For the last several weeks, my commute has been haunted by a Wookiee.
He’s a short fellow, about 5 foot 6 or so. Short gray hair, a backpack, omnipresent headphones and a shaggy brown coat designed to simulate the fur of Millennium Falcon co-pilot Chewbacca of Kashyyyk, son of Attichitcuk, husband of Mallatobuck and father of Lumpawaroo.
He even had Chewie’s bandolier.
I first saw the micro-Chewie on the #66 bus one cold night shuttling west from the college where I teach. Packed in the CTA bucket of bolts like Jawas in a sandcrawler, we lined the aisles.
Several people ahead of me (I’m not sure how many ahead — we traveled in single-file to hide our numbers), I saw the man in the Wookiee coat.
I didn’t think much of it. I chuckled a bit and texted a friend I thought would find it funny.
I texted the friend again about a week later when I saw Chewie again.
And a week later when I saw him again.
The third time was in the morning on the Blue Line. Packed in a train I thought smelled bad on the outside, my blood ran colder than Hoth when I spotted the hero of Endor. There he was again, in a different part of town, on a different leg of my circuitous, two-job commute.
Chewbacca was stalking me through Chicago.
I’ve seen the man two more times since, both on the train. But yesterday’s the day I messed it up. Yesterday, I talked to Chew-stalka.
During one of my increasingly frequent text updates on Wookiee sightings, my friend asked if it was all Chewbacca or if some guy had found a faux-fur coat and a Chew-ish bandolier and decided to combine the two.
The question rattled around my head. Day after day, I scanned the Clark/Lake station for my tiny Chewie.
Yesterday morning, I spotted him. I sprinted like a tauntaun to catch up to him by the escalator. Laughing like a Kowackian monkey-lizard and as proud as the Pa’lowick are of famous son Sy Snootles from the Max Rebo…
OK, I don’t actually get all these references. I’m just looking them up on Wikipedia and the Star Wars-based “Wookieepedia.” I didn’t even know “Wookiee” had two e’s until about an hour ago.
What? I was a Trekkie.
The man looked at me. Sad. Tired. Straining the limit of his politeness by, yes, once again answering some random commuter’s comments about the Chewbacca coat.
He lifted off his headphones and wearily asked me to repeat my question.
“No, I bought it,” he said.
He paused to see if there was more. There wasn’t. We rode the escalator up.
I don’t feel bad for bothering the man — I mean, you’re dressed as a damn Wookiee. You’re going to get some questions.
But I feel I screwed something up. Instead of cherishing a bit of the oddness a city can offer, I tried to turn it into something it wasn’t. And for my trouble, a great mystery had turned into a guy on my commute who thinks I’m a bit of an ass.
Laugh it up, furball.