Monday, January 27, 2014

Urban Roulette

This weekend, while Chicago was being pounded with more snow, and gearing up for what I am now calling, Polar Vortex II: Revenge of Arctic Air (it's all negative temps around here until Wednesday, the kind that freeze your fingers off), the kiddo was happily off at a sleepover, enjoying kid time, swimming, eating pancakes, and playing with a dog who isn't dying: the full, eight-year old happy package. This meant that Mike and I had whole stretches of time by ourselves, also known as the full, forty-year old happy package.

We thought we would mostly just be relaxing, cozy and warm inside our condo, but instead, we got to play an exciting game of "What calamity is happening across the street?" Mid-morning, we heard sirens approaching—loud sirens, lots of loud sirens, lots of loud sirens that were only getting louder, then were shut off abruptly. Our couch is positioned up against the living room windows, so as the sirens stopped, we scrambled up on to our knees to look out from our fourth-story perch. Sure enough, three fire trucks were posted right outside our building. THREE! We didn't smell or see smoke, but we knew this couldn't be good.

Within a matter of seconds, firefighters were pouring out, carrying what looked like portable battering rams, crow bars, and other types of "breaking stuff down" equipment. They also carried some tanks of who-knows-what, and seemed to be in full protective gear. A man from the building across the street came out, opened the gate, and the firefighters started going in. After a dozen entered, we lost count. Something bad had gone down.

We got worried. We hoped it wasn't something awful. 

It was at this point that the horrible-terrible-I've-lived-in-a-city-awhile thought popped into my head: I hope it is just a corpse.

That's right, in the panoply of calamities that could a) be something that is not a fire and b) solicit three fire trucks, the best case scenario in my mind was that someone had died in their locked condo. Mike voiced my worst fear—meth lab—before I could get it out. Of course, there could be even worse things than a drug lab that could explode across the street from us, we are just too naive to know about them. If AMC makes a thoughtfully-written drama about those realities, we'll get wise, I'm sure.

Quick aside: we live in a wonderful, beautiful, safe urban neighborhood. All of this activity was happening less than a block away from President Obama's house, on his street, as a matter of fact, right within the secret service extended perimeter. Our fears that something tragically illegal could be taking place were not because we live in a bad place, they were because we live in a dense, urban environment, and let's be honest, a lot of stuff must be happening everywhere. If you, like me, watch 48 Hours regularly, you know that even the lovely single-family ranch home down the street in your sweet, suburban neighborhood could house a psychopath, a psychopath who is planning to intricately kill his wife and in-laws, but who you know primarily as the guy who rents the bounce house and makes the best sangria you've ever tasted for your annual block parties. Living in the city, you just increase the ratio of potential outliers with population. You also have fewer block parties, at least where we live.

Back to the story: within a matter of minutes, the pace and look of the firefighters still outside started to change. They looked casual, even nonchalant. We thought, "That must be good, right?" Sure enough, firefighters started to exit the building, first one-by-one, then in pairs, then in groups. Before we knew it, they were loaded up on their trucks. The mystery was unsolved, but we thought the drama was done.

HA! Silly us. The firefighters left when multiple police squad cars arrived.

What could have happened? We don't know, actually. We never saw the cops leave. We hope everyone is okay and doing legal things. Maybe their condo association just wanted to host a "Say No to Drugs" or "Make Sure to Get Your Car/Bike/Dog Licensed" event in the foyer of their building. That would happen, right? Right? RIGHT?


  1. I hate unsolved mysteries! It's times like these when that home police scanner starts to look like a good investment (j/k, we don't have one, but I know reporters who do, just so they don't miss anything even when they're off duty).
    Does Hyde Park have a local weekly with a police blotter? I'm dying to know what that was about.

  2. The U of C has a weekly police report, something might come up on that. I'll keep you posted, Carrie!