Below is a guest post written by my son Drew about an experience he had a couple of years ago.
It was part of my weekly routine.
For just under two years, I had worked at Hinda Incentives, whose office was tucked into a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. Sure, weird things happened there from time to time. There were a couple of bullet holes in the side of the building. Younger kids often tried to get me to buy them beer while I walked to the train. Occasionally there was a guy high as a kite. Other than that, it really didn’t feel that dangerous during the day. All that “weird stuff” happened at night, well beyond closing time.
Around once a week I would walk to a Nicky’s, a hot dog stand around the corner from the office, for my chili dog special. Two chili dogs, a basket of fries and a Coke for $4.75. For a guy, living on a shoestring budget in Chicago, this was a treat. You couldn’t beat this deal, or the following heartburn. Worth it every time.
Recovering from a long trip
This particular afternoon, I was hungover from a looooong night of flying. I had landed in Chicago about 2:30 am the night before from interviewing for my eventual job at Engauge in Atlanta. Due to storms, both the ATL and my connecting CLT airport had closed and I had spent all night finding a way to get back to Chicago. After sprinting through airports, barely making onto planes before the gates closed and flying on two very turbulent flights, I was second guessing God’s plan for me to move to Atlanta.
If my trip home was this rough, did He really want me to move there? Would Atlanta be the right decision if I was offered a job or was God using the storm to tell me otherwise?
Anyway, it’s the next day and I’m falling asleep at my desk. Lunchtime comes around and since I obviously didn’t pack lunch on three hours of sleep, I thought a stroll to Nicky’s would be a good way to wake up and reward a hard night. I earned a few chili dogs dangit. I even contemplated splurging on an italian beef sandwich as I stumbled groggily down the street.
I noticed a couple of guys walking past me and thinking “they look too young to not be in school. Where are their parents? Why do I sound like already sound like an old man in my mind?” A car pulled up to the curb beside us and they hopped in. I kept on walking when I heard a loud CRASH. I turned around to see a Jeep had plowed into the side of their car, pushing it up on the sidewalk about 5 feet behind me.
That woke me up.
I turned around and began to walk back towards the car, hoping the folks inside were okay. Then I noticed that the Jeep wasn’t letting up on his brakes…the car was still moving and the guy behind the wheel of the Jeep looked angry. Not like a “I just got in a wreck” anger but “I’m going to kill these guys in the car” type of look. Recognizing that this wasn’t a situation I needed to be directly involved in, I quickly turned around and started to power walk to the convenience store up ahead to make a call. The Jeep eventually laid off its target and sped off in my direction.
POP POP POP POP POP!
I turned around and saw the guys from the other car already out on the curb with pistols in their hands, shooting at the Jeep. As the Jeep started down the street in my direction, making a turn towards me, I quickly realized that I was standing in between the guns and their intended target. So I did what any normal person would do.
I ran into a front yard and dove behind a set of concrete steps waiting for them to move on. In my mind I couldn’t wrap my head around what was going on – and the fact that it was all happening in broad daylight. The guys eventually ran right past me in pursuit of the Jeep. Once they passed me, I quickly sprinted the other direction back to the office.
Once I was almost at the office, I thought I heard yelling and noticed that the same guys with guns were coming out of the alley in my path. We literally almost collided into each other had I not ducked behind another parked car. I made it back to the office, called the cops and ate a bag of chips until my boss told me to go home.
I went home a little after 1pm and went straight to sleep. No debriefing with anyone. I went home to my little studio apartment, laid down and slept hard. I woke up and had a brief 10 minute chat with my dad about what happened because I knew he wouldn’t freak out. I wasn’t really freaked out as much as I was in a “did that really just happen?”phase. I couldn’t tell my fiancee Megan, my mom or any other family and friends because I didn’t want that story to get out and get people worried. I think I spent the rest of the night eating frozen pizza and watching Arrested Development alone in my apartment.
The Next Day
I drove to work the next day…not taking my usual El train/walk commute. With good reason, still a bit shell shocked. That afternoon, I was still craving a hot dog so my co-worker Adam and I walked together to Nicky’s. When we got to where the events happened the day before, I told him where I was, where the (assumed) gang members got hit and were shooting. He said “hey, let’s see if we can find any shells,” still skeptical of my story. We went to the grassy spot and there they were: shells and live 9mm rounds.
I picked up a bullet, stuck it in my pocket and kept it with me ever since. When I eventually told Megan in person several weeks later, I don’t think she believed me until I pulled the bullet out of my wallet. Even mom was a little shocked until I told her and provided my 9mm evidence.
Oh yeah…also that next day? I was offered a job at Engauge. Accepted it on the spot. When the recruiter Dave asked if I needed a day to think about it, I replied “Dave, here’s what happened yesterday…” I’m pretty sure God gave me his answer on moving to Atlanta. That story also gave me a bit of a reputation going into my first day at work, since that story had been told by several folks in the agency prior to my arrival.
The bullet? I still keep it on my desk. Why? I know, no matter what kind of day I’m having at work…no matter how bad it may be…it could always be worse.
How about that for perspective?
April’s son Drew is the Director of Digital and Social Media at The DeMoss Group, the largest faith-based PR agency in the nation. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Megan and their dog Theo.