Since I travel by train, I'm always prepared for the long layover in Chicago, Amtrak's "hub in the midwest." This trip was no exception; in fact the transfer to the City of New Orleans train takes longer than most because it departs Chicago at 8:05 PM. Hence I took the chance to visit the Great Hall in Union Station and see it illuminated.
That huge skylight is under renovation, but the colors from floodlites impart an eerie blue glow to the nighttime walls above.
It was during this layover that I was recognized as female by another Amtrak customer, who was in the first-class Metropolitan Lounge with me (and about 75 other sleeping car passengers for various trains - it's a benefit of traveling by sleeper.)
Let me start with a picture of that day's attire:
Certainly not overtly feminine, is it?
I was sitting at a table, working at my computer, with my long hair and nails visible, and my purse open on the table, as seconds before, I had just retrieved my phone. A lady walked by and asked if the seat across from me was taken. It wasn't, so I told her she could have it, and she sat down. "Thanks so much, Ma'am." "You're quite welcome." We chatted a bit, and soon she had to use her phone, to try get a problem on a bill resolved.
While she was on the phone, and at that moment unbenownst to us, a panhandler had found a way past the guard at the door (who checks tickets) and was making the rounds. He came up behind the lady on the phone, glanced at her and walked right past, noticed my purse right in front of me (with the shoulder strap around my wrist, and saw an easy mark. WRONG. "Can you spare a dollar, lady?" I stood up, looked him in the eye, and in a loud voice said "No I can't. And this is an inappropriate place for you to be begging,..get out of here before Security arrests you for trespassing!"
The lady described to whomever was on the phone "what was happening to the lady with her" and then quit talking, in disbelief that he bypassed her, and came directly to me. And disbelieving that he bolted for the exit when I reprimanded him. The panhandler had apparently misjudged his intended victim...believing that a woman was an easy mark, and that I'd dip into my purse to give him some money. Big miscalcullation.
A guy sitting on a sofa across from me (and behind the panhandler) said afterward that he was prepared to take down the panhandler from behind if things had gone badly. "Ma'am, I've been hit by panhandlers, and didn't want this guy to get away with bothering a couple of ladies. Or worse yet, try to steal anything."
After stopping her phone conversation while the action was ongoing, the lady across the table finally resumed her call while I notified security...but by then, the panhandler was long gone. I guess getting ousted from the Metropolitan Lounge seriously reduced his profits that day.... Once I described the panhandler, the guard recalled a man of that description scurrying out.
All 3 of us believe the guy wasn't looking for food money. To all of us, he looked and sounded "high as a kite," professing to want food, but instead needing cash for his next "fix". If I ever decide to do something for a panhandler who is begging for food money, I might consider offering to buy him a cheap nearby fast-food cheeseburger, if I had a friend with me.
No cash, though...not happening.
Needless to say, traveling is NEVER dull!