Friday, April 23, 2010

Return of Stompy?

One day a few months ago I answered the buzzer to find a Cook County Sheriff's Deputy at the door. He was looking for one of my upstairs neighbors. But instead of just walking on up and knocking on their door right away, he gave me the 20 questions treatment -- who lived up there, do I know their names, what about this guy, is he a big guy or a small guy, is he around, are they home, etc.

I was surprised to find myself increasingly uncooperative with his queries. Well, not quite uncooperative. Just ... less than completely helpful. Which is strange, because I have an automatic, maybe autonomic, cooperative instinct when it comes to authority figures in uniform. (Must be the German in me.)

But I felt somewhat protective about my upstairs neighbors, who were the best, quietest, most courteous neighbors I've ever had. I didn't know them well, which is fine. They were occasionally seen, and rarely heard -- just the way it should be.

The deputy said the younger, littler guy had skipped out on a warrant to appear in court. I have no idea what the legal issue was -- whether it was unpaid parking tickets or bad checks. Who knows? The deputy went upstairs and knocked and got no answer.

But later that day, I saw who I think was him standing on the sidewalk. I didn't know him well enough to recognize him, but I put two and two together after I got inside. He was standing there, shivering in the cold, with a few pieces of luggage and boxes about him, looking anxiously up and down the block, presumably for his ride. His face had an expression that was a mix of fear and anger and helplessness and shame and ... there should be a word for this ... but that feeling we've all had now and then of feeling subject to injustice or unfairness.

I'll never forget that. (Chances are, he already has, but it affected me.) A few weeks later, the other roommate moved out. But not without leaving a case of good beer at my door.

So they're long gone and today a new guy moved in. He's bumping around right now, moving furniture around. I'm praying he doesn't have a stereo. And that he has a day job. And that he takes off his shoes when he's inside.

We'll see. But it's been a pleasant couple of years, between the super-courteous and quiet gay upstairs neighbors and the blessed, recession-caused vacancies bookending their stay.

Back to reality.

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