Or: Why Chicago So Totally Kicks Your First Responder Ass, New Mexico!
Tonight I was lying on the couch, half wondering if I should go ahead and take a nap, half contemplating getting back into the Graham Greene novel I'm reading (half dreaming about the green chile cheese bagels currently in our refrigerator.... mmmmm....) when I heard a braking noise and then a faint crunching noise.
"Was that a car crash?" I asked.
Natalie called from the other room. "No, it was just the wind. Go back to sleep." But a moment later she went to the front window (aka Front Page to the World) and started making horrified little gasping noises.
"What?" I asked. "What happened?" She didn't answer so I was forced to run to the window and see for myself: there was a girl all crumpled up in the street in front of our house, surrounded by concerned women.
Like any good urban neighbors, we watched the drama unfold through our window. The girl had been hit on a vespa. She had a friend who hadn't been hit. They were wearing identical silver helmets. Two ladies stopped their cars in the middle of the intersection, but we couldn't tell who was the hitter: the black Pontiac, or the blue Mercedes? The girl who hadn't been hit kneeled down and talked to her friend with a huge smile on her face. It's easy to smile when you haven't just been hit by a car and thrown from your vespa into rush hour traffic on Western, I guess. You'd think the fact that your friend was just hit would make it a little harder to smile, but who knows. That's what keeps us glued to our windows.
We've seen a lot of accidents here. Most notably, of course, the best. car crash. ever! last summer. Natalie saw a girl get hit on foot, on her way to the train one morning. Yesterday, the Damen bus I was riding nearly ran a girl off the bridge into the Chicago River. Today a ghost bike showed up at one of the bridges on my commute. (Incidentally, Time Out Chicago was all about hardcore bikers this week, and every single one of them had been in several serious accidents. Natalie and I were JUST talking about how we were way too scared to ride bikes in this town, an hour before the crash. As we stared out the window at the crying girl, we said, "Looks like vespas are too dangerous in this town, too.")
We've also seen other kinds of drama. Two weeks ago there was a huge fire down the block from us, with giant flames engulfing an entire apartment building. When I was here taking a class at Second City in the summer of 06, a Blue Line train derailed not far from here. And of course, last winter, the bank robbery. In just under a year here, I've become quite the witness to Chicago emergencies.
And so, I would like to take a moment to give a big shout-out to some of the least lame people in this entire city: the Chicago Police and Fire Departments. Every single time I've been in or near a situation that warranted their attention, I've been impressed. For one thing, they are SO FAST. When the bank got robbed, the police were there in under five minutes. UNDER FIVE.
By contrast, when my truck was broken into in Albuquerque, I waited for the police for three hours. THREE HOURS. I kept calling the dispatcher and saying, "Look, I know you're all busy, but I'm a single woman alone downtown and it's four in the morning." They kept saying, They'll be there shortly ma'am, just hold on. Look, ABQ police, I get that a woman all by herself with a truck covered in shattered glass isn't a huge emergency compared to all the cows loose on the highway and people driving the wrong way on off-ramps, but if you weren't going to come for me, you should have just said so. I would have appreciated a "Look lady, we don't really care about your broken truck or stolen stereo and we're not going to do anything about it anyway, so why don't you just go home and get some sleep." Similarly, the Moriarty police could have cared less when my wallet was stolen out of my classroom & within two hours over $800 had been charged to my credit cards. Again, I get that my little dramas aren't a huge deal, but it's MORIARTY. Tell me you honestly had anything better to do. Or there was the time that a sheriff was murdered right outside my house in Tijeras and I was too scared to go home for days, and when I finally went home there was a policeman in my backyard, staring into my house, who yelled at me and asked what I was doing there. I live here, I said. What are YOU doing here? Surely the murderer isn't still hiding in my kitchen, four days after the murder?
New Mexico police could learn a lot from the CPD, is all I'm saying.
With the fire down the block, the firefighters did such a good job holding everyone back and getting their ladders up and making sure everyone was out of the building and safe. And again, they were there FAST.
By contrast. In high school, a car spontaneously combusted in the student parking lot and it took the Oregon Fire Department a half hour to get one truck there. A half hour! In Oregon! The fire department was only like three blocks from the high school. They could have CARRIED BUCKETS OF WATER all the way from the station in less time than it took them to drive their truck out. By the time they finally rolled up, the car had burned itself out and nearly taken a bunch of other student cars with it (including my poor, sainted Renault, who had to watch the immolation of one of her fellows from across the aisle, and was very traumatized and covered with ash when I came out of school that afternoon).
So again: Chicago Fire Department, 1. OFD, minus twelve.
I can't imagine being a police officer or fire fighter. I can't imagine the kind of spirit and dedication it takes to show up for work every single morning after facing emergencies and tragedies (both devastating and tiny) nearly every single day. I can't imagine what kind of heart you would have to have, to stand witness to all that sorrow.
But man, do I appreciate it.
Thanks, CPD & CFD. You're doing a great job.