taking a mental health break

(Disclaimer: my boss already knows this story – therefore I am free to share it with everyone without fear of any corporate ramifications…this will become clear as you read the story.  All events in here are true and no names/places have been modified for any one’s protection.)

August is one of those months that drive people (staff) who work at institutions of Higher Education insane.  Especially people like me who have the opportunity to work with multiple departments across the campus.  Making sure that everyone has the data that they need, and in the timely manner in which they believe they need it, is absolutely numbing to the mind.  But hey, I’ve worked in Higher Ed for 12 years now, and I wouldn’t change it for anything else.  This August was a little more stressful to me than past ones.  So I decided to take a “mental health day off”.  Since I was stying in the city last week, I thought that Thursday (August 27th) would be the perfect day.  I could sleep late, take a walk down to the marina or to Navy Pier, meet a friend for lunch…and perhaps even go …shopping (which is actually something that I hate to do, but have to acquiesce every now and then when I run out of things like pants).

So I made plans.  I would call in sick with a “sinus headache”, I would meet Michael for lunch, and I would go to Macy’s on State Street (the old Marshal Field’s flagship store).

The first thing that went wrong is that I actually woke up with a sinus headache.  I should have known then that all the rest of my plans should be cancelled, but, being blond and headstrong sometimes work to my detriment.  It was also a little rainy/misty most of the day, which didn’t help my hair one iota, but that isn’t really part of the story.  After I called in “sick” I went back to bed because I was, well, sick after all.  When I finally got up the strength to get a move on, I walked a mile (mistake #2 – because eventually I would have to walk that mile back) to Macy’s.  The one really, really good thing that came out of the whole day was the I found 2 pairs of jeans that actually fit.

Michael’s timing was perfect because as soon as I was done shopping, he was ready for lunch.  We met at the Potbelly’s on the corner of State and Lake.  The store was not crowded and it was a perfect lunch.  When we finished and Michael and I parted ways, I decided to go to the Borders bookstore on State and Randolph.  This was mistake #3.  I found 2 magazines that I didn’t need (mistake #s 4 and 5) and 2 books that I didn’t need (mistakes #6 and 7).  As I was making my way to the checkout counter, I hear a series of loud pops – kinda like gun fire.  Now, keep in mind that I’m blond, but also know that in my old neighborhood, firecrackers go off literally all summer long.  Now had this really registered that this was downtown Chicago, and it was lunch time, I would have eventually come to the conclusion that they weren’t firecrackers…but it may have taken a little while to process.  It was, in fact, gunfire.

You can read the whole story here on the Tribune’s website.  Basically what happened is a man tried to steal a woman’s purse but some police officers were near by.  The purse-snatching man then brandished a knife and took an elderly man hostage, to which the police responded with gunfire.  Five shots.  The man unfortunately was killed. 

So I’m standing in the middle of Borders, about to check out, when gunfire goes off, a store employee yells “hit the floor!  gunfire!” and everyone proceeds to drop.  Everyone except for me…I just kinda stand there thinking…”really?  gunfire…?  hm.  okay”.  Keep in mind, please, that I do have a sinus infection and was on medication that kind of makes one brain process a little more slowly.  But it was a rather disturbing thought and it was a very troubling scene.  Within 5 minutes the police had shut down the intersection of State and Randolph and must have had at least 15 cars, fire trucks and ambulances there.  Needless to say, it was a scene that took me the rest of the day to process and an incident that should have me talking to a mental health professional for quite a while.  In a way, I did take a “mental health” break that day…just not in the way that I had intended.