Proceed, dear reader, and you will learn why I am head over heels enamored with the south suburbs. Why I smile when I see neighbors. Why I am proud to have raised my three sons here. Why I don’t want to live anywhere else. Honest.
There are lots of reasons. But mostly because you can learn so much in our corner of the world. Interesting stuff, and all the time. Things that I never learned in the Chicago neighborhood of my boyhood and that I doubt are lessons you learn in other parts of the metropolitan area.
Let me tell you a story.
It was the day after the Super Bowl Snowstorm and I was feeling pretty good about myself. I’d successfully used the snow thrower four times and the driveway was in good shape. I’d treated myself to an afternoon of cross country skiing – one of my guilty pleasures – in a Cook County forest preserve west of the former, and still lamented, Swallow Cliff toboggan slides.
At about 3 p.m., I was on my way home, still feeling pretty good about myself. I exited I-57 at Vollmer Road, eastbound, and then – WHAM! I’d hit a patch of ice and was in the snow on the left side of the ramp.
Suddenly I didn’t feel so good about myself. I was in a foot-and-a-half of snow and completely immobile. My driver’s door wouldn’t open and I felt trapped. And stupid.
I called my wife Patty and she made arrangements with the insurance company to send a tow truck. She also said she’d be leaving work in a few minutes and would get off the ramp at the same spot to give me moral support.
I watched as other vehicles coming up the ramp passed me by. One driver hit the same patch of ice, spun in a complete circle but eventually regained control of his car. Orange state plow trucks were hard at work on the other ramps and one of the drivers waved to me.
At one point, a commercial tow truck stopped and asked if I needed any help. I thanked the guy who got out and told him that help was on the way. (Yes, I know. That was extremely dumb.)
Patty arrived at about 3:40 p.m. She suggested we start digging out and produced a garden shovel from the trunk of her 20-year-old Honda Civic. We took turns shoveling and, pretty soon, much of the snow was gone from the side of the car. But it was still incredibly stuck.
That was when the first of our rescuers arrived. He pulled in front of us, got out and asked if we needed help. He grabbed the shovel and took a turn digging. He remarked to me that it was a good thing that I had a shovel.
“That’s my wife’s shovel,” I said. “She’s the smart one in the family.”
With Patty at the wheel, we tried pushing. The wheels spun but the car would not move.
A truck stopped on the ramp and three young guys got out. They also offered to push. Another man with a truck stopped and told us he had a cable. Then another man.
Finally, there were seven of us pushing. We told Patty to rock the car in first gear and reverse. After a couple more minutes, it broke free of the snow and she pulled back onto the pavement.
I thanked everybody and shook their hands. I got in the car and headed for home.
Now I get to tell you why I am writing this. The first gentleman who stopped was African-American. The three young men were Hispanic.The man with the cable was African-American. The sixth rescuer was white.
I am always a little stunned by the diversity of our communities and how well we all seem to get along down here. Like I said, I am learning things all the time about how much good there is in the world.
Since my experience on the Vollmer Road ramp, I have thought every day about how I got so stuck, and how I got out. It was, I believe, a classic south suburban moment.
Back home that afternoon, I hugged my wonderful wife and said, “Why would we want to live anywhere else?”
And I meant it. Honest.