Gun Violence on the Job

She worked for the city, and was grateful to have a job. She hadn’t worked for a while, and life was hard. You can’t pay bills when you have no money.

Her job: booting cars. Tracking down the cars who hadn’t paid parking tickets or speeding tickets to the city. Adding a yellow boot lock to the tire. Preventing the drivers who didn’t have enough money to pay the tickets from driving away until they did pay.

She knew her job wouldn’t make her popular. People don’t pay tickets when they don’t have the money to pay. Taking away the use of their car makes it even harder to get the money to pay. She knew she would be about as popular as the people who deliver subpoenas.

She didn’t think that the job would jeopardize her life.

She was booting a car on the street when an angry man approached her.”What the hell do you think you’re doing?!” he yelled. He pulled out a gun. He pulled the trigger. “It wasn’t even the guy who owned the car!” she said, in my clinic room two decades later. The guy with the gun was just angry that his own car had been booted, and took it out on the next person he saw on the street who represented the entire booting system.

Her hip absorbed his anger, expressed through a bullet. Twenty years later, after multiple surgeries (paid for by the state), she still walks with a limp and suffers from chronic pain.

Her poverty forced her to take a job that brought suffering onto others. And she suffered in turn at the hands of an irate passerby who expressed his frustration not with words or fists, but with a gun.

People dismiss gun violence on Chicago’s South Side as gang-on-gang violence fueled by drugs. If you’re good, people think, you won’t get involved. You deserve it when you’re shot.

Not true. She was working for a city system. She had no gang involvement. She did not deserve anything other than a fair paycheck. But there she was, a bullet in her hip that was shattered for a job she needed to pay her rent. And her own parking tickets.

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