Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"I Fought the Law and the Law Won"

Or did it??  Decide for yourself:

Many, many years ago back in Chicago, when I first went to work in a hospital, times were different.  Hospitals had much more structured and rigid rules back then, especially regarding patient visitors.  In order to enforce the rules and keep the patients and staff in line, the Security Department was made up mostly of older Irish gentlemen who were retired Chicago Police Officers.  Retired or not, in their hearts, they would always be policemen.  And they acted like it!

The chief of Security at St. Joseph Hospital was named Mr. McCarthy and he was an Irish cop all the way down to his toes!   You didn't mess with McCarthy or his men.  They were alumnae of "Chicago's Finest" and they were in charge!  (Well, of course, the only thing they were really in charge of was letting people in and out of the building and keeping the peace when a patient or family member had a meltdown.)  The Hospital was never a hotbed of crime or mayhem, so the old timers really didn't have all that much to do.  But give them a "situation" and they reverted to 100% hard-nosed cops, at least some of them, and especially Mr. McCarthy!!

Now this was in 1967 or 68 and the world had already begun to change out of all recognition.  Haight-Ashbury in S.F. was drawing in kids by the carload.  Long hair on guys was the norm.  Music and politics and lifestyles were changing more each day.  People like Mr. McCarthy didn't like it, didn't understand it, and wouldn't accept it.  So they did their very best to ignore it and maintain the status quo.  It was a difficult time for these older folks and they weren't adjusting at all well.

Now I must digress for a bit and explain.  The Secruity Office was right at the hospital entrance from the parking lot, so they were able to screen visitors before they ever entered the building.  It was also the entrance where the Big Guy would pick me up after work every day.  (We only had one car at the time.)  There were some seats just inside the entrance where I could sit and read or watch the comings and goings while I waited.

There was a particular day that I will never forget.  It was a very hot summer day in Chicago and I was sitting in my usual spot.  As I watched a man and a woman (probably his mother or an older aunt) came up the walk.  The woman had on a nice summer dress and looked just fine.  The young man, on the other hand, was about 23, he had hair to his shoulders and a not-too scraggly-looking beard.   He was dressed in cut-offs (not particularly short but above the knees), sandals, and a sleeveless, scoop-necked multi-colored t-shirt.  His hairy arms, upper chest and back were bare and visible to the world.  He looked clean, cool, and comfortable.

Mr. McCarthy didn't like that at all.  He refused to let the young man enter the hospital.  He stated that only people dressed decently were allowed entry, sort of an extension of the "No shoes, no shirt, no service" mind-set.  McCarthy said that he wasn't decently covered!  Well, as you might expect, the young man began to argue, insisting that he was wearing a shirt.  Not as far as McCarthy was concerned.  Nope!

The woman very calmly joined the argument, insisting that they be allowed entry.  Mr. McCarthy had no problem with the woman entering, but the young man could not enter unless he was decently clothed.  McCarthy wasn't crazy about the shorts, but he would not tolerate the "shirt".  The discussion went back and forth for a bit, and tempers began to rise....nothing out of hand, but they were all getting a little red in the face, and the voices were getting louder.  After about 10 minutes or so of arguing, McCarthy finally prevailed and the young man and the woman gave up and turned around and went back to their car.

I was sitting there watching the whole thing.  I, of course, felt McCarthy was over-reacting and while I didn't say anything, I thought the whole thing was ridiculous.  The man had on a shirt and pants....different from McCarthy's idea of decent and covered....still there was nothing indecent or shocking about them at all.  I sat there mentally shaking my head and thinking that McCarthy was a fool and too impressed with himself by far.

The young man "fought the 'law' and the law won!"  McCarthy triumphed and, truth be told, I could see him gloating with his staff in his glassed-in office.  Never mess around with a cop!!

I went back to reading my book.

Ten minutes later, I could see the young man and the woman were returning to the entrance.  McCarthy saw them too and came back out of the office.  I wish I had had a camera then, because I am never going to be able to do justice to the "adjustment" the young man had made. 

He still had on his shorts, sandals, and sleeveless shirt.  However, over the top of the outfit he was now wearing what was obviously a woman's sheer, frilly, negligee in a lovely shade of baby blue!!  Really!! The robe was clearly too small.  The sleeves only went as far as his elbows, it was straining at the shoulder seams, he couldn't close the front of the robe, and it ended at his knees.  There were ruffles around the neck, all down the front, and around the sleeves, and the material was completely sheer and see-through.  His shorts and shirt were totally visible.  Actually,  the negligee was very pretty, but that didn't keep it from being ridiculous and hysterically funny!! 

As they came up to McCarthy, the young man held out his arms and said, "Better?"  McCarthy just nodded and let them enter.  I don't think he could speak.  The letter of the law had been observed, but the young man was a LOT more conspicuous and outrageous than he ever would have been had McCarthy not drawn the line in the sand.  I was laughing out loud, I couldn't help it.  The man and woman went on to visit whomever they were there to see.  McCarthy went back to his office scowling. And I just sat there and laughed and laughed.

Poor McCarthy, he was basically a nice man, but he never learned to choose his battles!

"I Fought the Law and the Law Won."  Not quite!! 


  1. So funny! Good for that young man! I definitely think the young man won and probably sent McCarthy's blood pressure through the roof. laurie

  2. What a FANTASTIC story!!! I am cracking up!! I wonder what that young man went on to become.... I imagine he's a famous costume designer on Broadway or something...

  3. Ha ha ha!!! Sounds like a scene from a movie! I wish you had a photo to share!

  4. What a GREAT story... you made me laugh out loud. Thank you for the laugh.

  5. What a funny story...who knew years later it would make for a great blog post. :)

  6. Hospital security people do sometimes get out of control! i REMEMBER IN THE "old days" at our St. Joseph Hospital in Tucson there was a very strict dress code - no shorts, no sleeveless tops, and woman could NOT enter the hospital in any type of pants. Must wear a dress! Pretty amazing.


Thanks so much for leaving a comment. It's really nice knowing what you think!! Besides, comments keep me from feeling like I'm here all by myself!! :)

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