Updated: February 4, 2014 6:22AM
I came to work Thursday. Yes, yes, I know, it’s the nostalgic newsman in me. I figured, you’ve got a job, you go, physically go to work, transporting your body to your place of employment. Old school. That I was making some kind of error in judgment only occurred to me at the Northbrook train station, which looked like a crowd scene from some unwritten Kafka short story: “The Train Station at Murmansk” or some such thing. Dark figures wrapped in thick coats and scarves, leaning into a blinding storm.
The train was a half hour late. I got a seat, which wasn’t true for everybody. I tried to catch the eye of the lady standing next to me, ready to gallantly ask, “Madam, would you like a seat?” Then I realized that she was a decade younger than me, and, anyway, she never tore her eyes away from her cellphone, certainly not to glance in the direction of someone literally and figuratively below her. So I focused on my Sun-Times, occasionally gazing with mixed emotions at the diamond ring and assorted sub rings on her finger wrapped around the chrome handhold. The rings cost $25,000 if they cost a dime. Standing might be good for her.
The less said about the trudge to the office the better. Soon I was thawing out on the 10th floor, getting my morning coffee, finding myself standing in front of a window with a co-worker. Both of us lost in thought until I spoke what was clearly on our minds.
“Does snow ‘hurtle’?” I wondered aloud. “I’m trying to find the right verb to describe what I’m looking at. ‘Race?’ ‘Plummet?’ It looks like one of those bad 1940s Christmas movies where the stagehands are shaking big boxes of laundry detergent just above the view of the camera.”
He nodded. Snow snow snow snow . . .
OK, enough of that.
Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? I do. I’m going to write about politics more. Looking back at the past year, I realized I stopped talking about Barack Obama, or commenting on the mayor, or the governor, and generally avoided everything involved with the vast creaking, clanking artifice of government. Why? I think it was simple revulsion. You’ve got the continual Punch & Judy show of party politics, with Punch Republican and Judy Democrat holding their little bats between their splayed, immobile hands and having at each other — “bap bap bap bap, bop bop bop bop.” You’ve got career politicians, monsters of mendacity, who only say an honest word accidentally. Not looking is too easy. Must . . . force . . . myself.
What changed? Honestly, it was Natasha Korecki and Rosalind Rossi’s article a few days ago on Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, he of the deep pockets, and the latest of what will be a blizzard of campaign advertising that makes our New Year’s snowfall look like a slight dusting.
“There’s no excuse for failing schools. Zero. None. Period.” Rauner says. Stop right there; “excuse” is the key word, one of those freighted buzzwords, like “agenda,” that Republicans love to trot out to pretend the matter they’re discussing is settled. If you substitute “reason” — “there’s no reason for failing schools” — you start to grasp the lack of empathy that Rauner is bringing to the table. Of course there are reasons, plenty of ’em — from shattered families, poverty, crime, you name it. Schools feed all our social problems — and reflect them.
But the sentence that got me rising to my feet with a late middle-age groan was when Rauner, asked about his pulling strings to grease his daughter into Walter Payton College Prep after she failed to get in on her own: “It’s just minor stuff. It doesn’t matter.”
Well . . . yessir, Mr. Rauner sir. I guess that sets it straight. I should probably say here that I have a personal bias against Bruce Rauner, having met him on two occasions last year. Both times I tried to talk to him. Both times I found myself tossed into the same bin with his pressuring principals to give his daughter a spot earned by someone else: I was just minor stuff; I didn’t matter.
You can’t buy a personality, I thought (“You mean being an . . . ” insert a seldom-seen body location here “doesn’t count as a personality?” a colleague asked. Point taken).
Reading that story gave me a glimmer of hope, that Gov. Pat Quinn, with his sensible, off-the-rack suits and his weary look of dolor, is not necessarily doomed when he goes up against Rauner’s money machine. The thinly disguised contempt of rich people is like spit: it only takes a little to spoil the soup. As god-awful stupid as people are, in Illinois as everywhere, they might not be quite so stupid as to lap up the blizzard of paid BS Rauner is about to unleash upon us all. Which is an epiphany worth schlepping into work in a snowstorm to experience.