|We're #1! (In public corruption, that is...)|
There was no actual civic rejoicing when a new University of Illinois at Chicago study was released recently confirming that Chicago is the most corrupt city in the country -- but the study received prominent play on all the local news broadcasts -- and there would have been considerable wailing and gnashing of teeth (or at least some serious skepticism) if the authors of the study had failed to accord our miserable metropolis its accustomed place atop the garbage heap.
If you're interested, you can find a link to the actual report at the Chicago Politics website, a website maintained by the study's leading author, Professor (and former 44th Ward Alderman) Dick Simpson. Yes, the professor was a member of the Chicago City Council during most of the 1970s. Simpson was already a professor when he got to City Hall. Many of his colleagues, and many other Chicago aldermen down through the decades, became 'college guys' after leaving the City Council. Some went to Oxford.
(Is 'college guys' a strictly local expression? Can you figure it out from context anyway?)
Anyway, the new Simpson study was on my mind last week when I went downtown for an interview. I suppose I might be accused of burying the lede here, but, as of this month, I have closed the Teeny Tiny Law Office and now exist, as a professional, entirely in the virtual world. That's the fanciest way I can think of saying I'm working from home now.
Or I'm supposed to be.
So I had this interview downtown, and I had to drive because, wouldn't you know, I had a meeting to go to in a western suburb immediately thereafter. There was no way to take the train.
Our van, as I've mentioned, is on its very last legs. You know things are bad when the guy at the repair shop just shakes his head sadly and says, "You know, Curmudgeon, we all have to go sometime."
Every trip is an adventure at the moment.
But I made it downtown, the check engine light and the oil light notwithstanding. I'd changed the oil in the van one last time two weeks before -- and the day before this trip I added a quart.
Which reminds me. It probably needs another quart, or maybe two.
But I parked in the garage across the street from the former Teeny Tiny Law Office without serious incident.
And then it occurred to me.
As a tenant in that building, I was entitled to park in this garage for a reduced rate -- $15 for the day, which is a serious savings over the $50 list price.
If you're reading this in midtown Manhattan, you may be envious.
If you're reading this in rural Iowa, I'll wait until your heart stops racing.
I was thinking about the casual atmosphere of corruption in which we Chicagoans live. My wife's students give her Christmas presents in the hopes that she's susceptible to a bribe. (She isn't.) Everybody's got an angle. And, here I was, interviewing for a job that requires impeccable honesty and character.
Why, then, was I thinking of running my ticket through the machine in my former building?
Was even thinking about this demonstrating that I, too, was not immune to the corrosive effects of corruption in the air? And, yet, if I were to walk into my old building, the security guard would greet me warmly and ask how I'm getting on -- and wouldn't blink as I ran the card through the machine on his desk. The folks at the parking garage would never know the difference -- and, if they did, they probably wouldn't care either. I figured the odds at about a million to one against anyone so much as giving me the stink-eye.
But then I wondered -- what would folks in Minnesota or Oregon or one of those other supposedly more virtuous jurisdictions say about validating my parking ticket in this way? I went to my interview, thinking on this the whole time. I probably should have thought more about what to say, and how to say it, during my interview.
But, whatever, in the end, I decided to prove -- if only to myself -- how virtuous I was by not getting my ticket discounted.
Fortunately the interview was brief -- and I was back in the car quickly. The full $50 charge kicks in after two hours and I was done before that.
Still, my personal refusal to buckle under to our amoral atmosphere cost me $40 when I might have spent only $15.
I can really use the $25. I must be an idiot... right?