Just heard on the radio that Chicago legend and treasure Studs Terkel turned 95 today.
He almost didn't, thanks to me.
Back in 1998, when my grandmother died, the family gave me her gigantic Chevy Caprice station wagon. Up to that point, I'd been driving my little 1987 Toyota Tercel, which had nearly 250,000 miles on it. My grandmother had put only about 80,000 miles on the station wagon, and I thought it was a good idea, having a kid and all, to have a station wagon.
One day, around 1999 or 2000, I was driving my car, dubbed "the heaviest car in the universe," down Sheridan Road on the north side of Chicago. I took a vague notice of a cab slowing down to a stop in the right lane. I took greater notice of an elderly couple in the periphery of my vision to the left, running across four lanes of traffic to get that cab. I slammed on the brakes, looked closer at them and realized that it was Studs Terkel and his wife. I must have looked like Wile E. Coyote desperately trying to stop an ACME Corporation product from going over a cliff, as I pulled back on the steering wheel and pressed the brake pedal to the floor as hard as I could with both feet.
Fortunately, I was able to stop a couple of feet short of Studs and his wife. They barely noticed that they'd almost been killed. I was keenly aware of it. I could see it now:
"Hey, look, over there!-- it's the guy who ran over Studs Terkel. AND HIS WIFE!"
Later, I was talking to an acquaintance about it. He chuckled and said, "Yep, you'd have had to move out of Chicago!"
What was worse, was that Studs was on my Dead Pool list that year. For years, a bunch of mostly old college friends have participated in a Celebrity Dead Pool. I emailed The Elk, who was then running the Pool. I posed a theoretical: what if I had unfortunately not braked in time? The Pool has a "no bumping off" clause-- that points are invalidated if you are the one who whacks the celebrity. It would have been an accident. Would I have gotten the points? After all, I would have had to leave Chicago and all. And he had run in front of my car.
The Elk stated that one cannot be involved in any way, shape or form in the demise of the celebrity, even accidental. No points.
Man, what a spoilsport.
A few months later, I was the emcee at an event at the Harold Washington Library, Chicago's main library branch, in which Studs was the keynote speaker. I spent most of the day playing host to Studs and his wife. I didn't tell him that I'd almost run him over a few months earlier. Or that he was on my Dead Pool list.