Tuesday, September 25, 2018
The Swiss in Chicago
People are an enigma. Even those you know well, you don't really know. A public face, a few private facets, but the rest is hidden, enigmatic.
Monday I had to be at Chicago Police Headquarters at 10 a.m. to pick up my press credentials, and later had lunch with a journalist new to the city from overseas. At Harry Caray's, of course, the first restaurant I always take newcomers to, to give them an idea of the richness and heritage of the city. He's going to a football game soon, and I found myself trying to explain the intricacies of American football, all the while having to keep from laughing and saying, "Boy, do you have the wrong guy for this." But I know about the four downs and the the 10 yards to make a first down, and passing and running, and made the best of it.
He had no idea about the Water Tower, and that seemed a lacuna that could cause trouble, so I walked him there, so he could clap eyes on the thing, trotting out Oscar Wilde's classic description of the structure as a crenelated fairy castle with pepperboxes stuck all over it.
On the way back, we ran into these two inexplicable characters posing. I asked if I could take their picture—at first they were in profile, belly to belly and that would have been the better shot. But I wasn't quick enough about whipping out my phone, and they posed, which wasn't as good, and ignored my suggestion that they face each other again.
Of course I asked them what they were doing, because I had no idea. With the masks, it seemed vaguely sexual, some kind of cosplay fantasy right there on Michigan Avenue. I got the sense they weren't promoting something. This wasn't commercial, it was personal.
At first no reply. I asked again.
"We're on holiday," said one, in some kind of accent I couldn't place. Which wasn't an explanation, but was a start.
"Where from?" I asked.
"Switzerland," one replied—I couldn't tell who was speaking, green or blue.
Well, Switzerland. Say no more. I got the sense that I had overstayed my welcome, and moved on.
Back at home, I started to dig. They are wearing what are called "Chub Suits"—$33 and you can buy your own on Amazon. A small battery-powered fan keeps them inflated.
Maybe the hive can step in. I should have quizzed them further, but it's a free country, so far, and people should be able to caper about in large inflatable blob outfits without being badgered by the media. On that note, I bet no reader looked at that get-up and thought: we can't see their faces; that should be illegal.
Not like it was a face veil or anything. Covering your face for religion is bad. But for some freaky public thrill, well, who would even think to criticize?