Stop means stop.

Everything happens for a reason. Or so I’ve heard. I just can’t figure out why.

Anyway, a while back, I was driving in Lincoln Park on Chicago’s north side. It was dark and it was raining, which meant I couldn’t see the road very well. With my impaired visibility, combined with my occasional inattentiveness, I didn’t see a stop sign on a major street as pedestrians crossed the street. They assumed that I would stop at the stop sign. Well, I didn’t apply my foot to the brake until I saw a pedestrian directly in front of my car. I would have hit him if he wouldn’t have jumped back! We both realized that I almost ran him over. He started swearing at me and beating the hood of my car with his umbrella.

Suddenly, we look at each other’s faces in recognition. We actually know each other. “Greg!” I shout. And he stops beating my car. “Dave?” he asks in disbelief. I open my car door and he gets in. I had not seen Greg Rubenstein in about five years because he moved to Oklahoma where his company had transferred him. We used to do the print layout together for the  CARA’s magazine The Finish Line and we both ran for the University of Chicago Track Club.

He apologized for denting my hood and I apologized for almost running him over and leaving him a quadriplegic. I reminded Greg that the last time we met was for dinner at a restaurant and that he had treated, so I owed him a dinner. Just by chance, this incident occurred at dinner time, so we went out to eat.

We were both impressed by our fortuitous encounter and how it was such a coincidence. So he told me about another recent coincidence in his life; apparently his life is full of coincidences (and so is mine!). He traveled to Europe on business. He was at Heathrow Airport when someone bumped into him from behind. He soon realized that his wallet was missing! So chases the man who bumped into him. Since Greg was a runner, he’s closing in on the thief. Greg is yelling, “Stop him! He stole my wallet!” A man coming from the opposite direction tackles the pickpocket. They both hold the thief down until airport security shows up. When Greg and the Good Samaritan get a good look at each other, the man says, “Greg you are always getting in trouble!” They went to high school together.

Police 1, Cougars 0

To Serve and Protect, Chicago, Illinois

Cougar. No, not that kind of cougar! Read on see what I’m talking about.

Despite the lopsided score, the winners continued their losing streak in Chicago. That’s right. The police were criticized for shooting the cougar in a residential neighborhood, not far from Lincoln Park Zoo.

Well, the police are up against overwhelming odds in situations like this. In Chicago, when all other city agencies refuse to answer to calls that are technically their responsibility, the 911 center dispatches a police car to assess the situation. The police department is Chicago’s last line of defense–basically, to protect the city against civil law suits. All other city agencies may refuse to respond calls, including the fire department, but the police have to respond to every single call they receive regardless of how absurd it may seem to the average citizen.

I’m sure many residents who saw the cougar in their neighborhood called 911 to report it. And I’m sure they were surprised to see the police responding to the scene. Where was the Animal Control Unit? Certainly nowhere near the cougar. So the police show up, but it’s not like they could call the Animal Control Unit on their police radio to report a stray cougar because they are on a different frequency, in more ways than one.

When I was a police officer, several citizens reported some kind of wild cat on the lakefront in a residential area near some railroad tracks. I actually saw it running at a distance, but I couldn’t tell if it was a bobcat or a lynx or a lion, for that matter. There was nothing I could do as a police officer other than call the Animal Control Unit. When someone there answered their phone, they gave me the third degree over the phone. They wanted to know what I had seen. I said that it was either a bobcat or a lynx. But, no, they wanted to know exactly what kind of cat it was. I didn’t know. So they didn’t take me as seriously. Then they told me that they wouldn’t come out until I had secured it. What? How was I supposed to secure it? I even asked them to tell me how to secure it thinking they would actually know since they do work for Animal Control.

Well, they never responded to the scene because I couldn’t secure the cat, or whatever it was. Another time, some citizens called 911 and the police responded because there was a stray raccoon wandering around–but not just anywhere! This was in Mayor Daley’s neighborhood! This time I actually saw the raccoon up close on some rooftop patios right next door to the Mayor’s house. As I approached the raccoon, I could tell he was up to no good because he was wearing a mask. I cornered it, but I had to let it run past me because he tried to bite me. I cornered it again, but this time I didn’t approach it. I called Animal Control on my cell phone. Once again, they asked me to describe the raccon and they wanted the raccoon to be contained so they could just come by, scoop it up, and take it away. Then, I thought that they would come out sooner if I told them that the raccoon was next to the Mayor’s house. The voice at the other end immediately told me that they weren’t coming no matter what, now that they knew Mayor Daley lived close by. Once again, they refused to respond.

Why? Because their union was in negotiations with the city and the city wouldn’t give in on some of the issues. Well, I let the raccoon go because I sure wasn’t in the mood to get bitten by a raccoon that day, especially after that unpleasant interchange. So, I can just imagine what the police were up against when they received this call about the stray cougar. The officers probably asked for the Animal Control Unit to come to the scene, to no avail. They probably asked the dispatcher to call the nearby Lincoln Park Zoo to send a zookeeper with a tranquilizer gun to the scene of the cougar, all for naught. Then, suddenly, an officer sees the cougar rapidly approaching him, so he opens fire, sadly, in self-defense. The officer had no other recourse but to shoot or possibly, nay, more than likely, be attacked. Of course, the news cameras interviewed several residents who questioned why the police didn’t shoot the cougar with a tranquilizer gun. Well, because it wasn’t possible, citizens! The police are issued tranquilizer guns! Not in Chicago, the City That Works.