I’m standing in line today at the Cook County Clerk’s office of vital records, trying to get a birth certificate for my vacation to Canada.
The line is long but people are patient—maybe because standing in line in air-conditioning is better than walking in the steamy sunshine.
Talk about an eclectic crowd—white, brown, black. An African-American woman with candy-apple dyed-red hair. A man in a suit. Another in a Hawaiian shirt.
Moms carry babies. Grandmothers keep tabs on toddlers. And I can’t keep my eyes off the clerk with hair so white it doesn’t seem natural.
It’s all a nice break from the office, where I spend days—and nights—keeping tabs on movers and shakers in Chicago.
I go to parties, meeting millionaires and socialites and writing about how they spend their money. It’s easy to get swept up in all the fanciness. But it sometimes seems contrived.
This time, standing in line with all of Chicago, is real.
Now it’s my turn at the desk and I meet Jill M.
She’s friendly and helpful, like all the clerks it seems.
While she processes my form, I ask about the colorful characters she must meet each day—real Chicagoans. “Some are as nice as can be,” she says. Under her breath she acknowledges there are odd ducks who lose their tempers when she can’t help.
As it turns out, she comes in contact with plenty of movers and shakers, too.
Todd Stroger was in the other day; like many parents he was getting birth certificates of his children for school. He was nice as could be.
And there was the time Hugh Hefner needed a copy of his birth certificate.
She talked to him on the phone.
“Just a friendly guy,” says Jill M.
About the author: Shia Kapos is a senior reporter and blogger for Crain's Chicago Business. She tweets at @shiakapos