I went to Brewster Village to visit my friend Barbara's mother Dolly who is over 100 years old. I was a bit early and wanted her to have finished her breakfast before peaking my head around the door of her room, so I walked the halls.
An intelligent looking, well-groomed rather large man wearing winter coat and hat was singing, free of inhibition, to his wheelchair-bound lady friend who did not have the good fortune of appearing as normal as he did. She appeared to be slow of mind, what can I say? Nevertheless, I walked in the direction of the rather lovely bass voice and found an avid willingness to chat radiating from the gentleman dressed for the outdoors. On the arm of his chair he guarded one full cigarette and one half cigarette. I assumed his intention was to eventually step outside to indulge.
Reminding me of a character from a Dickens novel, he immediately engaged -- telling me he didn't plan to remain locked up in "this asylum" for the rest of his days. I got right to the point, asked him what line of work he'd been in (I was guessing academia), and he said gravely, with widening eyes "infiltrator." When I said I didn't understand what that might mean precisely, he seemed satisfied with my demeanor and I assumed he was as fully delighted with our chance meeting as I was.
"Go to the small table there to the left of the chair and look at the covers of the two publications found there," he told me. I walked several paces and looked at the cover of the one and only magazine on the table.
"What do you see there?" he said, "What does it tell you?"
Here's where I fail him, I thought. I will not be able to put his clues together to define his occupation of "infiltrator" and he will lose interest in our conversation.
I told him I saw "headlines about marines and airplanes."
"And on the second magaziine cover?" He waited.
"There is only one magazine here at the moment," I reported, hoping not to agitate him.
"Then someone has already snatched the other, but no mind, flip over that which is there and what do you find, Miss?"
I found and reported finding an advertisement for Boeing.
"Boeing," he said slowly and distinctly, as if correcting me. "Not bowling."
I assured him I'd both registered and spoken the word "Boeing" in the first place and he seemed assured of my sincerity.
"Does that explain things then?" he queried.
I stood frozen, my face blank. He continued in a whisper, "Do you know who is at O'Hare today?" After a brief pause he went on, "Here. I'll provide you a clue," and he began to hum the music always played when a United States President is being ceremoniously introduced. I recognized that much.
"Obama?" I asked. "Is Obama in Chicagao today?"
"Yes, well, he has to escape the utter nonsense of Washington at times, you know, in order to maintain sanity."
With that he looked off into the distance. We were turning a corner on our conversation, I noticed, but another corner approached just as the thought occurred to me.
"Look at you," he said, "Especially that bag you carry. Why you could pass through any line without being stopped, any line at all, Mary."
"Mary" hit me between the eyes and I hastily looked myself over for any sign that would have indicated my name to be Mary.
"How did you know my name?" I asked, smiling coyly so as not to disturb him.
He returned a smile and said, "See . . . I know plenty of things, and 'they' will, too, as soon as you contact the local papers -- what is the name of the local paper? -- and tell them about the fiancée and the . . . fiancée? No. What's that other word?"
"Fiancé," I answered.
"Yes," he nodded, obviously pleased I had followed his drift as well as I had and was proving to be his intellectual match. (I felt he'd purposely tested me that time.)
"You will take our picture now, three separate poses, and the best will be given to the Post Crescent newspaper with your article." At that, he nodded toward my bag as though knowing I carried a camera. I obliged by pulling out a small digital that I typically carry with me.
"First like this," he said as he turned the quiet woman's wheelchair to a better position for picture taking. "We're ready."
"But you have your head down, sir," I said. "I can't see your face."
"I'm WANTED," he said as though I'd already been given that information and had momentarily forgotten. "I cannot show my face."
I clicked the picture with his head lowered. The woman offered a delighted grin.
"Now another like this," he said as he pulled her wheelchair in front of him, flanking it with his legs so their faces were close.
Click. Now he had apparently forgotten he was WANTED, for he gave me full face and a lively Kodak smile.
"The third shot," he said joyfully, "can be your choice. You choose," he said as he swung the woman's wheelchair to the side and waited.
"Okay," I said, walking around them to put in a new background for round three. "I'd like this one to show the aviary behind you."
Just then a man wearing a name tag came out of nowhere and motioned me aside. "Do you know Will and Jeannie?" he asked.
"No, but they are certainly a friendly pair," I answered.
"Why did you want their pictures?"
"I didn't, really. The gentleman asked me to take them."
"You'll have to delete them," he said. "Be sure to delete them. You know we could have trouble with privacy issues, HIPAA and all."
"Oh. Yes. Sure," I said. "Not a problem."
With that he departed with a nod and a trusting smile that acknowledged his understanding that I would comply -- that I was just giving a couple of crazies a thrill by taking their photo.
I looked back and waved to my new friends who returned the gesture with great enthusiasm. As I walked away to find whether Dolly had finished her breakfast and was returned to her room, I thought "The guy with the name tag who wanted the photos GONE will not rest easy tonight. He will vow that should it happen again, he will make a point of witnessing the deletion of any such photos and stop being such a trusting fool."
An infiltrator, that's who I was, who would go straight to the local newspaper with her late-breaking story.