“Is this still the WHITE HEN?”

26 10 2007

Corner of Harrison and Dearborn in Chicago, it’s been a White Hen “convenience store” for nearly as long as it was the vicey dicey side of the tracks before that.  Yesterday plan “b” badly needed a lemon and when it was time to pay a guy waded through convenience shoppers to get to the Cashier.  “Is this still the White Hen?”  From his breathless tone but more from his name above his pocket (Tom (not his real name; once plan “b” worked in a fast food and was given an engraved plastic name badge:  “Brian” as in “Just wear it.  Customers like the help to have a name.” plan “b” had been hoping for something more in the “Marilyn” category).   Why did the shoppers panic?  Doubt?  Something as routine and horribly simple as running into the White Hen for a giant cup of bad coffee or shaved ice the color of anti-freeze or a banana had become misunderstood, vague.  The Cashier confirmed the collective worst fear:  not the Hen, no longer the Hen, now the 7-11 and we’d never known.  We never had a chance to say goodbye.  We had been living a lie for how long.  When was it changed?  This cashier don’t know or ain’t telling and he’s a very big guy with no facial muscle to reveal his thoughts.  There’s a momentary echo of “NOT the HEN?” then all convenience shoppers adjust to the new numerical name.  Until today, this morning, the neighborhood re-convened at the 7-11 for bad coffee and shaved ice but there were signs, professional signs, with grommets and clean rope, that said White Hen.  The old Hen never had signs.  “Is this still the 7-11?” 

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