when things get stolen, i am always disappointed. i just don’t understand the mentality. i’ve stolen post-its or pens from work over the years. lord knows i’ve stolen time. but the overt stealing? shoplifting, stealing money or drugs or things from friends or stores or jobs? i just haven’t done that sort of thing. i don’t think i could live with myself.
so when i’ve had a couple of bikes get stolen in the city (it’s happened twice, but both times i’ve done things that have played a part), i’ve been bummed. i refuse to chalk it up to things that happen just because i live in the city. i’m not naive enough to think it *doesn’t* happen, but it just sucks in my eyes. i’ve been burgled once, but that still remains to be seen in my mind as whether or not that was an ‘inside job’ or not. either way, that was violating as well. on the other hand, i think if i were desperate enough, i would probably steal from a store to eat/survive.
however, 11 years and only a few non-violent incidents to speak of, and i think i’m doing all right in that department. last saturday, i had a rental car for the weekend to do various and sundry chores, errands and activities. saturday night, there was this sober prom down at an elementary school in the gold coast and i was parked right outside of the school down at state and dearborn. i was in the building for 4 hours, and when i came out, the rear window on the driver’s side was smashed in and the bag i had left on the seat was taken along with a bag of clothes i had in there to change into, because i was going to go up to a bar and see steve and liam play out.
needless to say, that plan got derailed as i tried to figure out what to do. i called my sponsor just to tell someone what was happening. all told, i was pretty calm. i had my license and my check card with me, and on one hand there was really nothing of any big financial worth in the bag. my laptop was safe and sound back home. i had insurance on the rental car, and so the window would be taken care of. yet, the physical things that were in the bag were priceless. their intrinsic value was intangible. my calendar, my prayer journal, my big book with all my highlighted stuff and notes and all of that. there were things i couldn’t recall, but knew would start coming to me as the days and weeks went on.
i was fairly resigned to the idea that i would never see these things again, while also holding out hope that i might get a call from someone who might have seen my bag in a garbage can or dumpster or somewhere in an alley or something. i’ve been extremely fortunate with these sorts of situations before — leaving my wallet places and whatnot. but, i had to be okay with the idea that things were gone for good. it was truly an unfortunate situation.
monday afternoon, my cell phone rang. it was my old roommate, preston. my spidey sense immediately perked up. something was amiss. although preston and i are completely fond of one another, we don’t really call each other or talk on the phone. something was odd. preston was on the phone and someone had found my bag. great! however, the person was calling from a pay phone. he was on one line and preston was calling me on the other land line in the house. it was going to be an interesting exercise in getting us to communicate. ever the improviser, preston literally held both phones up to one another so we could arrange something.
because of the urgency of tying up preston’s phones *and* the fact that this guy was on a pay phone, i felt like i was “listening fast.” just trying to get all the pertinent information and get this deal sealed. he said he found the bag in the projects by his niece’s house and we’d meet up and he’d go over there and get it. we hung up and preston suggested i give him something … “even if he’s the guy who took your bag.” i was going to give him something anyway, but it had never really occurred to me too much that he was the guy who took my bag. he sounded pretty genuine. either way, i just wanted my bag back.
i made arrangements to get a car and for someone to come with me. i wasn’t going to go alone. we made arrangements to meet at a mcdonalds — that seemed pretty neutral and public, and that was that. however, as time passed and i had a chance to “pause when agitated or doubtful,” it occurred to me that this wasn’t the smartest plan. why wasn’t he bringing the bag to mcdonalds? i was putting this guy in my car and we were going together to the projects and he was running up to his niece’s and i was going to sit in the car and wait? is that what was happening? that didn’t seem really safe, did it? what if there were other people involved? what could i do to get my bag but still not be a sitting duck?
i called a friend whose husband is a police officer and asked him if he thought a police officer would be willing to accompany me. he said they would. i called 311 for the procedure. the woman said to call 911 when i got there. i called my friend, who is a fireman at the firehouse in that neighborhood, and he reminded me that there was a police station right there, too. he foreshadowed a bit of my evening by telling me that he thought “they might want to roll up with you and do a bit of undercover work.” i shrugged that off as a bit of absurd hyperbole.
i talked to my friend and got his ETA, then went down the street to get the exact location of the police station. upon securing the location, i came back up to chicago and state where the mcdonalds was and picked up louie. it was 6:30, right when i said i would meet the guy. we went over to the police station and walked in the front door. truthfully, i was bracing for the police to be anywhere from coldly dismissive to downright rude. instead, when i told them the situation (and the two other citizens in front of the counter shook their heads upon hearing it saying, “hell no, honey. don’t be doing that!”), the officer told me to talk to another man, who was not in uniform.
i explained what was going on, and he waved me down the counter, over to the side. then, he told louie to wait there and asked me to come in the back. okay … this was interesting. maybe mark had something there. it was really strange to be instantly thrown into this backroom world of the police station. i wasn’t being held for anything — it wasn’t like going to jail or being in a backroom cell — i was being asked to come back to what essentially amounted to an office situation. cubicles with office chairs and computers. except on the way back, there were laminated sheets with mugshots of gang members and other such posters. that, and the office was strangely stocked with bulk boxes of snacks. as if the officers were rabid fans of food in small portions, or this was the storage space for the surplus inventory for the vending machines.
