SCHAUMBURG, IL—The worldview of Allen Koechley, a 41-year-old Schaumburg cost-analysis officer and father of two, was mildly shaken Monday, when he briefly became aware of the possibility that non-Schaumburg places exist.

Schaumberg resident Allen Koechley stands in the parking lot of one of the suburb's 4,894 strip malls.

"I was at the Olive Garden by Woodfield Mall," Koechley said, "when I noticed a small sign stating that the restaurant was one of over 1,500 Olive Gardens nationwide. I didn't think about it at first, but later on it hit me: There are only about 40 of them in Schaumburg. Where are all those others?"

"I'm not sure what to think, exactly," Koechley continued. "The non-Schaumburg region would have to be huge--the size of two dozen Schaumburgs, at least. Imagine the sheer immensity of it: the number of Old Navys. The number of Applebee's. The Targets stretching from horizon to horizon. It's difficult to comprehend."

For years, Koechley said, he had been subconsciously aware of the possibility of a world outside Schaumburg. But he had not actively considered such a prospect until recently.

"I guess I figured something must be south of Golf Road," Koechley said. "And there must be something beyond the Bed Bath & Beyond store over on Rand. But I never really knew what it could be. I mean, what else is there?"

Further fueling Koechley's suspicions of extra-Schaumburgian life are the many Woodfield Mall stores that incorporate unfamiliar locales in their names, including Boston Store, Lerner New York and San Francisco Music Box Company, as well as a California Pizza Kitchen on the mall's periphery. Also contributing are reports from relatives and co-workers who claim to have vacationed at such places as Disney World, Disneyland and "up north," none of which are streets in Schaumburg.

Unable to concentrate on his cost-analysis work or his nightly sports viewing, Koechley decided to put his question to the experts.

"We appreciate Mr. Koechley's inquiry, but are unable to answer it at this time," said James Jeffries, head of the Schaumburg Zoning Committee. "We have no records on file concerning any non-Schaumburg locations and only have information on bordering communities as it relates to specific Schaumburg-centric issues. I would advise Mr. Koechley to relax and not trouble himself with matters that, after all, have no bearing on him whatsoever."

"I know they're right," Koechley said. "It doesn't matter to me, not in any real sense, when everything that's important to me is right here in Schaumburg. But as perverse and unnatural as it may seem to other Schaumburgers, I guess I'll always have a sort of dim, nagging curiosity about the outside world."