I once knew a German professional photographer (let’s call him Georg) who, along with a fellow German photographer (“Klaus”), decided to do one of those photo safaris — driving from Cairo to Cape Town, snapping pics along the way — that sounds so good back in Hamburg, but is completely foolish in reality. Anyway, driving a mil-surp G-Wagen (not a bad choice, BTW), they set off and made it through Egypt without incident. At the border, they had to get a “passing through” visa to get across the Sudan, which essentially allowed them to be in the country for three days. When they got to Sudan’s southern border, however, the sole guard at the border post (just a hut) wouldn’t let them leave the country because they had the “wrong visa” — and they’d have to drive back to Khartoum (a two-day drive) to get the right one. When Georg pointed out that their existing visa would expire en route and they would, in essence, be in the country illegally and imprisoned if caught, the guard just shrugged. Not his problem.
I told you that story so I could tell you this one. Last week, faced with a looming legal deadline, I had to fly up to Chicago to get a legal document out of the Cook County Court archives. (Why I was unable to access the document online, or even manage to talk to someone in the County Clerk’s office to send me the document is a story all by itself.) Anyway, after having had my 5am flight canceled (thank you, American), I made the 7am flight only by dint of paying the full fare (don’t ask) and arrived at the Cook County courthouse (2nd District in Skokie) at about 11am, with all the data needed for the request on my trusty laptop..
Of course, there’s TSA-type security at all these places these days, which is where I had a Sudan-type encounter of my own. Reason? No laptops allowed in the courthouse by members of the public. I know, it’s inexplicable but hey, Cook County. I looked around for any storage lockers: none.
“So where can I store my laptop?”
“You’ll just have to take it back to your car.”
“I don’t have a car; I just flew in from Dallas. So what can I do?”
Like the Sudanese border guard, the fucking security guard just shrugged. “Not my problem.”
At this juncture, I should point out that every single glass window and door at the courthouse has one of those idiotic little “No Handgun” stickers displayed.
I’m not saying that I would have shot someone — in fact, I absolutely would not have, even if I’d been able to bring the 1911 with me — but let me tell you, after a day which had begun at 3am, experienced a canceled flight and a massive fare surcharge along with all the other hassles of modern-day travel (full flight, idiots with too-large bags, crowded train from the airport into the city etc.), only to be faced with indifferent bovine officialdom at the end of it, I can quite believe that some other guy might have dropped the hammer.
Which, by the way, is what Klaus did at the Sudanese border. He told the guard that he had the correct visa back in the car, fetched his gun instead and shot the guard dead. Then he and Georg got in their G-Wagen and raced off into Uganda. A real African tale, that one.
And now, the rest of my story. Read more