Lawyers I’ve Known

No. 5: The story of SmartCar Carl

By Dave Grossi  |   Jun 25, 2015

You’ll notice that I said most lawyers live large. But not all. Some live small–real small.

One of my more recent cases brought me to Chicago. I know Chicago. I like Chicago. In the early days, Calibre Press was based there. And I had been there many times. I had to fly into O’Hare International Airport, which in case you don’t know is one of the busiest and biggest airports (size wise) in the U.S. If you’ve ever been to O’Hare or have had to connect through O’Hare, you’ll know that it usually takes a few minutes to get from your arrival gate to Baggage Claim and then down to Passenger Pick-up.

The plan was for me to call the attorney upon my arrival, meet him outside of Baggage Claim and then drive to the scene of the incident, then over to his law office for a conference and some additional document review.

My flight arrived right on time and I was in the process of deplaning when my cell phone went off. I looked at the number and saw it was my client, Carl. Figuring he was calling to tell me he was going to be a little late, I answered it before I actually exited the plane.

“Dave, are you here yet?”

“Yes, Carl. Just landed. Getting off the plane now.”

“OK, call me when you get to Baggage Claim. Tell me what door you’re at and I’ll drive up and get you.”

“Will do, Carl.” Needless to say, I was a little shocked when my phone vibrated again about 2 minutes later.

“Dave, where are you?”

“I’m waiting for the train, Carl. I came in at Terminal T. I have to get the train to Baggage Claim. I’ll be a few more minutes. I’ll call you when I’m at the door.”


Three minutes later, I’m on the train, which is speeding at a mind-bending clip of 12 mph, stopping at each terminal on its way to Baggage Claim when my cell phone vibrates again. “Yes, Carl.”

“Where are you?”

”Still on the train, Carl. It stops at every terminal. I’ll call you when I get outside the door.”

Now, I’m traveling light for this day trip. Just a small carry on bag. My laptop. A small chunk of the case file that I reviewed on the flight and some personal items in the event I have to stay over. The Baggage Claim pick up location was agreed on because it’s an easy place to pull up to and load passengers. But there’s no waiting. The airport police are pretty particular there at O’Hare and they will move you along if you’re parked too long waiting for someone to arrive. You have to be in the process of actually picking a passenger up to not get the “evil eye.” I figured Carl must be parked and getting the “hairy eyeball” from one of the CPD airport guys.

After several minutes, I’m finally off the train, making my way down to Baggage Claim when–yup, you guessed it–my phone buzzes for a fourth time. “Carl, I’ll be outside door No. 6 in about one minute. I’m wearing a black leather jacket and gray slacks. What kind of car do you have? I’ll be right out.”

“I’m in a silver SmartCar.”

“I’m sorry; what was that?”

“A silver SmartCar.”

Some lawyers are real jokesters. But Carl wasn’t kidding. He pulled up in the smallest car I’ve ever seen. I mean this “Clown Car” would qualify for the Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey museum. A Mini Cooper is a limo compared to this tiny fiberglass Big Wheel.

I threw my bag into the back, which wasn’t an easy task since the back storage area behind the front seat is made for a thin, and I mean a real thin, briefcase. Then I got into the passenger seat. And for the next 90 minutes we drove all over suburban Chicago. My legs were around my ears, my manly parts tucked under my butt, and Carl was getting way too friendly when he would reach over to adjust the car’s heater controls on the front of the dashboard, which was touching my knees.

The site inspection was over, the meeting finally concluded, and now it was time for Carl to take me back to the airport to catch my late afternoon flight home.

“You ready, Dave? I’ll take you back.”

“You know what, Carl? I think I’ll just cab it. Thanks.”

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Dave Grossi
Dave Grossi is a retired police lieutenant from upstate NY now residing in southwest FL. He was the Lead Instructor for the Calibre Press, Inc. Street Survival Seminars from 1988 through 2000.