Is skipping illegal? The truth and nothing but the truth about Evanston laws

    I’ve done a bad, bad thing.

    No, I didn’t forget to call home on Mother’s Day. And no, I didn’t steal silverware from the dining hall — not recently, anyway. I’ve been skipping to my little heart’s content up and down Sheridan Road. That’s right. Skipping. Cuff me.

    It was one roguish night during New Student Week (cue the nostalgic music — Lil Jon, perhaps?) when a temporary dear friend told me, while walking on Chicago Avenue, that skipping was illegal in Evanston. So, apparently, was bowling. And trick-or-treating. And just fun in general.

    Maybe I was so willing to believe that these seemingly bizarre laws were, in fact, actual laws because I was young and impressionable (now, I’ve been here for eight months, and I’ve got gray hairs like nobody’s business). These alleged laws are a part of campus culture: Everyone knows about them, and everyone believes them. But are they actual laws? I ravaged the Evanston city code and interviewed a man with a gun to find out.

    To skip, or not to skip? Is that even a question?

    Let’s start with my NSW roots: Is skipping illegal in Evanston?

    “I’ve heard that there’s no skipping or bowling,” McCormick sophomore Eric Chang said. “I think they’re true — I mean, a lot of people say they are.”

    The rumor is that skipping is illegal because it’s a sign of public drunkenness. This has inspired many a drunken night of skipping sloppily down frat row in an unlawful act of pure badassery. Breaking the law never felt so … idiotic.

    To clear up the confusion, I consulted Evanston Police Department Deputy Chief Joe Bellino at the station on Elmwood Avenue.

    “I don’t think we see any terminology within the current ordinance book to perpetuate that,” he said. “I think staggering would be more of a sign of public drunkenness than skipping.”

    Take a breath, kids, scratch your heads and wonder, then, how the hell these rumors get started — and why you believe them.

    “I think it kind of parallels urban legends, where a story is repeated time and time again and just all of a sudden becomes accepted as a fact regardless of how bizarre it sounds,” Bellino said.

    Chang was less sympathetic.

    “I guess maybe these students who make them up are freshmen trying to sound intelligent, like they know Evanston,” he said.

    But wait: It is possible that at one time, skipping may have been in the books with illicit crimes like jaywalking and disturbing the peace.

    “If you hearken back years and years and years ago when perhaps there were such ordinances [in communities founded on religious establishment], maybe they had some of these laws,” Bellino said. “A lot of times ordinance books don’t get updated and things aren’t purged out in a timely fashion. But I’m not saying that that’s the case in Evanston.”

    Regardless, you won’t get arrested for skipping up a storm at CVS. My friends and I will have to find a new way to express our pure Grade-A delinquency around campus. Looks like it’s time to steal a few forks.


    The next time I was told of a so-called Evanston law, I had been at school for a little over a month. I was practically a veteran. Purple hearts all around.

    It was Halloween, and while I was trying to decide if I would be a Slutty Teacher or a Slutty Nurse or a Slutty Cowgirl, someone joked about having to go to the next town over to get our trick or treat on. There is only so much a girl in a twelve-inch skirt will do for candy, so naturally my passions were inflamed by this claim. But is it true?

    Yes and no, but mostly no.

    “We acknowledge every year for Halloween what the official trick-or-treat hours are, which we do in an effort to ensure the safety of the youngsters that are out and about on the street,” Bellino said. “We try to present to the community hours when they can expect kids and such to be out. So we do allow trick or treating.”

    Just don’t expect to make this an all-night extravaganza.

    “It’s unacceptable to be knocking at the door at midnight,” Bellino said. “Once it gets to the point that it could harm or disturb someone.”

    So trick or treating is allowed, and actually encouraged between the hours of 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Halloween. Strap on the Slutty Nerd costumes; we’re hitting the rich neighborhoods.

    Bowling: Legalize it?

    I love bowling (but not as much as I love prospies). Not only do I love bowling, I love bumpers. Playing with gutters is just asking for a prescription for Prozac.

    Imagine my shock and indignation when I discovered that, despite the 80 or so coffee houses in Evanston, the city lacks a bowling alley. How could we not have a bowling alley, yet find room for a zillion square feet of caffeine addiction? There must be a law against it, right? AM I RIGHT?

    Actually, not so much.

    “I believe years and years ago there was a bowling alley in town,” Bellino said. “I don’t know that to be a fact, but why there isn’t anymore, I think is not because of any ordinance prohibiting it. It’s whether or not there’s an entrepreneur who wants to invest the time, money and risk.”

    Currently, the closest bowling alley is the Wilmette Bowling Center in — you guessed it — Wilmette. But I’ve been scoping out the town, and I noticed we have two Barnes & Noble locations. One’s shiny and new, and the other is wrapped like a present just waiting to be opened. I see no reason not to open the E-Town Bowl-a-Rama right there (like the name? I came up with it while skipping down frat row last night).

    So everything I’ve ever been told is a lie?



    Actually, the city code does make some interesting assertions.

    According to the Noise Ordinance, “Yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing on the public streets of the City, particularly between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m….” is prohibited. So keep the American Idol to yourself on your next 3 a.m. BK run.

    This particular ordinance also prohibits the “shouting and crying within the city of peddlers, hawkers and vendors which disturbs the peace and quiet of the neighborhood.”

    “The references have to be put in context of the time when it was written and the vernacular used at the time,” Bellino said. “We don’t see hawkers and peddlers or the fishmongers that used to push their carts down the street.”

    Personally, I think this is a damn shame.

    Spitting is also illegal, but really, shouldn’t it be?

    Conclusion? Skip in Evanston. Trick or treat between 4 and 7 p.m. Get an architect on board for E-Town Bowl-a-Rama. These ideas may have seemed just bizarre enough to be laws, but in reality, they’re just as bizarre as our Northwestern culture that propagates them.

    Why do these rumors persist, then? Because we want them to. We get a snarky sense of pride out of being Evanston’s renegade child. And, I mean, we go to Northwestern. Most of us aren’t willing to dabble in light treason, but sobriety be damned if we won’t skip past Tech, then brag about our debauchery.

    Seriously, Al Capone for Commencement 2010. Start the Facebook group, and I am so there.


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