Or Common Sense
Perched upon an elaborately frosted cake was a photograph of a young woman in a bikini wearing skis, holding a trophy, and standing at the base of a snow-covered mountain. That young woman was me. My husband found the snapshot and thought it would be the perfect surprise for my 40th birthday party. Not!
I was not happy about turning 40. There is no cute saying that claims, “40 is the new 20.” 40 was just 40—nothing more than that. Everyone at the party tried to console me, saying things like, “Now you’re wise and have more life experience.” One of my favorites had to do with gaining common sense, the kind that you acquire with age.
Usually when someone talks about common sense, it’s because they think the person in question doesn’t have any. This person is naive or gullible. I have been accused by my husband—who is from New Jersey—of exhibiting these behaviors. I like to say that I have faith!
Having faith in the goodness in most people, I believe most people are basically good. Most people don’t shoplift. Most people don’t intentionally hurt other people. Most people do their best to provide for their families and enjoy life. I’ve pretty much always felt this way. My husband would say that this is proof that I’m gullible, and goes on to suggest that one day my attitude will get me into trouble. He then reminds me how lucky I was the time I took a trip to Chicago.
It was the summer between high school graduation and starting college. My friend Jennifer and I were excited to take a girl’s weekend to the big city. Keep in mind that this was before cell phones, before the Internet, and way before Trip Advisor. We heard Chicago had great museums and parks and thought it would be fun to ride the elevated train. So, we made a reservation at the Holiday Inn—on the landline telephone (the only kind back then!), calling the number we found in the phone book—and we were off!
Filled with excitement about our new adventure, we pulled into the Holiday Inn and were surprised how far away from the “City” it was. Not a problem; we had a car, and we were determined to find a club with a great DJ. We were going to dance till dawn! Realizing we didn’t have a destination, or a map, we thought we would ask at the hotel bar. The old guy behind the bar suggested that we follow the “L”—short for elevated train—into the city. So we did. We probably should have noticed that he was laughing while he gave us this advice.
Following the tracks, we entered the downtown area . . . and it was empty. One tall gray building after another. We circled around for a while until we saw a line of people waiting to enter one of the nondescript buildings. As we got closer we heard the music, quickly found a place to park, and took our place in line.
Let me loop back for a moment . . . Remember that photo on the cake? What wasn’t in the picture was the fur coat I won for having skied down the mountain in a bikini. I was wearing the coat that night.
The line wasn’t moving. It looked like a doorman was clicking off the number of people who exited and then allowing more people to enter. This heightened our excitement. This must be an excellent party for sure. So when a young woman approached us and said she knew of a back entrance to get in, we were eager to follow her.
Just as we were about to enter the dark back alley, a guy in jeans and a rumpled shirt jumped out of an old square beige sedan and grabbed me by the elbow. Looking around, I noticed the young woman we were following was running in the opposite direction and another guy was holding Jennifer’s elbow.
Suddenly, we found ourselves in the back seat of the old sedan, which we quickly learned was an undercover police car. As it turned out, the excellent party was about to be raided. The undercover cop explained that the young woman we were following was going to rip the fur coat off my back, grab our purses, and a group of their friends were waiting in the alley to beat us within an inch of consciousness. We both began to cry.
So, I ask you, is this story proof that I’m gullible? Or is it a story about the inherent goodness in people? If not for the undercover cops, it’s likely that night would have gone in a totally different direction. Jennifer and I did manage to enjoy the rest of the weekend exploring the city, though we did steer clear from any more of the Chicago night life.
We drove back home to Bloomington with big smiles on our faces with a great story to tell and newly acquired street smarts.