Have fun.Be silly.Live! Michael K. Chicago, USA - WirSindDu

LIFE

Have Fun! Be Silly! Live!

I have to tell you about the Bear Costume.
It’s a real story…even if my wife wishes it were not.

This happened in the years before deregulation and the TSA…when flying was fun. My wife was flying in to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport from a business trip, and I decided to meet her at the gate (which was allowed in those years) when she arrived.

We had pet names for each other. I called her “Girl”. She referred to me as “Bear”. (Don’t ask.) So to amuse and surprise her I decided to show up at the airport wearing a bear costume. Everyone has thought of doing that sometime in their life, right?

Now this was not a Party City Halloween costume.

Now this was not a Party City Halloween costume. I had gone to a Chicago costume rental shop that supplied costumes for theatrical performances. Remember the disguise shop that Inspector Clouseau goes to in The Curse of the Pink Panther, the one run by Professor Auguste Balls, the Great Balls? It was exactly like that. With that costume I could have gotten a job at Brookfield Zoo, or in a Russian circus. Of course I would have to develop a liking for raw fish.

I had gotten into the costume, with the exception of the bear’s head, before leaving the house. The head was on the passenger seat of the convertible. Just before I entered the parking garage I reached over and put the head on. The old guy in the booth who gave me my parking sticker did not bat an eyelash. If you work in Chicago long enough you get like that.

I walked through the airport in my bear costume,

glancing at the Incoming Flights board to find the right gate, getting attention only from small children. The adults, including the airport employees, paid no attention at all. Chicagoans are noted for their tolerance. At least for bears. Not saying how they regard weasels.

I was a bit early for my wife’s flight

and sat down in the waiting area next to the jetway door reading my copy of the Manchester Guardian. No one seemed to care that there was a bear reading a foreign newspaper waiting for a United flight from Denver. Today someone would go hysterical and call the cops…probably not because of the bear costume but because of the foreign newspaper.

I had gotten to the back pages of the Guardian where they had gardening notes and cricket scores when I was interrupted by a small child addressing me as “Mr. Bear”.

He told me that he had never had an opportunity to talk to a bear before

so his parents had allowed him to talk to me. He asked if I REALLY was a bear. I assured him that I was. I told him that the story books were misleading and that bears, at least in Chicago, lived in apartments, liked fine restaurants, and favored Mercedes convertibles over bicycles. He thought about this and, after conferring with his parents, offered me some lifesavers which he helpfully placed one by one in the bear’s mouth, my paws not being well adapted to small objects.

Standing near the gate, across from me, were half a dozen airline stewardesses

who were waiting for flights. The were all young and very pretty, very stylish. Well this was before deregulation. At that time all airline stewardesses looked like that. Really. They were looking at the bear. After a while one of the stewardesses came over to me and politely but with evident curiosity asked me why I was wearing a bear costume. I explained that I was waiting to pick up my wife who was flying in from a business trip.

“In a bear costume?”

“Yes.”

“How long have you been married?”

I told her. She looked puzzled but went back to the others. They were now all staring at me. A few minutes later she came back.

“Would you tell us what your wife looks like?”

I told her: Five-two, red hair, green eyes, stylishly dressed, carrying a leather brief case, invariably wearing a silk scarf around her neck, 34 DD. “Why?”

“Well we are taking bets on what your wife will do when she gets off the jetway and sees a bear. I am betting that she will pretend she does not know you.”

Plane lands. My wife is one of the last to exit. She stops at the end of the jetway, looks around, without hesitating or batting an eyelash she walks directly over to me and says, “Hi Bear”,

as if it were perfectly normal to be greeted in an airport by some lunatic wearing a bear costume. She took my hand…well, paw…and we walked out of the airport.

Things were different prior to airline deregulation and the TSA. 

They were a lot more fun.

The incident occurred in the early 1970s when American culture was a lot more confident, fun, and playful than it is today. And so it describes not only an incident in our lives but a time in American cities that may no longer exist.

Michael Kay

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