Updated: June 6, 2013 6:18AM
‘You have some really neat vibrations,” the fortune teller woman said, as she caressed my left hand. I thought “Wow.” Then she whispered “You should be a boss. You should lead people.”
This exciting news hit me decades ago in a booth at the Lake County Fair, where I was looking for a story to prove to my many superiors back at the paper in Gary that I was on the job. They never got the message, apparently, for I never got to do much leading.
The fortune teller urged me to get the “deluxe” reading “before I lose the vibrations.”
Well, I did not have $10, so she lost the vibrations. So did I, apparently. I figured they would show up again. They have not, and it is too late for me to become a boss, or a leader.
I recall it with a pinch of sadness and regret. Years ago, somebody wrote that “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost,” and other poetic “for want of” truisms. In my case it was “For want of 10 bucks, my path to a leadership career may have been forfeited.” Sad, isn’t it?
The encounter with the fortune teller is one of three memorable experiences that illuminated my exposure to county government. In those days, almost everything happened in the historic courthouse on the Crown Point square. But down the street near the jail that could not hold John Dillinger the criminal court place was a fascinating spot for me.
People accused of doing bad things faced the music there, in the hall of jurisprudence. Long speeches, delays, timeouts for rest stops, postponements, on and on, some cases went, unlike on TV, where trials take only an hour or less. One defendant, a lawyer, came prepared. If one of his delay motions was turned down, he pulled another one from his bulging briefcase.
I remember thinking that “this fellow has more motions than a hula dancer.”
But the most dramatic verdict in that historic room did not involve jurisprudence. One morning, a date that should live in infamy, custodians quietly and solemnly removed what I figured were vital, permanent, necessary fixtures from that great room — they took out the spittoons, AKA cuspidors. I never got an explanation, but it was a shock. Maybe I should have filed a motion.
I wrote a nifty little story and wanted the headline to include “Great Expectorations.” I tried like the Dickens, but I lost.
The third in this triad of exciting memories involved a gift. A county official parked near the courthouse, handed me a nicely wrapped package and said “Merry Christmas.” I went inside, heading for my basement “office,” and dropped the package.
The sound of broken glass told me it was not a Rolex. It was something liquid. I picked up the package and headed for the restroom, feeling leakage all over my shirt, leaving drops on the floor.
I dumped the broken present into a sink and heard the contents gurgling down the drain into oblivion. A sad moment. Then came some shuffling steps and the custodian opened the door.
He sniffed and said: “I saw those drops and thought they were blood.” He knew that I knew he was kidding.
“A damned shame,” he said, shaking his head. I wiped my eyes.
I cite these events to prove that reporters often work hard, facing dangers and surprises in their quest for justice and the truth. Events that illuminate our time.