NYE 2007 Part II: Dissonance On Division

Read Part I: Too Many Notes

We were so excited to get out of the snowstorm and have transportation downtown that we didn’t notice the outside of the cab. When we told the driver where we wanted to go, he informed us he was from Schaumburg and didn’t know how to get there. Our only other option was to trudge through half a mile of wind and snow to the Red Line, so we got him onto Sheridan and instructed him to take it directly to Lake Shore Drive. It seemed simple enough, especially since the driver had a GPS. Then my friends and I proceeded to chat. After awhile we realized the lake wasn’t on our left. We looked out the window and spotted 3600. Somehow he’d gotten off of Sheridan and was heading west. He looped around and got us back to where we started, and then belatedly put the address in the GPS, but by that time the meter read $24!

The cabbie informed us that he wasn’t really a cab driver, that he was a pilot, and that his friend had let him drive because he was heading home to see his family in Pakistan. We listened with sympathy, but that still didn’t mean we should pay for his inexperience. Previously in the evening the first driver wasn’t sure exactly where to go, so he turned off the meter. We expected this guy to do the same, but noooo. By the time we reached Division and Dearborn the tab was $44.

There was no way we were going to pay that amount. We offered him $25, which more than covered the balance after the $24 tour of the north side and included a tip. He came out of the minivan and around to our side and proceeded to yell at us. Fortunately we had two things in our favor: One, he dropped us off in front of two cops, and two, we were sober.

One of the police officers noticed that the minivan was a Pace cab. “You shouldn’t even be driving in the city,” he said. We did not inform the officers that he wasn’t licensed to drive a cab, period. After some back and forth, with the driver insisting we pay the full amount, us still offering to pay $25, and the cops telling him he shouldn’t have driven us in the first place, he finally accepted the money and took off.

We knew our sobriety helped our case with the cops, because our little incident was minor compared to the chaos that was Division Street.

Our plan was to head into Butch McGuire’s. My friend knew one of the bartenders there and he told us we could get in. As we neared we noticed the paddy wagon parked in front and the police streaming in and out. We caught the bartender’s eye and he shook his head and shrugged. Butch’s was closed down for the night. We turned around and skirted groups of police and threaded through weaving revelers until getting into Mother’s. There was a perfect spot between the bar and the wall that allowed us to have a cocktail in relative peace while watching the frenetic activities of many, many drunk people.

Karaoke is a hit or miss proposition at any time, but at 2:45am on New Year’s Eve it’s just a bad idea, especially if the singer is of the mindset that screaming the lyrics makes the high pitched warbling more palatable. The woman on stage screeched like a ticked-off banshee, then a stream of cops raced across the bar in front of the karaoke booth and into the back room. The dancing crowd craned their necks to see what the fuss was about, then backstepped quickly as the police returned with stumbling angry people in tow. The DJ announced that the bar was now closed.

We streamed out onto the street with the rest at 3:11am. The block between State and Dearborn was lined with more paddy wagons, several police cars, and enough uniforms to corral the unruly denizens of Division.

It would have been amusing if it weren’t for the underlying implications.

Even though I hadn’t experienced New Year’s Eve in downtown Chicago before, I had an idea of what to expect: basically a Saturday night on steroids. What surprised me was the tension and the anger. 2007 had a been a great year for me personally, and for my friends, and we were excited to ring in the next year. It seemed that sentiment wasn’t echoed as broadly as one would hope among the people out “celebrating”.

We picked up some food, headed the couple of blocks to my friend’s apartment, and reflected on the contrast between the house party and the raucous carousing of later in the night. Despite the aura of disquiet, I went to sleep with optimism and enthusiasm for 2008, and awoke refreshed and renewed.

Those positive feelings were reinforced throughout the day, so check back to read about my harmonious start to the new year.


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