As told by me on Twitter:
It’s late, but that means it’s good timing for a bedtime story. Six years ago, my wife and I snuck away for a long weekend in Chicago. It was her first time in the Windy City, and we picked a blustery few days to be there. Very cold. We bundled up.
We did a lot of touristy stuff in the Loop, all fun: Art Institute, Sears Tower, shops on Michigan. We stayed at my favorite hotel, the Palmer House.
I thought it would be fun to have a drink before dinner at the bar at the top of the Hancock building, so up we went. The view was fun, the drinks quite nice, the atmosphere all you could ask. I wanted to show Kel the basement bar a few blocks down at the Drake, so off we went.
But in the Hancock lobby, we paused just a second to call home to say goodnight to our kids. We had two at the time (3 and almost 2 yo), and this was our first vacation away from them. It was freezing outside, and the lobby was crowded, so we stood against the wall to talk.
I passed Kel the phone, and then felt something under my shoe. It looked like her earring, so I quickly grabbed it, thinking she may have caught it on her scarf or something and dropped it. Anyway, Kel gets off the phone, we rush over to the Drake.
(It was goofy, but I wanted to show her Marilyn Monroe’s and Joe DiMaggio’s initials, which they’d carved into the bar decades earlier. Kitschy, but I loved that kind of stuff and it made me feel like an insider tour guide in front of my wife.)
Then off to a fantastic steak dinner, more drinks back at the Palmer, where my favorite bartender was working (Julius, my man!) and then to bed. The next day, Second City, other stuff. Eventually we catch a plane home and get back to our kiddos. We missed them.
An entire year goes by, and it gets cold enough to pull out the heavy coat I’d packed to Chicago. I jam my hands into the pockets and am surprised to find the earring I’d picked up. I’d totally forgotten about it, and Kel never mentioned losing an earring later, so that was that.
I pulled it out of my pocket for a closer look. It’s a big, gleaming stone that looks like a diamond but is comically big for one. Still, the stud looks nice. I show it to Kel and recount the story of picking it up in the Hancock building lobby while she was on the phone.
Naturally at this point—more than a year later—I realize this obviously wasn’t my wife’s earring. I put it back in my coat pocket, go about my day and, believe it or not, forget about it for another couple months.
My car needed an oil change, so I took it to a downtown garage and walked up to a cafe for breakfast while I waited. I wore the heavy coat, and there it was—the earring still in my pocket. Finished breakfast; car still isn’t ready. On a whim, I walked over to a jewelry store.
I was a bit embarrassed as to how I could admit coming upon a single earring, and I didn’t feel comfortable getting into the story about the Hancock building, or the kids, or that my wife doesn’t own earrings like this, so I fudge a bit and say I came upon this earring…
…and wasn’t even sure if it was anything. The jeweler doesn’t really think much of it, but nods and takes the earring and looks at it and says, yeah, that seems to be a diamond.
I nearly fall out of my shoes.
I didn’t *not* believe the jeweler, but I didn’t quite believe her either. I take the thing back and put it in my pocket and walk around the block to a nicer jewelry store. I give a similar line and they look at it and say yeah, this is a diamond. And gosh, it’s pretty big!
The phone rings, and my car is ready, and I need to get to work. I collect the earring and walk out. Later, when I tell my wife, we laugh and laugh. What is happening? A work friend recommends a diamond distributor in Charlotte who can give me a better assessment.
He’s Israeli and runs a shop in an expensive looking office building with a door you have to be buzzed into. It’s dark inside. Empty. The entire time I have this feeling that some guy in a leather jacket with an uzi is going to spring out and murder me.
But the diamond guy knows his stuff and gives me an honest assessment. He sort of blows it off, to be honest with you. I was disappointed, and thought I’d mistaken what my local jewelers told me. I was preparing myself to be embarrassed by a snooty Israeli diamond guy.
He points out the flaws, tells me all the technical stuff jewelry sales people normally tell you—but in the reverse way, the way that inspires dread, not excitement. “There’s a reason this was in an earring,” he says, with a tone that reads: “Duh.” I ask what he thinks.
He says it’s probably not something he’d sell on consignment. It was probably only worth 12 or 14 anyway. “Hundred?” I ask, still thinking this was reasonable. “No,” he says, looking up from his tiny jewelry binoculars. “Thousand.”
I fall out of my shoes.
Long story short, several months later I gave my wife the not-her-earring diamond back, this time mounted quite nicely on a ring. Together with her wedding band, it’s insured for more than what we paid for our first minivan. And to think—it sat in my coat pocket for a year!
That was Christmas 2017. And this is my best attempt at trying to match one of @EnswellJones’s Friday afternoon stories. Cheers, happy New Year, and good night.
Addendum: at my wife’s urging, I should share we tried for months to find the earring’s owner. No luck. The Israeli diamond guy told me (after I came clean about the story) “people who wear these kinds of things have them insured. Don’t worry. She’s already wearing a new pair.”