been to Chicago?
No sir, but I have once. I was a toddler, but this is a trip that my momma does with each girl in our family. Now it is my turn.
I would have to say that is about the most wonderful plan I’ve ever heard.
A loud whistle told us all the train was coming into the station. I quickly made sure that Clo (who still struggles to hear things approaching from behind) was far from the edge of the platform as we waited for Engine 27 to pull in. While we stood back, I spoke quickly to the officer.
Can I ask you your name? Officer Matt. Officer Matt, you just made my little girl’s day. Thank you! You’re welcome. I have a little girl about her age, and I think of my daughter whenever I see a little girl standing on this platform. I try to go out of my way to brighten her day, hoping somebody is doing the same for my little girl. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you!
It was all the conversation we could squeeze in, as the train was trying to make up time, and we needed to board quickly. When we returned home, I called the station and the security company and gave a glowing report of the magic of Officer Matt. The dispatcher was bawling when I got done with my story. She said that most of the calls they receive are complaints, but that no one ever takes the time to say thank you. It touched her so much that she decided to do the same and nominate Officer Matt for a commendation. Then it was me who was choking up on the phone.
That conversation on the platform probably took all of five minutes, but it left a mark on me and my mini-me which rippled out to the staff of an entire train station. The world needs a few more Officer Matt’s who aren’t afraid to use their hearts and their imaginations to brighten someone’s day!