Monday, October 27, 2008

Most of us have seen something like this on TV

I'm guessing this happened around 15 years ago, I'm not sure exactly. It was fall, people were wearing coats, and it was a Friday or Saturday night. It was the same period of time when a teen gang rented an old frat house on Langdon, and basically hung out at the arcade on State street.

Yes, a teen gang rented a house on Langdon street. It was on the odd side of the street, at the curve. They had a couple of old black men who lived there, these guys nominally rented the house I'm sure, but it was absolutely obvious they worked for the teenagers. All these people were black. I was always pretty sure that one particular girl was the big boss, she always seemed to be in charge. They were trying to control the turf that included State street, and they hung out at Spaceport, the video arcade which used to be in the 600 block of State.

The old black men were regular passengers. They made beer runs to Midnight Eggs. Midnight Eggs? Well, you're not supposed to talk about beer on the radio, so when the dispatcher wanted someone to pick him up a 6 or 12 pack, he'd ask for a 1/2 or a dozen eggs. There's this place at Sherman and Commercial which isn't part of Madison, it's in a tiny island of Burke Township that was never brought into the city, that can sell beer until midnight, we call that place midnight eggs. So, I was actually in that run down old frat house once or twice to get paid for one or 2 of those egg runs. When it came down to getting paid, that one girl who was in charge would see to it that the cab driver got paid. That house has long since been niced up, and is once again student housing. Anyway........

I turned into the 400 block of West Gilman, which is a one way and at the end of the block is State st. About 1/3 of the way down the block there is this white college student lying in the middle of the street, and as many kids as can reach one guy where beating on him. The rest of them were standing around watching. There were perhaps 25 of them total. These were the kids who hung at Spaceport, and had the clubhouse on Langdon. Even if they hadn't been blocking the street, I would have asked for the cops, but this was completely blocking the street and I couldn't get past.

It was kind of interesting to watch. We've all seen news footage of some guy getting beat up by a gang in Los Angles I think. It was just like that. There were 2 or 3 guys who were doing most of the beating, keeping the guy down. Then the people from the ring of gang members watching would run in, take a couple of swings, and run back to the ring of spectators.

There was never any question in my mind about staying in the cab. I'm not sure if I could have pulled the kids doing the beating off. In a perfect world, I would have tried. We don't live in a perfect world. Had I called for the cops, and then gotten out and tried to pull the people holding that poor guy off of him, the cops would have come and said to me I was in the fight and they would have taken me to jail, absolutely sure thing. So, all I could do was sit there behind the wheel and watch.

After what seemed like a terribly long time, about 3 squads turned off State and started coming up Gilman the wrong way. 3 more squads pulled onto Gilman off of University and started coming down Gilman the right way. The kids in the crowd saw this of course, and the ones holding the guy down got off of him. The guy who was getting beaten got to his feet and ran down Gilman street toward State and vanished into the night.

The main players in the beating started exchanging coats and hats with other people in the crowd. It was instructive to watch this. They knew exactly what they were doing. If you're wearing different clothes, you probably won't get identified. I jumped out of the cab and pointed at 2 of them, and yelled to the cops, "That one, and, that one." Both of those guys had changed their coats. They were the ones who had constantly held and beaten the guy on the ground.

The cops got a grip on both of them. I told the cops what had happened. What they really wanted to do was tell the gang of kids to take off, and let it go at that. I couldn't believe it. If I'd been beating some guy on the ground in the middle of the street, I'd still be in jail. I insisted that the 2 they had were the ones who'd done the most pounding on the victim. Reluctantly, the cops took those 2 kids downtown. All this took at least 30 minutes.

When the cops finally left the block, all the kids got in an informal line and started filing past the cab. They'd look at the number, look at the cab, and then raise their eyes and look me right in the eye. When about 10 had filed past, I leaned out the window, just about like in the little picture of me, and pointed at the number on the fender. I yelled out, "This is cab 171. I drive this cab EVERY Friday night and EVERY Saturday night from 3 pm until 3 am."

I never heard any more about it. No teen gang members ever messed with any of our drivers that I know of. I stopped one of the cops who had been involved in the fracas a couple of hours later and asked him how it was resolved. He said that they'd taken the kids downtown and then let them go. Let them go? Yeah, let them go. The turf thing on Landon and State only lasted for about 1 school year. Spaceport eventually became a bagel place, which it is to this day. Do we still call Midnight Eggs, Midnight Eggs? You don't hear it much, I'll have to bid on a call and use that as a location sometime to see if one of the young dispatchers asks me where that is, or simply takes the bid. Inferno, would be more au currant.

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