After I put the call out for home-based workers to unite for a monthly lunch, I wondered if it had been a dumb idea. I wasn’t getting any takers. Finally, two brave souls emailed to say they were on board.

We met at the Harrison Street Café on Groundhog’s Day eve. The first few flakes of the approaching blizzard were falling. If I wasn’t self-employed, I would have taken the day off.

To protect the identity of my lunch companions, I’ll name them for what they ordered. Pancakes – PK for short – is a self-employed consultant who assists local governments in complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  She surveys facilities as part of her job, and said she’s been inside more men’s washrooms than the average female. She’s lived in Forest Park for 20 years, and raved about it.

Julienne Salad is a tax accountant for an international corporation. She spent several years in Brussels, Belgium, and confessed it was “awful to leave.” When she returned to the states, the Elmhurst native unsuccessfully house-hunted in Oak Park; JS had actually never heard of Forest Park but decided to explore the land west of Harlem. A Forest Park realtor found her a place on the north side of town. Now, she’s in her dream home near 14th & Marengo.

BLT, that’s me, felt a bit envious of my lunch buddies. PK has steady clients and monthly payments she can count on. JS has the best of both worlds. She has no supervisor, no schedule, yet she enjoys the security of what she called “golden handcuffs.” They both had better retirement plans than my metal box of pennies.

Not that we talked shop much. The great thing about meeting new people is the multitude of topics you can cover.  We even found some commonalities. JS sends her son to my old high school, while PK’s spiritual mentor is one of my former teachers.  She traveled all the way to Peru to help him with missionary work. Being a Forest Parker, she brought everyone candy bars.

All three of us received Catholic educations but JS extolled the virtues of Forest Park’s public schools. She couldn’t get over how caring the atmosphere was at Field-Stevenson, where her son had thrived in the Challenge Program. Her younger daughter attends the Middle School, while her older daughter graduated from there to a private high school.

Lunchtime flew by and, if we hadn’t been self-employed, we might have dawdled all afternoon. PK, like me, only allows an hour for lunch. We scheduled our next one for Tues., Mar. 1, at 12:30 p.m., at R Place, 1527 S. Harlem. We’re hoping more homebound workers will join us to learn about men’s bathrooms and life in Brussels.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.