Saturday, June 25, 2005

paddywagons don't have seatbelts

now, i've never claimed to be anything besides naive. but when i was in college, at least i wasn't the only one.

it was the late '90s. toward the end of first semester, i took a trip to the big bad city to visit some of my friends who went to school downtown. i was already pretty jealous because they got to be there all the time, hanging out in cafes and *real clubs,* not just a strip of bars jazzed up with a smoke machine and a couple of strobe lights. even the trip up there was an eye-opener; i think the guy next to me on the greyhound bus had just been released from prison.

i got there, got the tour. the hallways looked like some fancypants hospital. they only had to share bathrooms with 4 people, not 22. they had brand-name fast food in their food court. and there was no sign of corn anywhere.

my friend was part of this honors program thing and so were all of the other people on her floor. these people made studying a social activity, but the geek factor was lower than i had expected; they knew their books but they knew how to kick it, too. that night there was buzz about a warehouse party. i was pretty excited. a party, like, in a warehouse? where i went to school, people get excited about barn dances.

and so the pre-party fashionshow began. i hadn't been sure of what to wear; it was just that time of year where you know you have to wear long pants but could probably swing anything from a tank top to a sweater. none of us thought to check the weather. i settled on a long-sleeved sweater that had a scandalous neckline (for me, anyway). i figured that'd be hoochie enough for the evening.

nine of us piled into two cabs, sitting on laps and ready to rock. my face was smashed up against the window and as we approached the place, i noticed the neighborhood looked a little sketchy.

'what is this?'

'the projects.'


'you know, like cabrini green? these are the robert taylor homes.'

'um, why'd they choose to have the party here?'

'it's not here, silly, it's a couple blocks over.

'oh, i feel so much better about it now.'

there wasn't much i could do but take solace in the fact that there was a group of us. we made our way to the party, which was on the eighth floor of this boxy brick building. no elevator. you could see the strobes flashing from the street.

as we walked in, i ran smack into the chest of this kid on whom i'd had an on-again/off-again crush since seventh grade. believe me, there was nothing spectacular about him, but he has always somehow disabled my chatterbox mode. unconvincingly, i avoided his smalltalk by pretending someone was calling me from inside the party, then winced about it for the rest of the evening.

this scene had it all. it was some guy's loft apartment, essentially just one really huge room that took up the entire floor. it had blacklights, strobes, about 15 giant speakers playing trancey-techno. it had a jello shot bar. it had a nitrous tank in the corner, which had to be explained to me and scared me enough to stay away from anyone holding a balloon for the rest of the night.

the evening was not short on drama. a very unlikely couple had hooked up and everyone was twittering about it. and i was still trying to get the jello-shot technique down without making a complete mess or cracking the cup. fun. the dancing, the talking, the schmoozing, the perusing. all of it.

and then the cops came.

all of a sudden the room started to empty, at first slowly then very fast, like air out of a balloon. i swear, one minute there were 300 people getting their groove on and the next, they all just disappeared. those school bus evacuation drills were damn handy because this exodus was perfect. I'm talking not a soul in sight after the first 6 minutes.

we of course ended up on the curb, waiting for my friend who had somehow been romanced into staying upstairs with some guy. on the way down i had yelled to her, 's, C'MON. police are here! Po-LEECE!' i assumed she was right behind me. no such luck.

so there we were, standing outside looking really freaking underage, and the cops were interrogating some shadier looking people. we hovered by the side, far enough away from the police, but not too far away. we were in the 'hood, afterall. about 10 minutes of heavy sighing, foot-tapping, watch-checking and eye-rolling later, s comes floating out the door, completely oblivious to the situation. and we had a major situation.

eight honors kids and one out-of-towner, on a corner two blocks from one of the most dangerous public housing projects in the nation at 3 a.m., without a cab in sight. no one had a cellphone back then. the only other living things in sight were cops. and on top of all that, it started to snow.

as a paranoid suburbanite with no city experience, i still sort of believed emergency people spent the bulk of the day rescuing kittens from trees. i approached the squad car.

