My beloved wife, a California native, went to graduate school in Chicago. She survived 70-degree-below wind chill, getting mugged on the El, and private school tuition to get her degree. She hated Chicago.
She took only one fond memory away from the Windy City: Giordano’s pizza. It’s this stuffed thing that’s very different from the pizzas we get out here in California: deep dish, layered, substantial. I understand her devotion to it. Giordano’s also does take-and-bake, frozen pizza which you can take with you and prepare later.
But this isn’t really a story about pizza, or Chicago, not really, but rather about how times change, so quickly, without our noticing.
Back in 1999, I was working in the San Francisco office of a Framingham, Mass.-based computer magazine. Even though it was only 14 years ago, it was a heady time. Business had just discovered the web, and we were just beginning to write about stuff like e-commerce, the ability to buy stuff without ever visiting a retailer. The computer industry was booming, and we were the beneficiaries of it.
Things were so wild that I got a call from my boss one day asking me to represent the magazine on a panel at a trade show in Chicago. The request was even weirder when I learned that it wasn’t really a panel – it was an industry version of The College Bowl (man, you really have to be old to remember that show). Imagine Jeopardy!, only with teams. I was to represent our magazine on one of the teams.
But I figured out that I could leave San Francisco at 6:30 a.m. and leave O’Hare at 6:30 p.m. and avoid having to spend the night in Chicago. My wife’s only request was that I bring her Giordano’s take-and-bake.
Everything went like clockwork. I called Giordano’s when they opened and ordered two Popeye take-and-bakes (spinach and mushroom). I did the panel at the convention center, answering embarrassingly few questions, and then I hailed a cab. I told the driver that our final destination was O’Hare, but that we had to stop at Giordano’s on Rush Street on the way.
He looked at me as only a seasoned cab driver can and said, “You know that’s not on the way, right?” I concurred, but said that if I didn’t bring take-and-bake home, I might as well not go home.
Fast forward to 2013. Each issue of the magazine I worked for is about half the size it was in 1999. The staff is smaller too. I’m now self-employed, spending more time writing for corporations than publications.
My professional association, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, scheduled a conference in Chicago last week focused specifically on the work I do – writing for corporations. It was a good opportunity for business development, so off I went. On my dime.
It was not a frivolous fly-in to be peppered with trivia questions; it was presentations and networking and business-card exchanging and the equivalent of speed-dating with potential clients. And because I am self-employed, at the end of the day, I was back in my hotel room working and catching up on all the work that I hadn’t been able to do during the day.
Giordano’s now has more locations than just the one on Rush Street, but my departure schedule prevented me from coming home with pizza. My wife forgave me.
The fourteen years between these two particular trips to Chicago doesn’t seem like that long a time. When we think of things being different, we think of 25 years ago, 50 years ago. How could life have changed that much in just fourteen years?
But then I remember when American Graffiti came out in 1973. It described an era of only eleven years earlier that seemed so, so different. The cars were different. The optimism was different. I always thought it was me, because I was still so young, that eleven years seemed such a long time, and time moves slower when you’re older.
But no, I’m older now and fourteen years ago seems like a different century, only partially because it was. I think back on the fourteen years between 1946, just after World War II ended, and 1960. In that time, the U.S. went from wartime rationing to incredible abundance. That must have seemed like a different century, too.
I never realized before how fast things change, how much we have to adjust to changing circumstances without such a short period of time. Even those of us who think we’re not good at managing change are, without even noticing, managing a whole lotta change.
And that’s not always bad, either. I went to Giordano’s web site and took advantage of that little ol’ e-commerce thing. The pizzas arrive tomorrow.