Good Luck . . .

I was sworn into the Chicago Police Department on Valentine’s Day 1983. Over the next few years, I attended the training academy for six months and then worked in the 19th District (Belmont and Western). I learned the paperwork and procedures. I gathered experience on the street but nowhere near the experience, I would soon gather in my next posting.

In October 1985 I was transferred to the 15th District (Austin). The department decided to create training districts. The 19th district became one of those and to make room for the incoming field training officers all of us with less than three years on the job were transferred out. We went to either the 11th District (Filmore) or 15 like I did.

My partner, Mike, and I were transferred to the same watch and were even put on the same day off group. We experienced a new world and worked it out by ourselves for the most part.

The CPD required that each officer carry two black ink pens while working. I was assigned to the afternoon watch at first so the morning of my first day, I went shopping. At Walgreens, I purchased two Papermate pens.

They weren’t the cheap throw away type but had replaceable cartridges. The upper part was a dark green and the lower a clear sleeve over a steel tube. That afternoon when I went to work, they were in my shirt pocket.

I carried them every day, but it wasn’t long before I lost one. They were inexpensive, so I replaced the lost one with the same type but a different color. The green one became the one I used. The other became the one I handed out to citizens when I need them to sign something. I never handed out the green pen.

I liked the feel of the pen. We had to print everything by hand from parking tickets to case reports, so you used the pen all day long. I took to buying refills and keeping them handy in my locker at work.

Over the years the clear barrel of the pen yellowed and the green darkened even more. I wrote parking tickets by the hundreds, traffic violations, and homicide case reports. The pen was certainly mightier than the sword.

I got to the point where the green pen became my good luck talisman. I couldn’t go to work without it in my shirt pocket.

good luck

This pen became my talisman. (Courtesy Robert Weisskopf)

One fall day while assigned as a one-man car I left my pen at a home where I had taken a case report. It was the end of the day and I didn’t notice I had left the pen until I went to empty my pockets at my locker. The next morning, straight out of roll call, I went back to the home where I had taken the report and got the pen back.

I’m an educated man. I studied biology, chemistry, and physics in college. I knew it was silly, I knew there was no reason for my superstition, but I also knew deep down that I needed that pen to stay alive in the Austin District. Furthermore, I never told anyone, even though my partner probably noticed. I knew that, as long as I was in this district, I needed that green Papermate pen in my pocket to stay alive. Sure, I knew that if I lost it, I would still survive but deep down I knew I needed that pen.


(Courtesy Robert Weisskopf)

At the end of March 1990, I was in a squad-car accident. We were broadsided in an intersection and flipped. (That’s my squad in the photo).

The girl who struck us was driving a Dodge Omni. She shattered her femur. My partner was knocked out cold. I suffered a ruptured spleen, broken ribs, and a dislocated left shoulder. Even though I was bleeding internally and almost died, I was able to walk to the ambulance. In the E/R I made sure my pen went with my wallet for safekeeping. Remember I kept the pen for good luck to keep me alive. It didn’t have to keep me unharmed.

At the end of eight years in the Austin district, I transferred out. I retired the pen that day. It went into my dresser drawer for safekeeping. I made it out alive and the pen deserved its retirement.

Over the eight years in that district, I had been attacked, shot at, weathered bitter cold and blistering heat waves. That pen was in my pocket the entire time, bringing me good luck.

Have you ever had a talisman like this? I knew a lot of Vietnam vets who carried a Zippo lighter they got on leave and wouldn’t leave it at home. Perhaps it was a wristwatch or ring, or even a photo from another time and place that you wouldn’t work without. I know I can’t be the only crazy one out there. Share your good luck charm with us.

Stay safe everyone. Run low and zigzag,

– Robert Weisskopf (Lt. ret.)