Around this time last year, I had the “pleasure” of running into former White House Chief of Staff and current Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel.
The time: After school in 2011, some months before Rahm was elected mayor.
The where: Top of the stairs at Jackson Red Line Station in Chicago.
The wear: Wearing a bright red coat with a silly hairband, skipping along with my classmate Emily to go home.
Having finished a hard day of reporting for Northwestern’s dedicate wire service, Emily and I had just entered Jackson Street station, anticipating that train ride home and, finally, the comfort of home. With high hopes of quality R&R for the evening, I eagerly punched my CTA transit card into the payment slot and stepped through the entrance gate without a hitch.
“Ack!” I heard Emily screech. I turned back around to see Emily struggling with her transit card, her path blocked by those foreboding gate barriers. I walked over to the stairs to wait for her to get her card working so she could join me there, vaguely aware of a man walking up to me with his hand outstretched insistently.
I thought it was a train station attendant.
Well, it wasn’t my card that wasn’t working, I thought to myself. I stared at his hand absently as I hesitated, wondering dumbly what to do. Then I stuck my hand in my pocket, feeling around for my transit card. I had just wrapped my fingers around the plastic and was about to proffer it to who I thought was a train station attendant when I hear a charismatic voice begin to speak.
“Yes, those over there are the stairs, and I’m Rahm Emanuel.”
My head snapped up, and I looked at my speaker. My eyes grew wide, and my left hand flew up to cover my mouth of its own accord, barely muffling the loud gasp I emitted from shock. Rahm gave me a strange look. Then, when I still wasn’t offering my other hand out to be shaken, grabbed my hand anyway and shook it for me. I stared on speechless as he stepped up to Emily, who had since gotten through the ticket gate and was now trying everything in her power to contain her laughter — unsuccessfully.
“Hi, I’m Rahm Emanuel. You’ll vote me for mayor, right?” Rahm said, shaking her eagerly offered hand.
“I’m from California, but I’ll tell my friends,” she said, still laughing.
Then, without ado, Rahm walked out the gate and exited the station and our lives.
I turned to Emily, still wide-eyed from shock. “He thinks I’m a retard,” I said.
Emily was still heaving from laughter. “You were just staring at his hand!” she cackled. If you didn’t know, Rahm is missing half of the middle finger on his right hand due to an unfortunate incident with a meat slicer, following which he immediately went swimming in Lake Michigan. The finger was partially amputated due to the ensuing infection.
I seriously considered chasing after Rahm and reintroducing myself as an intelligent, collected student of journalism at Northwestern University. Instead, I buried my face in my hands.
“I’M SUCH A RETARD,” I wailed.