Charlie Idol does the right thing

July 12, 2011|Kate Coleman

I've never seen Spike Lee's 1989 film "Do the Right Thing."

The Oscar nominated motion picture is on my long list of I'll-get-to-it-one-of-these-days intendeds; meanwhile, I'll borrow the title.

My young friend Charles Idol recently did the right thing — and then some.

I've known Charlie for more than 24 years — since he and my son, Will, were in Ina LaGrutta's afternoon kindergarten class at St. Mary's Elementary School.

When my kids and I moved to Hagerstown from Keedysville in 1992, we became three-houses-away-on-the-same-side of-the-street neighbors of the Idols. Charlie's parents, Chuck and Lisa, became my good friends.

Throughout their four years of high school together, the boys grew closer, too.

Lisa and I were charter members of the "Mom Squad" — the network of mothers (and fathers) who communicated to try to keep our boys out of adolescent mischief. They kept us busy, but there was no serious trouble.

Charlie left Hagerstown for Towson University, and since his graduation, he's worked in management for Clyde's Restaurant Group. For the past few years he's been based at Clyde's of Gallery Place in the heart of Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown. I've not been there when Charles is in charge, but I can picture him comfortably handling the big-city bustle of the elegantly appointed establishment.

In the early morning hours of Friday, May 27, Charlie took charge of a situation and went way above and beyond his professional duties.

Six Chicagoans — five who have disabilities, three who use wheelchairs — were in the nation's capital, attending a National Paratransit Memorial Rally. They'd dined at Clyde's Thursday night. The taxi company — with which they had prearranged accessible transportation — didn't come to pick them up and return them to their hotel.

So began, at 12:30 Friday morning, the nightmare of being far from home and unable to get to where they needed to go — in the very city to which they had come to advocate for access for people with disabilities.

Activist Ayo Maat was among them. Maat, president of the nonprofit organization IMPRUVE (Independent Movement of Paratransit Riders for Unity, Vehicles, Equality), called Charlie "an angel who saved the lives of six persons from Chicago" in a note on her Facebook page.

I've known Charlie as more of a good-hearted rascal, but I do believe the boy is sprouting wings.

Maat wrote that she and Charlie — she on her phone, he on his — tried for more than two-and-a-half hours to find alternative accessible transportation. They called emergency services, the mayor's office and numerous cab companies without results. "Even though the restaurant closed at 2 a.m., he did not even think about putting us out," she wrote.

What Charlie did think of was getting the three people in wheelchairs accessible rooms at a hotel across the street and personally escorting them there. The all-night ordeal had a happy ending.

Maat planned to contact the mayor's office, Congress and the White House. Charles Idol deserves the "highest citizen award," she wrote.

I'll settle for knowing he came through.

You done good, Charlie.

Kate Coleman covers The Maryland Symphony and writes a monthly column for The Herald-Mail.

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