It's 2 am and I just got back from a waaaaay south side police station.
A month ago Shaun's motorcycle was stolen from out in front of his girlfriend's place down in Wrigleyville. Just this last week he had finally purchased a replacement and had gotten a check from his insurance company on Friday and then today a cop called him to tell him that his bike had been recovered along with a number of other motorcycles. (When Shaun returned the cop's voice mail they went through a laundry list of motorcycle makes -- "So you had a Honda?" No. "A Suzuki?" No. "A Yamaha?" Yes. "Black?" No. "Blue?" Yes. "OK, it's right here.")
They told him if he didn't pick it up right away it'd be transferred to a lot where they'd charge him a daily storage fee. So after I got done with my show tonight and he got back from speaking to senior business students at Purdue (yeah, Shaun was talking to the future leaders of America -- that's a whole 'nother story) we were driving his pickup truck down to the 5th District Police Station to get his motorcycle.
When we finally got there (Chicago's a long city -- it's a 25 mile drive from our house to the 5th District) I was surprised to discover that the courtyard of the police station was a homeless enclave. Seven or eight people were sleeping in the courtyard and one woman wearing a bright blue blouse and lots of jewelry was zooming around with manic energy. As we approached the door of the station, she made a beeline for Shaun and started trying to sell him (or give him -- it was unclear) her earring. "No thanks," Shaun said, "but he [pointing at me] sure would like a hug." Bastard. We provided some chuckles for the watching police inside the station as I tried to avoid the outstretched arms of CrazyLady without actually breaking into a run.
Getting the bike was surprisingly simple. Shaun produced his police report from the original theft, identified the bike ("Yup -- that's my bike. Hey, it's clean!") signed one piece of paper, and the officer left us behind the station with the bike. Shaun pointed out that he hadn't even had to show any ID.
At first glance, the bike seemed OK -- it was cleaner than it had been when it was stolen and the rims were shiny. But when Shaun went to see if he could start the bike to drive it away, we began to realize the bike was a mess. The ignition was smashed in, the bike had been laid down on both sides, a mirror was snapped off, the front brake lever was snapped in half and the rear brake pedal was torn off completely. And when we had given up on getting the bike started and started to push it, we noticed that the steering was crooked and the frame was probably bent. (Look for this bike on eBay, soon!)
If it was surprising that Shaun didn't have to show his ID to get the bike, it is not surprising that two guys in t-shirts pushing a motorcycle out of a police station back parking lot at 2 am will draw some questions. We had made it 20 feet when we were stopped by two officers who had just driven in.
"Hey. Hey! I assume you two are police officers?"
"Then what are you doing?"
"My motorcycle was stolen and I just recovered it..."
"You recovered it?"
"I mean, you guys recovered it..."
They let him get the rest of his story out and he showed them an excess of ID (Shaun often carries his passport around just in case) and they let us go. We made it another 30 feet before another cop car drove into the lot and stopped us again. After Shaun told his story again, these cops shared that they had to watch out because impounded cars were often taken to this lot before they were towed to the real impound lot and that people would steal back their own cars.
When we made it back around to the front of the building where we had parked the truck, CrazyLady zoomed over to us. "My daddy had one of these. It was red. And a truck. And a boat. Would you like this mumble-mumble-dibble-bop." Shaun said he thought she was trying to sell him a piece of plastic.
One way to turn an errand into an adventure is to bring inadequate tools. Staring at the back of the truck, trying to ignore CrazyLady's attempts to bring us up to speed on the Sox game, we realized that we had forgotten to bring any sort of ramp. We tugged at the bike a bit (and noticed more things that had been damaged) and tried to think.
There's some sort of scent given off by a mechanical problem that draws guys and unsolicited advice. A guy drove up in a car with spinning rims, parked, and started offering suggestions.
"Maybe you could take the tailgate off and then get the front wheel up onto the bumper and take a rest and then get it the rest of the way up."
Sure, that's an idea.
"You guys from Lakeview?"
Yeah. More or less. Up north.
"My uncle was the guy that was shot in Wrigleyville. He had a concession stand up there. I know all about that neighborhood."
"I have to go visit some people inside but I'll help you get it up if you're still here when I come back."
More thinking and tugging and thinking and eek! CrazyLady is sitting on the motorcycle!
"Please get off my motorcycle!"
"All right. OK. Mumble-Dibble-Stimple."
Finally I had a brain flash. If we took the tailgate off, it could be the ramp. After that it was almost too easy. RimsGuy came out at just the right time and helped us push the cycle up the tailgate/ramp. We wedged the bike in diagonally and lashed it down with the one winch-strap we had remembered to bring (inadequate tools, people, that's the key) and then it was just an easy half-hour drive back north. CrazyLady waved goodbye to us with a Dunkin' Donuts cup and a piece of wax paper and bid the south side a fond adieu.