How does Celia feel, knowing that the Chicago-LaSalle Currency Exchange has forever closed its doors?
Going into this small boxy building plunged me into a microcosm of Chicago where urgent, even desperate transactions were the norm. Everyone inside was either nearly out of money or out of time. Consequently, the volatile smell of danger was omnipresent. Tatoos were abundant, and painful looking piercings, and low-hanging jeans, their gravitational tendencies accented with dangling loops of heavy chains. It was one of the few places where even I was conscious of mingling with tribes and convicts, with people who were disgusted with the laws and tired of the city shafting them.
Regardless, the currency exchange was in a safe, highly visible location, and it was always open, making it a fine destination when an urgent yet pedestrian financial matter demanded resolution. Typically I went there to get my city sticker renewed. One could always count on getting a Sunday-morning parking spot nearby on LaSalle. Inside, waiting customers were corralled into an uncomfortably tight queue, snaking from the door to the bulletproof windows, where the lucky ones whose waiting was over bent forward to talk to the stone-faced clerks through old-fashioned metal speaking vents. Sometimes the colloquies were lengthy, as though the upshot depended on the clerk getting the customer’s full-life story. Yes, transacting business at the currency exchange bore some similarity to approaching a confessional and hoping for redemption of a worldly kind.
I do not miss the Chicago LaSalle currency exchange, but my guess is the property will be sold and the building razed to put something more starchy and impressive in its place. In the process, a bit of honest human history will be lost. The sorry, angry, frightened people who trudged through this place will converge elsewhere, still seeking the stamps that officially mitigate their lesser woes.