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The Performance Before the Performance-Saluti

A few days after I walked next to my mother while I practiced patience like never before as she swiffered her floor four consecutive times (story in my previous post), I found myself under the "4th Time's the Lesson" spell once again. Little did I know this time it would bring much-needed humor. My friend and I planned brunch and to see the opera, La Boheme. I chose a convenient parking garage close to the Lyric Opera through Spot Hero. Great price. Appeared to be a great location. Sunday mornings call for light traffic to and through the city. Once I picked Martha up, we'd be sitting with bellinis in our hands in a matter of thirty-five minutes.

Martha and I work together. We are close in age and have many similar interests. As we drove up the snow-edged 55 under a beautiful sunny sky dreaming of a warm sandy beach, the clear Chicago skyline befriended us with her enormous avenues of life like she always does. I told Martha about my recent day swiffering numerous times with my mom, and she shared a story about how she helped her mother the day before. Caring for and tending to the needs of aging parents with barrels of patience was our hot topic of conversation until we had to focus on finding the parking garage which was on Lower Wacker Drive. GPS in the city. Lower Wacker. Low profile parking garage. Need I say more? Probably not. But I will.

The GPS led us to a Lower Wacker Drive entrance which I think was Adams. Maybe Jackson. I have no idea because I can't decipher some of the entry points on the maps I've viewed of the Wackers. I've only been a passenger through Lower Wacker with a speedy and confident driver who maneuvers his way up and down and around this street like a speed skater glides over ice. When I am a passenger, my attention is eyed on the scenery and rarely the route and directions. I only learn how to get somewhere if I am driving myself and have to pay attention to all things traffic. So Martha and I slowly weave through the dark passageway that is lined by pillars, several closed garage doors, and very few exits.

Are we heading north?


Is the garage on this side or the other?

Should I veer to the far right lane and hover the outer wall or does it lead to a dead end?

Cars smoothly whiz by us since I'm driving as slow as my mother would if she were still driving. I have no idea where I'm going. The parking garage is either disguised or non-existent. The GPS is wrong and has lost reception, but we finally find an exit that leads us up and to the light of day.

We decided to listen to the GPS a second time.

Maybe we missed something.

Perhaps I should make a quick right at the bottom of the ramp rather than going straight.

None of the numbers are lining up with the garage address. What did that sign say that we just passed too quickly? Should we be coming from the opposite direction even though we think we are right?

We eventually find the same street, couldn't tell you the name, where we exited before and make our way out and up to Upper Wacker. The 2nd time is the same bust as the first.

Ok, Martha. Let's try this again.

Is there any added information Spot Hero has attached to this garage?

Of course, there is.

My great co-driver reads it. Laughing at ourselves, we confirm we are indeed coming from the correct direction, south, and heading in the right direction, north. While stalled at a red light, we're confident we'll find it the third time as we contemplate the rhyme and reason to these Wacker streets.

Yes. Agreed, we decide to silence the GPS. Good idea. It's faulty in the city more times than not anyway, always twisting and turning to find itself on the map it is supposed to know. Our bellinis are waiting. So is the restaurant which we decide to call to tell them finally we'll be late — thirty minutes at this point. The easy thing to do would be to forget this garage and pay extra to valet the car at the restaurant. But that would be taking the easy way out. Martha and I aren't the type to take the easy way out. We don't work that way. Maybe it's why we work well together.

Let's go to Monroe, she suggests. Maybe it was Madison. Who knows. Who cares at this point. Someone needs to make a better map of the Wackers with clear descriptions of its north, south, east, and west entrances and exits. I haven't found one. Can you follow? I'm feeling lost just trying to explain it.

There has to be an entrance there, she says.

Are you sure, I ask?

Positive, she says.

100%, she says.

She sounds confident. Certain. I can hardly see where we're going because now the sun is so bright that its glare off the street is blinding appearing like white sand. Thank God for light Sunday traffic conditions and the gleaming beauty in the sky when the darkened mystery down on Lower Wacker could be way more stressful at a different hour on a different day.

There we have it. No entrance to Lower Wacker from whatever street we were on that we couldn't see. Maybe a miracle was indeed happening before our wintery eyes, and the sun was transforming the asphalt into a tropical beach, and cabana boys were preparing to deliver our bellinis. Wishful thinking as we continued to slither through the streets and I was getting slightly better acquainted with the Wackers. Time was slipping away like the sand through the hourglass of our invisible beach.

One more time Martha.

Four times seems to be magic these days, so let's give it a try. If we don't find it, we'll give in to the valet.

Is there more to the fine print?

Of course, there is. (Fine print has a way of being sly.)

Harrison Street. We need Harrison Street.

Yellow painted pillars with blue lettering flank the garage, she reads.

After this pertinent information, I was leaning on instinct and had a word or two with the GPS on our two phones that were leading us astray while Martha was looking at the map. I think I saw those pillars in my rear view mirror the first two times the GPS told us to enter where it did, which was too far north. GPS could benefit from reading the fine print also.

We find Harrison. Although I'm still driving as my mother would, I have an increased sense of direction for this crazy and intriguing thoroughfare, and we travel down the ramp to Lower Wacker. In the near distance, we see the pillars identifying the most challenging parking garage to find I've known to exist. You'd think we had walked right up to the columns of the Pantheon in Rome for the first time by our excitement of seeing it. I should have called the restaurant to tell them to start pouring the prosecco. It was now an hour and a half after we initially left on this adventure.

Several cars arrived on our tail looking pretty relaxed and like they knew where they were going. They seemed to have been there before. Regular opera-goers I imagined. With the clock ticking away, we decided to follow these beautiful souls to the open parking spaces in the garage and up and out onto the city streets to make our way to brunch.

Bellinis, brunch, and LaBoheme. Each Italian and wonderful. Martha did say after the performance that everything sounds better in Italian. As for locating 1 S Lower Wacker Dr, it was a hysterical challenge but called for patience all the same. "4th Time's the Lesson" bows once again awaiting its standing ovation. Bravo, I say to la quarta volta e la lezione. Yes, that sounds much better.



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