Look, these guys weren't just suits, we were in a bus full of working stiffs. No London Fogs, mostly Carhartts, if you know what I mean. I'd gone to the back because the driver yelled "suitcases in the back," and it was at least a hundred degrees below zero (that may be stretching it), with a wind capable of taking your face off. They don't call the place "the windy city" for nothing.
Good night, it was cold, and early, and all these burly guys and my wife and I had to get to the airport early, way early, to get flights they also probably missed the night before. Nobody wanted to be there, and nobody was dressed for Tahiti.
One family, too. It was just getting to be six when we left the Marriott, dark as night, and there was one other woman, the Mom. My wife was one, the Mom made two. Two kids. A husband. He grabbed their bags while one of the kids, a little guy with tennies that flashed with lights on the cold cement, ran alongside his dad to the back, where the suitcases go.
That's when Mom got in, that little one--don't think he was walking yet--clinging to her like he was painted on. And whimpering. What's a trip to the airport without a whimpering kid?
That's the picture, see? There's maybe a dozen or so working stiffs--big Chicago Bears-burly guys, all of us way too big for those little flat seats, all of us in January jackets.
Now Carmine deserves a story all by himself. Carmine the driver, who introduced himself to us, flashed his picture up on the picture holder above the windshield, rapped out a couple of things that made him seem like just another one of the guys, then said he had to go back into the Marriott just one more time and he'd be right back. He and coffee were the best things of the morning.
There we sat. The bus was okay-warm, but he'd left the door open. Me and the guy next to me in the front seat sat there like a couple of beached walruses. But the truth is, smashed together the way we were seemed a blessing. Some other guy was sitting beside my wife. Nobody was saying much. You know. It's early and deathly cold and midnight outside.
And just like the that, the angel Carmine, not a young man, hops back up and makes his second appearance. He's got a stocking cap on his head, wearing a big winter coat, and he jumps up and into his bus as if was, in fact, a registered member of the heavenly host.
And in his hand, he's got a blanket, see? Not a big one, not a blanket, really, just a little worn out thing. And he says, "This belong to anybody?"
Other than my wife and the Mom a couple seats back, the airport bus is full of big men, see. But when he held up that blanket, the whole bunch flat-out melted, I swear. Every last one of them knew in an instant that that "blankey" belonged to the little one curled up in his mother's arms. And every one of them knew in an instant that wherever that young family was bound would be a million miles farther away if that little guy didn't have his blankey.
Carmine says, "This belong to anybody?"
And the whole bus swooned. I'm not kidding. Turned the whole bunch all into young mothers. Seriously. It happened. I was there. I saw it. I heard the swoon.
And the little guy got his blanket.
I told the angel Carmine he could work the Marriott route for the next six months and not perform as a blessed a miracle.
That's what happened. In all that blasted cold, he picked up a ragged old blanket and heated up the world.
For the angel Carmine, this morning's thanks.