Bum Coaches- Thursday June 28th

One day last week, on one of those glorious, breezy summer days, I was getting ready to parallel park and spotted three urban outdoorsmen drinking tall boys and watching me.  I slowed down and watched them.  They watched me more.  I narrowed my eyes and put the car in reverse.

I admit that the suburbs have made me a little soft.  My inconsistently aggressive driving has given way to a casual-wave-at-stragers-oh-no-after-you-please attitude behind the wheel.  I’ve grown too used to long stretches of quaint brick paved streets and flaming hot cheeto bag-free lawns.  But I didn’t battle beach rats and slum lords throughout my twenties to be intimidated by a few home-challenged revelers watching me park my car.  I gently pressed the gas pedal.

Although, it was weird that they were there.  My office is in a very fancy neighborhood.  It’s full of DePaul students and yuppies, and it seems like the serious vagrants and misfits head downtown to mingle with tourists.  But these fellows were hanging out in front of a well kept Lincoln Park secret: a grayed out spot on the map, a glitch.  It’s this strange empty double lot on a quaint little street filled with romantic brownstones.  There’s also a House of Wings on the corner, which is a little out of place but according to the reviews Scotch-taped to the windows serves wings with “just-right crispness, heat”.  The lot is surrounded by a wrough iron fence and inside it’s like a enchanted little forest.  The ground is three feet think with pine needles.  Birds tweet cheerfully and flitter from one bough to the next.  If you stand and watch for a few minutes you feel like the birds might fly over and help you get dressed for a ball while a fairy godmother singes encouragingly.

I don’t know who owns this lot, or what it’s purpose is.  The heavy padlock around the gate entrance indicates it’s not for public use, but the set of migrating sprinkles reveals that a human being does meddle in some way.  Once I saw a human walking in and out of the opened gate with a bucket and a broom and I stopped and asked “What is this place?”

The human conveniently did not speak English.  The mystery remains.

I tried to ignore the crackheads and concentrate on precision parking.  But as I inched closer to the car behind me I heard a whistle.  ”Ay!  Ay!  You!”.  I slammed on the brakes.  Realizing that one of the carousers was going to try and help me parellel park and then guilt me into giving him a few bucks, I slammed on the gas in diafiance.  Then I mashed into the car behind me.  Embaressed, I put my car in drive and mashed into the car in front of me.

“It’s ok! I got it under control!” I shouted as I continued to molest the cars in front and behind me with my bumper.  I refuse to be the woman who has to have a trio of sots help her parallel park, even though it’s becoming increasingly clear that I need some help.  I also will not abandon a spot because I’m embarrassed that it’s taking me 67 tries to get in there.  I didn’t care that four cars are behind me now, and it felt like I have a stadium of people watching me compete in a one-person demolition derby.

I’m sweating now.  Tallboys abandoned on the sidewalk, the sidewalk residents walk towards my car.  I squish my lips out of the one-inch opening in the window.  ”I’m all good, no help needed!!”  Then I rammed my car twice more until it’s stuffed in a parking spot that’s 8 centimeters bigger than my car. I get out of the car and gather my purse, phone, and dog.  I pressed the lock button on the key FOB and for once decide not to wince at the obnoxious MEEP MEEP that signals to the ill-intentioned that my car is in fact locked. I can’t tell if I can hear them laughing or if that’s just the wind whistling in my ears as I drag my dog down the sidewalk in a half run.

Back at the office, safe from helpful crackheads, I decide to call 311- Chicago’s non-emergency police line.  I am indignant.  I should be able to badly park my car anywhere I want without being heckled by people- homeless or homed!  I dial 311.

I tell the woman who answers what happened.  There’s such a long pause that I think I’ve lost the connection, then I get transferred to someone else.  I repeat the story to another person, and I can hear their eyes rolling through the phone. “Hmmm mmmm, hold please.”  I’m transferred to a 911 operator.  ”Oh really?”  she said with obvious boredom “let me transfer you to our non-emergency line” she pressed the button before I could stop her.  Fifteen minutes later an operator said “Oh gosh, I will send a squad car right away.  Those people shouldn’t be trying to help people park!”  Her sarcastically helpful attitude and snickering should have embarrassed me more than it did.

I decided to be a good sport about being teased and a few minutes later the police operator and I were fast friends.  Eventually I admitted that I was a suburban transplant and we laughed and laughed about my new found delicate nature.  When I went out to my car at the end of the day and there were no signs of hobos or hobo debris, I wondered if it had all been a dream.  Then I saw a pile of old chicken bones, yelped, jumped into my car and sped off.


**Unimportant details have been changed for the sake of storytelling



Just Thinking- Thursday June 14th

I think it would be really sad if I had a family member or a friend who joined a cult.  But if a family member or a friend did join a cult, I would be able to empathize.

I’d prefer that they join one of the nicer cults, not a scary murderous one or a child-bride one or a suicide one.  But don’t they have cults where you just hang out and make homemade cheese and sing songs?  I bet that no one would be allowed to say “When it’s time to sing, why don’t you just pretend to mouth the words instead of actually singing” like my 8th grade music teacher said to me.  It’d probably be like a group of people who react like my daughter does when I sing: by gazing and smiling at me as if my voice was both soothing and movingly beautiful.

It’d be kind of comforting to not always have to come up with meal ideas.  Cult gruel might get old after a while but at least its predictable.  Besides, I’m sure it wouldn’t be my job to cook it up. There’d be very few opportunities to get stuck in traffic if my cult was in the woods somewhere.  I don’t like camping or being cold or going to the bathroom outside but if I was a well respected memeber maybe I could get everyone to build a latrine.  I mean if the Leader said it was ok.  I wonder if woods-cults have iPhones and iPads now, or if the members are too busy cultivating land and chanting to bother with new technology.  I really love my iPhone so I wouldn’t want to give it up.  But I would if it meant I never had to shop for clothes again or dye my hair or stop biting my cuticles.

Besides, I’d rather a relative or a friend be in a cult then become a really pushy gluten-free person.  I just couldn’t live with that bullshit.

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