When I took over this column, I vowed to make “good” things like reading books appear harmful, while portraying “bad” things, like worldwide economic collapse as beneficial. 

Let’s take “Obamacare” for example. As a guy who watches Fox News every morning, I was convinced this huge government program was destroying our American way of life. Even the stray Democratic spokesperson they interviewed had difficulty defending it. 

Filled with apprehension about the Affordable Care Act, I watched my wife navigate the system to get coverage for me and our 19 year-old son. It took her an hour. Our monthly premium dropped from $800 to $350. We got the hospital and doctor we wanted. 

The CTA is another government institution that suffers public scorn. When they aren’t letting a runaway train crash into an occupied one, they’re motoring up the escalator at O’Hare. Forest Parkers, like me, are disgusted by the deteriorating Des Plaines terminal and frustrated by slow zones on the Blue Line.

Last week, I was taking the Blue Line to my school. We were observing April as “National Poetry Month” by studying e.e. cummings, Carl Sandburg and a poem by an obscure columnist from Forest Park. Needing props to explain the poem, I purchased a large assortment of Ferrara Pan candy and a Clincher softball.

I got off the “L” at LaSalle and ascended the escalator. As I reached the top, I felt the cold realization that I had left my grocery bag of goodies on the train. In a panic, I approached the woman in the ticket booth. When I told her I had left a grocery bag on the train, she was not impressed. “It’s a bag,” she said, “Not a lost child.” 

I pleaded with her to have the train drop the bag at a station in the Loop so I could retrieve it. She called the dispatcher and learned that my train had already left the Loop. Then something amazing happened. The woman driving my train reported that she had found my bag. She volunteered to transfer it to a westbound train to bring it back to LaSalle.

The woman from the ticket booth – my new friend Stephanie, – escorted me to the platform. She told me the woman operating my train cared a great deal about returning lost possessions to riders. The train pulled in and the motorman handed me my bag. I was so grateful. I not only had my lesson plan intact, I had a miraculous tale to tell my students. As they savored the candy and tossed the softball, they told me this would never have happened in Europe.

When I shared this story with others, I heard many sad tales. One told me about watching a beloved sweater trundle off into the tunnel. Others were amazed by the caring attitude of the CTA. One commented, “Even Barack Obama couldn’t get that done.”

Hearing of my good fortune, a friend urged me to immediately buy lottery tickets. I had once believed the Lottery was a “good” thing until I bought my first ticket and didn’t win. But encouraged by the Affordable Care Act and the CTA, I doubled down. Only one matching number came up! Two bucks down the drain. I just can’t catch a break.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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