Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chicago Stories

Way back in December of 1984, I participated in Notre Dame Law School's GALILEE program (Group Alternative Live-in Legal Experience). Basically, for several days, we got a guided tour of every do-gooder organization in Chicago. (In this case 'do-gooder' is not pejorative.)

Part of the proram was an 8-hour ride along with the Chicago police in the Second Division- the Chicago projects. My father once told me that the way you could tell you were in a bad neighborhood was that police worked in pairs. As the two cops I was assigned to ride with got ready to hit the street, I noticed that they were both wearing second chance vests, and both carrying *two* Glock 9mm *each*- with a spare magazine for each weapon. It went through my mind, between the two of them, they felt the need to carry a total of 136 rounds of ammunition- dang, why don't they just carry M-16 assault rifles and be done with it! I learned that both of the officers had on lawsuits against the city in disputes over pay- getting transfered to the 2nd Division as the city's way of punishing them. (I heard one cop say that getting a transfer to the Projects was the city's way of taking away your birthday.)

It was a *bitter* cold night with a lot of snow on the ground with a strong wind- I'd say the temperature was near zero Fahrenheit with a wind chill of maybe 20 below. We passed one street corner where there ere maybe two dozen people standing around. "*What*", I asked, "are those people doing out there on a night like this?"

"Waiting to score drugs" one of the cops told me.

During the ride along the two cops (both of whom were white) made some comments about the people of the community that I did not particularly approve of, but my sense of self-preservation completely overroad any considerations of political correctness. I figured if I ticked those guys off, they could just dump me out of the cruiser- and I'd be lucky if I made it two blocks.

About a year and a helf later, I drove into Chicago on the Dan Ryan Expressway, going to a job interview, and I had my galpal, Kathy, along with me. I was thinking, gotta get to the interview, gotta get to the interview, gotta get to the interview. And then my car developed engine trouble. I pulled off the Dan Ryan, and *lucky* *me*- immediately found a garage. And I'm thinking, gotta get to the interview, gotta get to the interview, gotta get to the interview, so I said to the owner, "Fix whatever needs to be fixed, and please call a cab for me."

Then the garage owner said the eleven scariest words I've ever heard in my entire life: "You think a cab is going to come into *this* neighborhood?"

And I was thinking, how do I get out of this neighborhood *alive*?

It was about two blocks to a bus stop, and about the longest couple of minutes of my life getting to the L station. After our train left the station, Kathy was teasing me because I was very close to hyperventilating. I did not get the job; however, I did make it home alive, so I had no complaints whatsoever.

Quite a few years I told that story to a friend who'd lived in Chicago. Somewhat to my surprise, her husband told me a story that topped mine. One day he was dressed up (for a job interview?) and for reasons I no longer remember, found himself in that same part of Chicago. A couple of the locals saw him, did a double take, and then asked him, "Are you a *cop*?"


"Are you a *doctor*?"


Pause. Looooong moment of silence. The two guys looked at each other, and then asked, "Do you know where the L station is?"


With that, the two gentlemen from the hood *walked* him to the L station, stood by him until a train arrived, and waved to him as the train pulled out of the station.

Is there a moral to this story? about, even in some *really* bad neighborhoods, sometimes you can be lucky enough to meet some *really* good people.

No comments: