My friend called saying it was an outrage. He said they were bad-mouthing me in the Tribune's "Inc." column.
Here's what they said. It came under the headline of Truly a Trooper: "When American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today took over elevators Wednesday in the Thompson Center, one state trooper was a real hero. He stopped a protester from tossing a large cup of urine over the 16th-floor rail."
That was me and my urine they were misrepresenting, my friend reminded me. He said I should call the editor and complain. I know lots of people read "Inc." But how many actually believe what they read? Should we worry about three or four chimpanzees? Maybe I should be flattered that my bodily waste warranted two whole sentences. Right up there with Bernie Taupin's birthday and a trained chicken.
But I couldn't believe they thought we'd be politically stupid enough to use tactics like that. When it comes to convincing others of your righteousness, golden showers are right up there with flag burning.
Don't get me wrong. I don't completely disavow taking a leak as a means of political expression--in the proper time and place. There was that time in Dixon, when my friend Bill went so far as to pee in a Mountain Dew can just so he could dump it on the lawn of Ronald Reagan's boyhood home. Granted, it was subtle, but it was satisfying.
So I won't sit up here and act like Gandhi and say this is never the appropriate response. But why do it on pedestrians in the Loop? Those people are innocent.
What really happened was about 40 of us staged a protest outside the offices of Governor Edgar and Pate Philip. They're on the 16th floor of the state office building, newly renamed for their crony Jim Thompson. The Republicans had killed in committee a bill designed to improve the program through which people with disabilities receive assistance in their homes. We've had these sieges before, like the one last May when 300 or so of us (many from out of town) blocked off every elevator and escalator in the building. Since then an extra set of security doors has been erected on the 16th floor, which we took as a personal compliment. After about half a hour of blocking the new doors, and shouting and chanting, someone decided to up the ante by taking one of the six elevators hostage by parking her chair in the door. Within minutes we had captured three more.
We know one of the cops' favorite strategies is to wait us out, turning the standoff into one between us and our bladders by refusing to let us use the bathrooms. They're always willing to let us use the bathrooms on the second floor, but then they won't let us back up.
So this time we brought plenty of urinals. I used one under a jacket spread across my lap in a secluded corner of one of the elevators we had commandeered. It was the most discreet public elimination anyone could ever imagine.
Then we put the full container in a corner so the cops could empty it whenever they saw fit. They let it sit there for hours as a symbol of our resolve. Then it almost got knocked over, so one of them took it into the gubernatorial men's room and disposed of it.
And "Inc." reduced all that down to one fearless act of bravery on the part of a cop: large urinal snatched from crazed wheelchair terrorist.
I called "Inc." to see where they got this stuff. When I finally got through to Kathy O'Malley, she told me Dorothy Collin wrote that particular blurb. I never could get through to Collin. My friend did though, and Collin offered the following ironclad journalistic defense: "Well, that's what we heard."