In last week’s post, I listed all the things we did with our friends from Northern Ireland while they were visiting. One thing I forgot to include: my visit to the Ela Area Public Library In Lake Zurich, IL.
Well, actually I didn’t forget to include it – I left it off the list because it didn’t really qualify: Sheelagh and Beni didn’t come along on that trip. October 13 was Sheelagh and Beni’s last day here. Instead of taking an hour-long train ride with Hanni and me to the suburbs, they opted for one last meal in Chicago. Who could blame them? Chicago has some pretty darn good restaurants!
Sheelagh and Beni are both vegetarians — while they were happily munching away on Moroccan Style Eggplant and Portabella over Lentil & Rice at Andie’s Restaurant on N. Clark, Hanni and I were being chauffeured to the Ela Library. My friend Chris lives in Lake Zurich, and she met us at the train station.
An enthusiastic (and large!) audience greeted us at Ela Library — more than 40 parents and kids were there, and it was a school night! During my talk, I explained three rules to keep in mind when you encounter a guide dog with a harness on: don’t pet the dog, don’t feed the dog, and don’t call out the dog’s name. “Those things can distract a Seeing Eye dog,” I told them. “It’d be like if someone nudged you or kept calling your name wile you were working on your spelling words at school. You wouldn’t be able to concentrate on your work.”
I suggested we come up with a fake name for Hanni. “If you use her fake name to say hi to her, she wont’ notice,” I said. “She’ll think you’re talking to someone else!”
I went a little off-topic from there, explaining that while the word “Ela” in “Ela Area Public Library” begins with a long e sound – it’s pronounced “Eela” – my talking computer says it like “Ella.”
“So for tonight, let’s call the dog ‘Ella,’” I said. “You know, like Ella Fitzgerald.”
The name suited Hanni. She’d make a good Ella, actually. And gee, in that one moment, the kids learned a lesson in phonics, adaptive technology for the blind, and…jazz history!
Kids lined up after my talk to have me sign copies of Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound. As always, I enjoyed talking to the kids one by one.
Our hero Mike arrived at the end to drive us home –that way we were back in Chicago in time to join Sheelagh and Beni after their meal. We met them at Hackney’s, our local tavern, for one (or two) pints of draft beer. Monday was the Irish pair’s last night in Chicago, after all. It was important to toast their vacation!