anyway, they made me repeat my story several times, including what the man would be wearing. now, when i eventually got back to my office to return the borrowed car and found the piece of paper where i had scrawled his description of himself, i was immensely relieved to see that what i had been consistently saying was, in fact, true: “tweed coat, green backpack.” because, to be honest, the more they asked me, the more i started to doubt myself. DID he say tweed coat, green backpack? did he say green coat? black backpack? was i wrong? maybe i heard wrong? maybe it wasn’t tweed? why would he wear tweed? who wears tweed? maybe it wasn’t green. maybe i was fucking this all up.
i always used to be in total amazement at people who would give false confessions. why would you say you killed your wife if you absolutely knew that you DID NOT kill your wife? how could you totally 100% know that you DID NOT kill your wife and then eventually end up saying that you killed your wife? that seems so ridiculous. except … i started to get it. i wasn’t even that tired and they weren’t being mean to me and there was no intent to get me to trip up or say anything. there was no interrogation happening, yet i still found myself questioning my own mind and my own facts. so that was a trip.
all that aside, i was sitting there talking with them about what i knew (and didn’t know) and they were calling other people who were out in the field (is that what you say) and who could help us and all that. they called over to mcdonalds to see who was working security, for instance. and we were all going to go to mcdonalds together, i guess. finally, they got who they needed and i went back out to tell louie what was going on. luckily, he had a book and that was that. and i walked back in the back, and we walked out back.
it was going out the back door that i saw something that amazed, perplexed and amused me. it was a laminated sign that said only this: DON’T FORGET YOUR GUN. what? don’t forget your gun? when i told the story to my friend, nick, he said what i basically thought: “is this such a big problem that they have to remind them to bring their guns with them?” yeah, exactly. i don’t get it. i just would think that they don’t take them off and leave them lying around, for one. i would think they are pretty much attached to the hip (literally). and if they are taken off, that they are like your car/house keys for a cop. they’re something you automatically check for. cell phone? check. keys? check. bulletproof vest? check. GUN? check. who’s forgetting their gun back at the station?
cop 1: what’s over there, joe?
cop 2: oh man, that’s jerry’s gun. he always leaves that thing when he goes on beat.
cop 1: for christ’s sake. call him and tell him to come back here.
it just added to bizarro world.
anyway, we go out and i get in the back of an unmarked police car (except in IL, their license plates all start with M, so they aren’t really unmarked to me) and head over to the gas station to meet up with the other officers. this is so surreal. here’s a girl who smoked weed hydroponically grown in a closet for at least a year. not only the smoking was illegal, but the whole other stuff could have sent me places i really don’t even want to think about. when i get serious about all that, i realize that i was in way over my head. WAY over my head. anyway, fast forward years later, and i’m driving around with the cops.
i do ask the cops what exactly is going to happen, given i’m under the impression that me and the guy are supposed to go somewhere after mcdonalds. they say they’re going to walk in there and “depending on how cooperative he is, will depend on if he goes to jail or not.” shit, i didn’t expect that.
we meet up with the female officer and her partner. they ask me what i want to do. do i want to go in or do i want her to be me? if she wants to be me, that’d be great. now that this seems all shadesville and stuff, if i don’t have to have contact with him, that seems awesome. so, the plan is made, and everyone drives to their respective spots. people keep in contact via cell phone. she walks in and we wait. it doesn’t seem like anyone is there. no one matches my description. BUT the fact of the matter is, by this point, i’m an hour late. at least. so, i wouldn’t be surprised if the guy’s not there anymore.
sigh. did i blow my chance? should i have gone with my original gut decision that the guy was just being decent and probably just wanted $20 or something? i don’t know. i’ll never know. unfortunately, i realize more and more things that were in there. like my glasses. for fuck’s sake.
we sit for awhile and then the one officer asks me if i had any picture IDs in there. i think and realize that i had an old college ID in there. so, he’s going to be looking for me, not for her. so i decide to go in there. i cruise in, slyly look around (what i think is slyly), get a diet coke, and don’t see anyone. i look again and no one. then i just go up to the female officer and we talk for a bit. she says it’s up to me how long we wait, since it’s my deal. i look at my watch and realize i have to get this car back. my phone died right as i was trying to text people about an hour ago letting them know what was going on, and now they probably think i’m dead or something.
so, i say we should just leave. we do, i get back into the car and we head back to the station. right at the intersection of chicago and franklin, there’s a car accident. the guys i’m with pull over and tell the people they need to move their cars over to the side of the road if the cars are drivable. there’s some discussion amongst the people involved in the accident. next thing i know, the cop throws his car into park and gets out and talks to the people. then, we drive and pull over onto franklin and he gets back out and talks to them some more. great, now i’m on a drive along and this has turned into an episode of cops. you have got to be kidding me.
now, i’m worried about what might happen, so i politely and timidly ask the other cop if i can use his cell phone to call and let people know where i am. he’s *totally* cool about it. i call and leave a message for people back at the office and tell them what the haps is. that’s the best i can do for now. i can’t remember louie’s virginia-based number, so he’ll have to wait until i get back. we go back to the station and we head back to the office. i entirely miss the monday meeting i normally go to and i have no bag for all my time. louie didn’t get a chance to help out in the way we anticipated and ended up spending a lot of downtime in the near north police headquarters.
i don’t know. it was so weird. all of it. the guy has my real phone number, so if he calls back, i have one of the officer’s cell phone numbers, so i can call him and we can start the process all over again, i guess. super weird.