The video bellow is the weather from Accuweather.com. No it is not the weather to which I want to direct your attention but that smudge on the weatherman's forehead. If you look closely you will see that it is in the shape of a cross (more or less). He has been to an Ash Wednesday service and then has done the weather.
[Ed. Well the clip changed and no longer shows the guy with ash cross, so I have removed it, but it was only to ilustrate what I was talking about in this post.LEK 2/22/2007]
I have known about Ash Wednesday my whole life, and I think probably most Ash Wednesdays of my life I have received Ashes on my forehead, to a pastor saying "You are dust and till dust you will return.", and it took a moment for me to figure out why this guy had a smudge on his forehead. I actually watched the video to figure it out (I generally don't watch these clips).
Before I came to Chicago, I don't recall ever seeing people simply going about their daily business with a smudgy ashen cross on their foreheads. Two things kept this from happening in California (central valley and LA) one most churches held one Ash Wednesday service in the evening (so you receive the ashes and then home and to bed. Second, the few ash Wednesday services I attended during the day in California, towelettes were offered in the narthex for one to wash off the ash as you left the church.
I think it was my second Ash Wednesday in Chicago, while I was still in seminary, I had to be in the Loop for some reason, and I notice all these people walking around with black smudges on their forehead, it really took a while for it to dawn on me that it was because of Ash Wednesday. It still is jarring for me to see someone in the office or walking by on the street with that smudge on their forehead.