Friday, March 19, 2010

The "Lightning Strikes Twice" Friday Random Ten


The picture at the top of this post was taken in December of 1998. My son's daycare center, at the now-demolished New City YMCA, had a festival, with all kinds of crafts. With this one, they took a Polaroid of my son and I, and he got to decorate the homemade frame. I wrote about it in this post a couple of years ago.

About an hour after this picture was taken, we left his daycare center. I was in a good mood-- I'd just had the last day of work before Christmas break at the tough west side Chicago school I was working at. As we left the school and drove down Clybourn Avenue, I entered a long three-way interesection. After I got through the light, it turned yellow. I was not about to back up, out of the intersection, so I continued on through.

Suddenly I saw blue lights flashing in my rear view mirror. Since we were near the notoriously violent Cabrini-Green housing projects, I figured it was a Chicago police squad car racing to deal with some violent crime. As I pulled over to let the squad car pass, it pulled over with me.

The cop got out of the car. He was a middle-aged guy, by my guess in his late 40's-- a big Chicago Cop walrus mustache, greying hair, a paunch-- and the blue uniform of a beat officer.

When he opened his mouth, it took me a minute to pin down why his voice reminded me of something-- his voice was a dead ringer's for Daffy Duck's.

I politely interacted with him as he claimed that I'd run a red light. I hadn't, but I knew that this middle-aged hack was justifying his existence by writing up bullshit traffic tickets while ignoring the violent crime in the projects just a few blocks away.

To add insult to injury, he informed me that he was also going to write me a citation for not having Adam, who was four years old, and over forty pounds at this point, in a child seat.

As politely as I could, I informed him that the law was that I had to have him in a child seat up to three, and that after that, I had to have him buckled in, which I did. He stammered for a second and told me that the law was that up to three I had to have him in a child seat, and from four and up, in a different type. I knew enough to know that I was not going to win this one. He wrote the second ticket, which meant I was going to have to go to court.

Later that weekend, my son talked to my parents on the phone, excitedly telling them that "your son got TWO TICKETS from the policeman!" It was the only funny part of it. At least for another 12 years.

I had to take a personal day to go to court. My father had found a copy of the law regarding kids and child seats on the State of Illinois' website, and I had a copy of it in hand in order to show this hack up in court.

My father had told me that his friend Chris, who had lived in the same condo building as my parents had when they were still in the city, had made Sergeant when he was in his late twenties. He'd told my dad that if you ever saw a patrolman who had even a little grey in his hair and was still in a blue shirt (Sergeants, Captains and Lieutenants wear a white shirt) he was, Chris had said, "a fuck-up." He was a guy who knew the law poorly, and wrote reports that the State's Attorney couldn't get convictions on. For every twenty good cops out there on the street taking care of business, doing a great job, there was one of these clowns, collecting a paycheck for decades, fucking up, but never fucking up quite badly enough to lose their jobs.

As I got to court, I was really ready to give it to him. But he saw it coming. When he saw me, law citation in hadn, he went over to the city Corporation Counsel (the city's lawyer) and talked to her for a minute. She came over to me and told me that he'd offered to drop the child seat ticket if I copped to the red light, and that she'd give me "supervision" for the red light-- meaning if I didn't get another ticket for a year, it would never appear on my record-- and my insurance company would never know about it. All I'd have to do is pay $75 court costs, less than the ticket would have been.

It was an offer I couldn't refuse. I knew that they'd take Daffy's word over mine on the light. I took the deal, but was disappointed that I wouldn't get to punk this idiot in court.

I've mentioned recently my travails with my license plate getting stolen from my car. I can get it replaced for six bucks, but first needed to get a $300 tune-up so I could pass the mandatory state emissions test, and then spend $100 for an early registration on my car, before I could apply for the replacement plate. On Monday, I finally had the time and money to get the tune-up. On Wednesday, I took the car out for a half hour drive to make sure the on-board computer had enough information in it to pass the emissions test. I took it over to the test facility off of Elston and Webster and it passed easily. As I pulled out and back on to Elston, I decided to run a couple of miles straight up to the DMV facility near Elston and Bryn Mawr to apply for the replacement plate.

