Saving Grace


I don’t know what’s hotter, taking a short cut through an alley behind a bar and seeing an old girlfriend making another hot woman or seeing the two having breakfast at Golden Angel the next morning. I’ve been asking myself that for a couple of weeks, but it doesn’t have anything to do with what I’m writing about today.

As soon as I put the voice to the face, I knew there was going to be trouble, as I’ve seen the guy panhandling on the red line for at least the last fifteen years and anyone who regularly rides the northbound red line during evening rush hour knows who I’m talking about. Black guy, 30’s, about 5’ 7” and 140lbs, with a high-pitched voice that sounds exactly like Mort Goldman of Family Guy. He’s always been very polite, saying Please, Thank You and Excuse Me. It was his voice that grated everyone, and he knew it. He would talk and talk and talk, until four or five people would practically throw money at him, then he would move on to the next cab.

March to September, six months. That’s plenty of time to train for a marathon, learn html, take a photography class or even grow back eyebrows. Evidently, Squeaky has spent the last six months either locked inside a Gold’s Gym or Cook County Jail. The guy probably weighs in at 195 now, with the look of an NFL free safety and the attitude to go with it.

Well, anytime the train is moving and you hear the end doors open, you know its one of four people. 1. Panhandler 2. K-9 Cops 3. Guardian Angels 4. A dumbass. So I was standing by the side door and just happened to be looking toward the back of the train, when he walks in the end door and starts in with his pitch. But what made it so different this time is that it was now coming from a guy who could snap your neck.

His pitch goes something like this: “Hello Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is “Joe”. I am homeless, mentally disabled and have not eaten in three days. I am here to ask you for your help today. I hope that my asking for help does not offend anyone. I truly need your help today. Anything you give today will be greatly appreciated, whether it’s a dollar or a quarter”.

So, he finishes his initial pitch and is slowly moving forward, making sure to look each passenger in the eyes. Some people were easy marks, so he squares off on them and gets the money. Now, in the past, if the person was trying to look straight forward to avoid eye contact with him, he’d move on to the next row of seats. It’s a numbers game and he’s got all the time in the world, right? Wrong. He looks at this one guy, who’s acting like he’s reading the Trib, and yells out “I know you hear me Motherfucker!”

You could have heard a pin drop after that and with good reason. Everyone had either stopped whatever they were doing and stared at their laps or just stared at the “situation” and waited to see what happened next. Luckily, the guy wasn’t dumb enough to break out his wallet, for it would have disappeared faster than a jelly donut in front of Rush Limbaugh .

What happened next, after a long dramatic pause, will go down as one of the most surprising turnarounds in red line history.

Joe: Yo, sup man?

Guy: Yeah, I heard you.

Joe: Then why didn’t you answer me?

Guy: I didn’t answer because I was praying for you and I’m going to keep praying for you.

Ding, ding, ding! This one is over, he’s not getting up from that one folks!

“Joe” got off at the next stop (Wilson), and believe or not, “Guy” followed him off the train, I guess to pray with him, I dunno. Look for this in a movie somewhere down the line.

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Categories: Northside View | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Saving Grace

  1. WOW! good one. you hooked me in the first few sentences and then closed the deal at the end of this! 🙂

  2. Nice. Reminds me of when I lived in Brooklyn and took the A train. I can almost smell the orange-peel-and-urine scented breeze.

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