2004, April 13 · Place and 'buying' space

I walked out of the camera store where I just handed in several rolls of film for developing. The store was located next to the Palmer House and I always wanted to walk in and visit the lobby of this historical Chicago hotel. I passed the doormen in their usual all-controlling manner, hailing a taxicab, or trying to satisfy the guests in every possible way. I once heard that doormen of big hotels like the Ritz or the Hilton have the most contacts and have a hand in every pocket.

I sat down in the lobby and nearly fell asleep but then I heard one of the guests asking the concierge at the front desk for a pair of yellow rubber gloves. The bizarre thing is that he didn’t ask him why, he didn’t even look at him in a surprising way. He just said, “certainly sir, what size do you want?” and “no problem sir we’ll bring it to your room right away”. He might have asked him for a rope or a shotgun and some extra shelves and still he would have said, “How long do you want that rope to be sir?” I walked out of that lobby that day with a feeling you are putting down a lot of green to stay in this hotel for two main reasons; privacy and even more important, no questions. No questions, that is what we like most these days, no interference in our personal life. And still we don’t mind looking into other people’s lives or how else could you clarify the success of reality shows?

Back on the street I strolled along Madison Street towards Michigan Ave. because I wanted to walk in the busy crowd and feel the rush hour. It always feels extraordinary when you are walking among people and you are the only one that has time to look. It’s probably one of the busiest streets in Chicago but in the two hours I walked around I didn’t see one conversation between people stopping and talking to each other. I saw a lot of monologues on cell phones however. It’s amazing how some people get to the other side of the street without looking while it’s a no walk sign. They’re writing something down while their cell phone is squeezed between their head and shoulder. They don’t leave their office for a lunch break; they take their office along with them. My hands were starting to get cold and were about to freeze to my camera, so I decided to walk into Marshall Fields and warm up.

I always liked Marshall Fields not because of the shop or the merchandise they’re selling but because of their use of color. They must have a whole team figuring out the latest trends in color and the effects of those colors on your buying behaviour and I have to admit; I caught myself several times in wanting to buy something incredibly useless. I had to get out as fast as I could before the color-buying machine had a total grip on me. My hands were defrosted anyway. Back outside my eyes had to adjust to the colourpack of the street.