Caught in the Act 

Hugh Grant was arrested...for what? Oh, that. The older I get the more confusing this world seems. Not the arrest. Hell no. In my glory days as a forest-preserve copper I arrested plenty of people for that--or something like that. There are variations on variations. If you're one of those people who spent your hormone years in the Chicago suburbs I may even have arrested you.

Sorry. But jeez, you weren't fined $2,500 and put on probation for a jillion years and made to go on Jay Leno and apologize. You weren't humiliated all over the land and made to feel like a bad person.

Not by me you weren't. You were just another pinch--a stroke we called it--a way to keep myself on good paper with the bosses downtown. Officer Pekin, they would say, does good work. But don't promote him. He ain't got clout.

The way I look at it, Hugh Grant was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Obviously. He was in California in the year of the Contract on America. That ought to say it all.

He should have been in the forest preserve when I was working. For starters, I wouldn't even have known who he was. I can see it now. Probably he and his lady would be in Miller Meadow doing that in the backseat of his car. Let's see, what's he driving? Probably one of those snooty imports I never could identify, maybe the one with interlocking rings for a logo. I never knew what kind of car that was and never found the nerve to ask. Whenever I saw one whizzing by at 30 miles an hour--twice the speed limit in any Cook County forest preserve and obviously a dangerous crime--I just let it go. You see, when you call in a traffic stop you're supposed to tell the dispatcher what kind of car you've stopped, and I didn't want to say--on the air so that every copper in the county could hear--"I'm down on one of those fancy cars with the rings." Nah.

But this wouldn't be a real traffic stop. Hugh would be parked, it would be late at night, and I would be busy trying to close all the groves. A major part of a forest-preserve policeman's job is closing every picnic grove in Cook County, and sometimes there are nights when he's lucky to get it done before the maintenance guy starts opening them up again.

So there's Hugh, and he's parked way in back of Miller Meadow where he can't be seen from the street. But forest-preserve rules say I have to drive all the way through the grove to make sure I don't lock anybody in.

So I find him. My spotlight lights up that snooty foreign car, and I see that familiar furtive backseat movement. I know what I've got. Everyday occurrence when you lock up the groves. Isn't that what a forest preserve is for?

Every job has its unexpected little perks. Imagine pulling up to a car parked in the darkest corner of a forest preserve and suddenly filling it with light. Legally. Morally. Righteously. Squad cars have these sidelights, called alley lights, that can turn anybody within half a block instantly blind--which is good, because when they're blind they can't see you.

"Police!" you say. "Let's see some identification."

And that's when the fun begins. This is what's called flagrante delicto, caught in the act. And what acts some of these people are performing. Men with women. Men with men. Women with women. White people, black people, Asian people, young people, old people, beautiful people, ugly people, people with tattoos and body parts missing, people with other people's wives. Sometimes people doing it all by themselves. Who says baseball's the national pastime?

What happens next depends on the copper. Let me tell you, not all coppers are nice gray-haired men who're only trying to stay on good paper downtown. Some coppers actually get a kick out of asking naked people to show their identification. I remember one copper who made the subject, as we call you poor fools, get out of the car and stand barefoot and bare assed in the snow. I remember another copper who patted down a naked man. I'm not sure I want to know what that was about.

But since I'm one of those nice gray-haired men who just want to stay on good paper downtown, I don't do any of these things to poor Hugh. Just the ID, I say. Who knows? He may still have his pants on. For what he's doing, or having done to him, you don't really have to take off your pants. Let's say he hasn't, and he pulls his wallet out of the pocket. And I give him the old "Take it out of your wallet" routine.

He's an Englishman, isn't he? What if he has a foreign driver's license? This could be a problem if I decide to write a ticket.

Notice I said ticket. What I've just seen Hugh and his friend doing is not something I would take anyone into the lockup for. It's not a moral decision. It's a practical matter. I still have 106 forest-preserve gates to lock. How would I get done if I locked up everyone for doing that? The way I look at it, those California coppers must have an awful lot of time on their hands.

So Hugh brings out his license, and of course I can't read it 'cause it's too dark and my old eyes don't work too well when it's dark. I make him read it for me. Grant. How do you spell that? Hugh. Do you have a middle initial, sir?

Who the hell is Hugh Grant to a common copper? I even saw the guy in that wedding movie, and I still wouldn't recognize him on the street. To me he's just another stroke with his weenie hanging out.

I'm going to write what I call a C.C. ticket. This is more an invitation than a command. It charges you with violating an ordinance--being in the forest preserve after hours, public indecency, whatever--and says you'd better show up in court. But you post no bond, you don't even post your driver's license. And the offense isn't punishable by jail time, so if you don't show up what are they going to do? Nothing, that's what. But Hugh doesn't know this because he's an Englishman, and Englishmen are a clueless corner of the human race.

Actually, since he's an Englishman I might write him two tickets--one for indecency, the other for after hours. Teach these guys to mess with Ireland.

So Hugh shows up in a Fourth District courtroom a month later, and nobody even knows who he is, because the only people they know down there are people connected with Chicago politics. Try arresting somebody named Daley or even Mell. Watch the interest shoot up. But Hugh Grant? Nah.

He stands up before the judge. Let's say it's Judge Squinty, the one who was nailed on the Greylord charge. Squinty picks up the ticket and tries to read my miserable handwriting. "What's this? Public indecency?" Say what you will about Squinty, he knows the forest preserve police. He knows this charge could cover anything from pissing in the road to gang rape. And there's Hugh, standing in his charming way with his hair flopping over his eyes. Naturally his lady friend is not in court, having quite sensibly ignored her ticket.

Hugh pleads guilty anyway, and Squinty, possibly because he suspects homosexuality is at the bottom of this charge, fines him $25. And that's it. Case closed. An Englishman has been punished, and justice has been served.

So what's going on in California, and why are the national media still so excited? Speaking from my personal experience, I can confidently tell you that at this very hour (10 PM on a Sunday night) no fewer than 124 white male subjects are getting blow jobs in the forest preserves--and that's counting only the ones who're getting them from women. At least 212 more couples are engaged in intercourse, some even in the missionary position. Add to this those lonely fellows standing in the bushes showing off their manly wares. And those guys in the outhouses--and no, you don't want to know what they're up to. Add to this all the other forest preserves in this country, and the city parks, and the dark side streets, and the lovers' lanes, and all the other special spots from coast to coast. Hey, media guys! Since when have so many of you gotten so excited over so little?

Hugh Grant, here's what I'd like to say. Don't let them get to you. 'Cause I can tell you exactly what's going on in their tricky little minds. Sixty dollars, that's what they're thinking. She wasn't all that bad for only $60.

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