There were two WGN news vans on Chicago and an ABC 7 around the corner on Wabash. A newscaster gave the practiced “I’m listening but reserve the right to be suspicious” face to the nervous executive-type looking down the business end of a microphone and TV camera.
“Chicken sandwiches,” a man behind me said. “How can the media care more about chicken sandwiches than people?”
He wasn’t talking to me, but to a woman standing next to him. She was a late middle-aged woman who kept wiping and rewiping her sunglasses while saying “Mmm hmm” or “I heard that” to the man’s diatribe.
The man was short, with short dreadlocks sticking out from a flat-brimmed baseball cap. He wore a long, brown, embroidered shirt and long, brown shorts of the same shade. As he talked, he kept his hands chest high and gestured with them, twisting and turning as if he were conducting an invisible orchestra with the short roach of a cigarette he kept clutched in his left.
The back story to this is that the conservative Christian head of conservative Christian fast-food chicken chain Chick-fil-A said something conservative and Christian, that being that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry. (And read Romans 1:27 and Corinthians 6:9-10 before you start telling me Christianity isn’t anti-gay.)
This being Chicago, where the only thing politicians like more than hiring somebody’s brother is hopping on bandwagons, both the mayor and an alderman have come out against the restaurant with loud speeches and threats I predict will go nowhere.
But the voters will like it. And the news loved getting another day out of chicken sandwiches.
“I heard the other day about a madame who got her kid taken from her and they gave it back. How do you give a child back to a madame, selling her body?” the man said behind me. “But they doing a story on chicken sandwiches.”
“Mmm hmm,” the woman said, wiping the left lens again.
By now, the cameraman had noticed us and was watching the crowd of three. He gave a curiously angered glare I later realized meant the mic was picking us up.
“My wife smothered my son,” the man conducting an invisible orchestra said.
I turned. He was talking to me.
“She had postpartum depression,” he said. “She took a pillow and tried to smother our son. They told her, ‘You hurt a child again, you’re going away,’ and they let her go. No punishment, no counseling. They just let her go.”
The man was looking me dead in the eye, wordlessly prompting me to finish his thought.
“And they’re doing a story on chicken sandwiches,” I said.
He nodded and took a drag off his smoke.