Last weekend, I was in Chicago for my soon-to-be brother-in-law’s bachelor party. There was alcohol, baseball, steak, deep dish pizza, and yet more alcohol. I am sure we are all familiar with the silly, and often stupid, things young men do on bachelor parties. And we did plenty of those things. But that’s not what this story is about.
You see, we were headed to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play. That involved taking the train and then a bus. We arrived at the bus stop 10 minutes after the game had started (due to two cab companies failing to show up). The bus stop is 3 miles from Wrigley Field, just to give you an idea. Oh, and did I mention it was cold and rainy day in Chicago? Because it was.
Anyway, while we’re waiting, a white, unmarked van pulled up. An older man in a suit rolls down the window and says he’ll take people to the game for $3. Considering that the bus was $2.25 and nowhere to be seen, the five of us jumped aboard (the older adults waiting at the bus stop declined). So I’ll stop right there for a moment because I’m sure all the parents among my readers are thinking, “What the hell is wrong with you guys?” I can only respond, “a lot.”
There was no real discussion among us, other than over price. I can only speak for myself, but I thought to myself, okay, it’s only a three-mile straight shot. If he turns off the road, I can try jumping out of the van. If he pulls a gun, I’ll duck, then try to jump out of the van. He can’t take us all, can he? Wait, check the locks to the door. I heard Gacy used to cut those off so his victims couldn’t get out. Okay, good, they’re still there.
Basically, my plans involved jumping from a moving vehicle. Because that’ll work out just fine. Maybe I’m paranoid, or maybe I’ve seen too many police procedurals, but all of those thoughts ran though my head within the first 30 seconds of stepping out of the bus stop. And that’s me, as an adult male in the company of four other adult males. But that’s not where the story ends.
You see, as we continued to Wrigley Field, the driver would solicit people while we waited at red lights. There were no other takers for the first few blocks. Then he asked a woman, walking by herself. She looked at him and said, “but you’re an unmarked van.” Then she looked back in the van and saw the five of us. Then, the woman got in, as she said, “and I don’t know you, but…” Once she had buckled in, a guy from our group said to her, “You are the bravest woman in Chicago.”
We all made it safely to the game, and the woman ended up sitting only a few rows ahead of us, but it got me thinking. Growing up, our parents tell us never to get in a car with strangers. But we did. Is it the hubris of adulthood? The idea that we think we can properly assess risk? That I can take an old man? That we outnumber him five to one? But what was her thought process? Why did having five guys in the back make it safer? I think many of us have seen enough tv, read enough books, and seen enough internet videos that we can all think of a dozen different ways things could turn out for her. I can barely justify our group choosing his van over the bus stop, but what was her justification?
And once we got to Wrigley Field, the guys in our group all laughed about it (whistling through the graveyard, perhaps?), and we tried to justify getting in an unmarked van, but the excuses were lame. He handed us business cards as we got in his van, but really, anyone with $20 can get 500 of them made at Stapes. And we also said that we would hate to hear that our future daughters did that, even as an adult. But why was it ok for us to do it?
So what did “The Bravest Woman in Chicago” teach me? That it must be easy for serial killers to pick up victims. And Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry for being so stupid (still). And, yes, we can talk about this on Mothers’ Day. Everyone else–please feel free to comment or mock my stupidity below.