Schmich: In praise of the park bench

They were also getting something they said they couldn't get at home.

"It's a novelty that we can sit out without being mugged," said his wife, Fatima.

One appeal of a park bench is that it's a public place that feels private.

Jennifer Schelberger said she has been eating lunch on the same Lincoln Park bench every warm, sunny day for 15 years. Her office nearby has outdoor chairs where she could sit. She prefers the bench.

She likes to share her lunch (ham sandwich and Cheetos on Tuesday) with the squirrels. She likes to read (current Kindle selection: "Her Favorite Temptation" by Sarah Mayberry). She likes the spectacle of the passers-by, glad that they're not too close.

"It feels like you're in your own little country," she said.

That's exactly it. A park bench is its own little country. A public place where you can observe the world and still feel like you're on a retreat.

Sitting on my go-to bench Tuesday, I could sense a new season blowing in, that cool undercurrent that arrives in Chicago every August like the sound of an alarm clock.

Sit while there's still time.