As I passed a strip mall near Elston and Logan Boulevard, a Chicago squad car blew through a red light and almost hit me. I swerved, avoiding an accident, and let the cop pass me. However, he hit his lights, weaved over next to my car and rolled down his window. I rolled mine down and heard a Daffy Duck voice yelling that I was missing the front license plate, and did I want a ticket RIGHT NOW!

I reached over and showed him the emissions printout and told him the plate had been stolen, and that I'd had to get the emissions test done down the street before I could get the replacement plate.

And as I realized that I'd heard the Daffy Duck voice before, I looked over and saw a guy in a blue shirt, a walrus mustache...no...

It was the same guy.

This time he just said "I understand" and zoomed off and pulled over next to another car and started yelling at it's driver.

Lightning had struck twice.

I called my dad on my cell phone and told him the story as I drove to the DMV. After I talked to him, I left a message for my favorite cop, Bubs. I'd told him before about the first part of the story at some point in the past. I had to tell him the denouement.

Late that night, he popped up on chat on Facebook and I told him the story. He told me that the guy was probably still working because he had a couple of ex-wives to pay for, and needed to max out his pension (Chicago cops can retire at 50 and 20-- fifty years old and 20 years of service). He was, Bubs pointed out, going to eventually retire as a "Patrol Officer First Class." Here he was, around sixty or so, still having to hassle motorists to justify his job and his existence.

Bubs also reminded me of something I'd said to him a while back-- that anything that ends up resulting in a good story was probably worth it. And of course, we all know the adage about he who laughs last.

My weekend will be a busy one. My son is here, work, of course, and getting ready for a test on Monday. Have a good weekend all!


1. Sex ("I'm a...)- Berlin
2. Love Lies Dying- The Del-Lords
3. Saturday Night Is Dead- Graham Parker and the Rumor
4. Suavecito- Malo
5. Well Did You Evah- Debby Harry and Iggy Pop
6. The Weight- The Band
7. Roam- The B-52's
8. Cocaine Blues- Johnny Cash
9. Desolation Row- Bob Dylan
10. Bette Davis Eyes- Kim Carnes


1. Saw these guys on a "Where are they now" show on VH1 a few years ago.
2. I saw these guys once-- I think they were opening for Lou Reed when I saw him on his "New York" tour.
3. From the great "Squeezing Out Sparks" album.
4. This was a hit in 1972. This teenaged band was led by Jorge Santana, Carlos' brother.
5. Recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Iggy Pop and Debby Harry teamed up on this one for an album of Cole Porter songs to benefit AIDS victims.
6. From the fabled "Music From Big Pink" record.
7. From the fabulous "Cosmic Thing" album.
8. A live classic from Cash' Folsom Prison album.
9. I lived in Salt Lake City for a few months in 1980-81, and used to shop at a little mall that was built into an old streetcar repair depot. I remember one day shopping there with a friend of mine and a young busker was playing this song, much to my delight. A few years ago that mall was in the news when a young Bosnian immigrant rampaged through the mall with a gun and murdered several people.
10. Is there anybody out there who was alive in 1981 who isn't still sick of this song? Got badly overplayed.

4 comments:

Mnmom said...

You're a regular criminal! I knew all these brushes with the law were going to end with a Johnny Cash song in your list.

That "cop" sounds like a glorified meter maid. Every profession seems to have several of those types.

SkylersDad said...

Great story!

Erik Donald France said...

Wowza -- yeah, as long as you live to tell the tale it's worth it!

Bette Davis Eyes -- like the song, but yeah, it still plays in the head at a mere thought of it . . .

Churlita said...

That's really funny.

My daughter turned me on to Suavecito. It's a perfect Summer song.