Thank You, Mrs. Jablinski

by Scott Krantz

It seems that virtually any intersection on Michigan Avenue could be the busiest, but my nod goes to those that are on the north end of the Boulevard. It is here that shopping is abundant, ingress to the west to Gold Coast and River North, entrance to the east to Northwestern Hospital, Lake Michigan and high-end living space, and at its northern tip, entry to the Outer Drive. Innumerable stories about any of these can be spun by many people, but mine focuses on Michigan & Delaware.

In my college days I spent summers driving a taxi in Chicago, a job I loved because it was outside in the fresh air, I was in control of my schedule, blue jeans and a t-shirt was dressing up, and the money was good. The goal for any hack is airport fares which mean longer drives and better bucks. So, here I am, southbound on Michigan just in front of Fourth Presbyterian Church in the curb lane at 5:15 on a Friday afternoon, the absolute busiest time at that corner. As I look to my left, from the below ground level of the Hancock Center, I see a suitcase lifted up to the sidewalk level and then next to it, a Bonwit Teller shopping bag.

I hold my breath. Can I be this lucky—late Friday afternoon and a suitcase which often means airport bound? The only problem is crossing to the northbound curb lane to pick up this fare – after all, it’s only seven lanes across Michigan including the turn lanes.

No problem, so I check traffic and wend my way across Michigan, avoiding south and northbound traffic and horns like you’ve never heard, sliding up in front of the Hancock where I see her – right out of a movie, a little old lady.

I pop out of the taxi to get her suitcase and bag before another cabbie sees her and she sweetly whispers, “O’Hare please” – more than just music to my ears, more like a symphony. As I move ahead perhaps a hundred feet to the corner of Michigan & Delaware, a cop directing traffic holds up his hand and approaches my window.

“You’re kidding me, right?” he demands, incredulously. “Friday, 5:00, crossing seven lanes of traffic?!”

“I thought I saw an airport fare,” I explained.

Just then, as I expected the full wrath of the cop, I heard the sweetest voice from the backseat rise to my defense. “Officer, this nice young man is taking me to the airport, and I’m a little late for the plane.”

Not sure if it was a look of internalized anger or frustration, but I heard him then say, “If you promise to never come to this corner again I’ll let you go,” and before I could respond, he added, “Get outta here!”

I don’t know the name of my taxicab savior who I have dubbed Mrs. Jablinski, but I thank her and I remember the experience of Michigan & Delaware each time I return, even now, 45 years later.

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