Thomas Geoghegan  

Day Five
Friday, Oct. 25, 1996
       Woman calls: Please come on TV right now and give my opinion as a labor lawyer: “Can Mayor Daley fire city workers who don’t pay their parking tickets?” Sorry, I’m going to dinner.
       Of course he can.
       “FOP says no.” The Fraternal Order of Police.
       Well, he can.
       Our scandal: Many city workers, even aldermen, are blowing off their parking tickets.
       So? I think the real scandal is: Go in any traffic court, see how the city preys on the poor. Blacks, Latinos, who make, what, $6 an hour? They can barely afford cars to get to jobs in the suburbs. Then one boot, one wrong turn, one park in a tow zone they didn’t see: bam, they’re wiped out. The fine doubles in a week. They lose the job, etc.
       Like in The Bicycle Thief. Only it’s the city that steals your bike.
       Where does the dough go? For the lampposts in front of Starbucks.
       Oh well. Not as sick as the way the Swiss pay themselves out of the accounts of Holocaust victims, is it?
       Tonight on State Street I run into a prosecutor. Without our knowing it, probably 20 cops hover around. Say “THIEF!” and you find you’re next to, oh, six in “plain clothes.”
       Like P., my own client, who’s in transit undercover.
       He comes up, I’m in the El, underground. Then I notice a man, staring:
       “Tom? Don’t you know me?”
       No. Who the hell is this? Down in these depths, somehow, I can’t recognize my own clients.
       I then go to dinner with L., a therapist. I do this vague abstract social justice stuff that changes nothing. She’s not political, but does much more good than I.
       Like: She just wangled a scholarship for a kid, AFDC, out of a good private school.
       “Wait,” said the principal, “are we looking at one year, or two?”
       “Eight. And there’s a sister.”
       On the way out, a homeless man crowds me, blocks me from the car.
       “I’m sorry,” L. says when he goes away.
       No worse than the typical lawyer in my face.
       The truth is, I was staring at him, staring: Who the hell is this?