Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nothing Ever Happens on My Block

Did you read this book in your erstwhile youth--Nothing Ever Happens on My Block? OMG. I LOVED that book. And then it sort of disappeared from my life, and I didn't think about it again until I had kids. In searching for information about the book, I came across this cute blog that highlights vintage children's books.

Meanwhile, in only-sort-of-unrelated news, The Crazy Lady on my block got taken away today by the entire police department and half the fire department of Chicago.

I was sitting on my couch, minding my own business, watching People's Court (I have a girl-crush on Marilyn Milian), when I noticed a squad car out in front of my next-door-neighbor's house. Not the neighbor with the jungle, the neighbor on the other side. So I peeked out the window from behind the sheers. There was not just one squad car, but three!

Two police officers were standing on the walk in front of The Crazy Lady's house--and BTW, I mean no disrespect to TCL, who suffers from schizophrenia or some other fairly serious mental illness--and as I peeped, another officer went tearing around the side of the house, down the gangway to the backyard.

Well, being the responsible homeowner that I am, I felt that it was exactly the right time to take out my trash. (I'm not proud of this impulse to gawk at another person's private demons being brought out into the light of day--but it's in me. I wasn't the only neighbor with this indecorous inclination. Other neighbors were not just peeking over back yard fences, but actually walking down the street to get a closer look.)

I went out the back door with my Hefty Bag, and as I crossed the deck, I could see two officers restraining TCL and trying to talk her into accompanying them to the squad car. She resisted them, hollering and flailing. Eventually, four officers carried her around the house and stuffed her as carefully as they could into the back of the squad car.

TCL was still yelling and flailing, and the officers called for back-up. Within minutes, three more police vehicles showed up, including a paddy wagon (are they still called that?) and an SUV. The officers unloaded TCL from the back of the squad car, and re-loaded her into the paddy wagon.

She was not pleased, and she started clawing at the wire mesh. I think she was starting to hurt herself, because within a few minutes the officers extracted her again, two of them peeling her fingers from the doors and two holding her legs to keep her from kicking. Once they got her extricated, they gently plopped her on the street, where she sat, hand- and ankle-cuffed, rocking and occasionally yelling at them not to touch her (they weren't) and that she needed to lock her doors. She was surrounded by officers, and once or twice she started butt-scootching along the pavement, but each time an officer stepped in front of her.

In a few minutes, the six police vehicles were joined by one more squad car, a fire truck, and an ambulance. The paramedics, wearing thick rubber gloves, loaded TCL onto a stretcher, covered her with blankets, strapped her in, and wheeled her off.

TCL has been dealing with obvious mental illness since before we moved into the neighborhood, but she has also had periods of calmness and lucidity. Lately, however, her crazy had been escalating to the point where she was making threats to neighbors and generally acting in a threatening, unpredictable way. She tried to run over one neighbor with her car recently, and she has thrown rocks at children.

Last week when A. Peevie and M. Peevie were playing in the backyard, I went out to check on them. "Mom," A. Peevie said, "That lady is saying B-I-T-C-H over and over again. Really loud." He couldn't even bring himself to say the word in reporting it to me.

M. Peevie came over and told me the same story, and we had a little object lesson in mental illness. "She can't help it," I told them. "There's something in her brain that makes her act that way." I told them that if they felt uncomfortable, or if she directed any of her scary talk directly at them, they should come in the house for awhile.

So the neighbors reluctantly went to court yesterday, and hours later the entire fleet of emergency response vehicles showed up. TCL is currently being held for observation somewhere. It's all very sad and disturbing. The neighbors didn't want to make police reports or go to court to have TCL picked up; but they felt it was the responsible thing to do. Mental illness is absolutely horrifying, and I truly feel compassion for TCL and her husband.

But nothing ever happens on my block.


Anna Dyer = Dubious Blogger said...

Oh man, I love Judge Milian too! My favorite is when she gets worked up and starts yelling in Spanish.

Drew said...

This is a pretty funny story about the backyard. When everybody on your block needs to go to drug rehab, be thankful that you live in a place where nothing happens though.

zzilda said...

Thanks for reminding me about Nothing Ever Happens.

Sorry to hear about your neighbor's troubles. Mental illness is really stressful for everyone involved.

Funny, we just had a conversation about "paddy wagon" at work recently. A co worker was informed by a police officer of Irish decent that "paddy wagon" is no longer used because is is offensive to the Irish due to the fact that the term evolved from so many drunken Irish folks being taken to the clinker in one. It's now called something like a "detention vehicle". Can't speak to the accuracy of any of this, just funny it has come up again in my life.

On a related note, my friend M and I for years have been trying to devise a word or phrase for the phenomenon where something just keeps randomly appearing in your life. Similar to tipping point but it's not a big cultural phenomenon, rather something just in your world.