The Chicago Auto Show is coming up again soon and that means there’s a chance I’ll see her again. Wait, who? The girl from the car show! More on her later. Silly, I know. The statistics for attendance at the CAS are unreal with millions of people jammed into ten days of mobbing the fingerprinted steel at McCormick Place, the world’s largest convention facility. Basically, if you don’t set up your meeting place at a specific wheel of a specific car at a specific time on a specific day, you’ll never meet up with your friends or significant other (or potential significant other). So my chances of meeting up with a stranger that I only met once back in 2004 are slim to none.
Back then, I had my camera with me and I was taking photos of almost every car so that my dad could enjoy the show too. I asked him if he wanted to go with me, but he had just hurt his knee and wouldn’t be able to walk the miles and miles required of the show’s expansive setup. So I figured I’d take photos, make him a PDF and he could sit back at his computer and enjoy the cars. Now, this was truly a different experience for me. Normally when I go to the show, the scene of millions of people videotaping every second of their experience with every car is annoying and puzzling to me. I’m sure people will look back at those photos no more than once, and in the meanwhile, they will have missed seeing the cars in real life, having only experienced the world through the small video playback in their electronic viewfinders. This is only true, of course, if you are over ten years old. For children under ten, every car must be sat in or upon in the most frantic mockery of the original designer’s intentions (except for the minivan designers). So for me, walking around with a DSLR was annoying as the camera is heavy, people are always standing in the way of a good photo, and I feel like most of the shots aren’t that great because I’m too close and the overhead lighting is crap. But whatever, I was doing this for my dad and so it was an opportunity to try and get some cool shots despite the crowds.
Then I saw the most beautiful woman with curled raven hair strutting away from the Jaguar area with the confidence of a stage-walking professional. She practically flowed into a convertible in one fluid motion and checked the view in the review mirror with practiced experience and a wry smile as if trying out which car fit her the best. Normally, I’m intimidated into silence by beautiful women, but I had to say something. So before she got out, I said, “You look the best in this car,” or something along those lines. She laughed as she got out and said in a slightly Ukrainian accent that she liked the Jaguars the best (which I found disconcerting because this was back in 2004 and all of the Jags were crap). So she had bad taste in cars; I could live with that. The other details are sketchy but somehow we ended up chatting for a while. We talked for so long and walked around together that we ended up finding a rest area that was elevated above the rest of the show. There were just a few chairs there, maybe a table. I think they were white. No one came by really and we were free to talk for about two hours. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have met such an interesting and striking person in and among the throngs of tourists. Eventually, after about an hour and a half, she revealed to me that she was married. She said it in such an ashamed and sheepish way that it seemed to me that she had married this guy to get a green card or something. I imagined she was married to James Bond and I wanted to stop talking to her before I got shot. But she egged me back into talking and I threw out a few comments about, “Who is this guy who has left you alone for two hours? Doesn’t he know how beautiful you are and how you could be swept away so easily by someone else?” Of course, just then, she saw him in the distance. She pointed him out in the manner of a Parisian woman regarding a particularly garish pigeon in the shadow of a sunlit fountain just off of a little outdoor cafe. I had her point him out three or four more times to make sure of whom she was singling out. She said something I didn’t hear because I could only see the frantic teenage-looking boy with the overly bright Euro track jacket and huge video camera running from car to car with his guy friend. “Him?!” I remarked. She half smiled and took a sideways glance at the wall. I tried to reconcile his over-sized neon yellow-green and purple jacket with her muted earth tone sweater covering slender shoulders in a way that has inspired artists to paint women since the Renaissance. She was a woman, not a girl or a lady. She was a cream ’56 D-type Jaguar race car married to a 1984 Ferrari Testarossa. He paid no notice of her and I couldn’t help but hate all men in the world at that moment for him not paying the attention that this woman so clearly deserved.
She and I got up, walked down the stairs to the main floor and for a few more minutes I wondered why she had no ring on her finger. Perhaps she wasn’t married but had told me that out of fear when she first met me or out of some misplaced “old world” sentimentality about unmarried women or something. I couldn’t believe it and I didn’t want to. Eventually we came to the point where we hadn’t said anything to each other for a few minutes but neither of us wanted to leave. We both knew we should part company while we stood there, the cars watching us, she biting her lip, me narrowing my eyes and shaking my head and smiling slightly. We definitely had a connection, but since she said she was married, that was it. I didn’t even want to be friends with her. The two hours had meant something to me that I didn’t want to ruin by exchanging phone numbers and potentially cheating, if only mentally. I also wanted to kiss her deeply as we both boarded our separate lives going in different directions, a last kiss like a flag in the Arctic or a bag left on the platform. And it’s probably one of the things I’ll regret forever not doing because in the end I said some half sentence about a phone number interrupted by her smile. We hugged and parted.
So the Chicago Auto Show is coming up again soon. I’m single and looking for you, mysterious raven-haired woman. I’ll be at the Jaguar area on February 13 at 2:13pm near the trunk of the Jaguar XF. I’ll be there with the black Merrell Mammoth coat and orange shoes. You be there too.