'um, excuse me? officer? we're kind of, um, stuck here... i was wondering... um...could you use your radio thingy to... uh... call us a cab?'

he stifled a laugh.

'er, that's not really our job, miss. but i can tell you that there's a gas station about four blocks up and two blocks east of here. i'm sure they have a pay phone.'

i was like what the hell, aren't police supposed to be helping people? but off we went, linking arms to keep warm. i was thankful for that sweater.

we swarmed into the gas station, filtering down the cramped aisles. the guy behind the counter looked like he had been ambushed. someone made the call and we started devouring every snack in sight, from cheetos to beef jerky. the cab would be there in 20 minutes.

forty minutes later we thought maybe somebody should wait on the corner because the gas station was at a fork in the road. it was 4 a.m. and sleeting now. we sent the boys. then we called back. a cab was coming in 20 minutes. no one else we knew with a car was available, either.

an hour and two soaked boys later, there was a ruckus at a dive bar across the street from the corner where our lookouts were standing. we had officially called for 8 cabs by now and zero had actually come.

but you know who isn't afraid to come to the ghetto in the middle of the night? the cops.

as they were breaking up the altercation at the bar, one of them recognized our friends on the corner, looking like a pair of drowned rats. they came over and asked why the hell we were still there. we all put on our sorriest looking downtrodden expressions and explained how we had tried to get a cab but were so very stranded. they looked at each other.

'oh allll right.'

[winks] 'hop in.'

so that is how a bunch of future doctors and their naive friend got picked up by the cops at 4:30 a.m. in the middle of the housing projects and escorted back to the dorm in a very large, very sterile, very scary police vehicle.

we never did send them that box of thank-you doughnuts.


Jon said...

Another song reminder… Surf Punks – And then the Cops Came… I don’t suspect a lot of people have heard that one…

Also, this story is a bit of an exception, but I’ve always kind of been annoyed with how cops are supposed to make you feel safe and protected, but really, any time you see one, you’re like “*&%, what’d I do wrong now?” At least that’s how it is with me… I’m trouble though, just ask anyone…

Ale said...

ohhh that's hillarious!!

reminds me when my friend came to visit from ny our senior year in the suburban high school-- bleeh--

we were stranded at the train station with no way to get home after a fun filled day on michigan ave-- a police station was right accross the street and we went right in and DEMANDED to be driven home! the cop lady was like- (figures it was a WOMAN, cop guys would have helped us ;) anyway- she wouldnt listen and wanted us to sit and wait for my parents to resurface and pick us up-- and my friend was like: "MAAAM, i'm from NY, and per experience with police personell, i KNOW that by LAW you must help stranded teenagers--" cop lady tried was like "not unless they're in immediate danger"
"OH YEAH!!! u dont see immediate danger!!???
do you want us to start walking... be approached by drugdealers... start taking drugs... start to hang out with no good guys... get PREGNANT.. and SPEND THE REST OF OUR LIVES AS SINGLE MOMS!!!???!!! ....WITH A GED ON WELFARE!!!??!?~!?! i think our society has ENOUGH problems as it is!!! so I suggest you call for backup and have someone transport us to our house!!!!!!
cop lady paused- and without another word diled some billy-- who drove up and took us home-- we tried getting him to handcuff us and put on sirens but he though that would be overstepping his call of duty--

Ale said...

cadiz dear-
akshay says hello :)
he is on a trip, but he'll be back to read your blog and give input soon--

cool cat said...

holy sh*t. that's a good story. you have been holding out on me...
anyway, hellos from me.



cadiz12 said...

jon, your bands always have the best names.

ale, you always did have a convincing way of arguing.

hello to you, too coolcat! there's more to me than meets the eye. sometime i'll tell you how i picked a fight with the purdue football team and thought i could win.

Lia said...

That's a great story. You should probably send the donuts now. You'll bring a tear to the eye of a jaded old cop.