I managed to survive the long days thanks to 20 minutes of morning meditation and a nightly Ambien sleeping pill. I certainly couldn’t count on vacations for time to unwind. In late August 2003, I was at the Shore, watching the news, when I saw the face of my assistant managing director all over the tube. It was during Mayor Street’s reelection campaign against Sam Katz, and the assistant managing director got into a fight in North Philadelphia in front of a Katz campaign office. The press tracked me down and hounded me for a comment. So much for that vacation.
A year later, again at the Shore, I received a phone call from the City Hall operator. Two firefighters had been seriously hurt in a fire in Kensington ignited by an illegal marijuana-growing operation. I rushed back to the city, only to learn that Captain John Taylor and firefighter Rey Rubio had died. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time I sped to a hospital to join the Mayor and the police commissioner or fire commissioner, who would brief the press and console the family of the officer or firefighter.
My most unusual trip came after I received a call alerting me that an injured policeman had been taken to Temple University Hospital. I started flying down City Avenue with my lights and siren on. I knew I was going too fast, and when I saw a police car parked on the berm, I pulled alongside it and told the officer I was the managing director and was headed to Temple, to see an injured cop.
“Officer, could you give me an escort, please?” I asked.
“Sir, I don’t know how to get there,” she responded. “So I’ll follow you.”
By this time, nothing surprised me in the job, though that one had me muttering to myself as I raced down City Avenue, escorting the cop who was following me.