Get Yourself Together Darlin, Join the Human Race

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This dose of daily hell brought to you by the CTA

Chicago is thick with Crazy. Crazy in varieties you never imagined; Crazy you quickly learn to ignore because Crazy pulls punches and usually carries a bottle for smashing and throat cutting. So you do. You act nice and quiet and usually it leaves you alone. Because there is no way to completely avoid it here or anywhere.

The Red Line is a straight line between the extremes of the city (literally running the economic/social/cultural gammut from the cusp of senselessly wealthy Evanston to the bowels of the super impoverished southside, Murder Capital '08 and doing a bang up job this year too) and my/several million people's primary way of getting around. So there is never a shortage of batshit insane.
Going home after work today. On the train, over my shoulder, some fool is shouting gibberish. This is usually what's happening over my shoulder, no big deal. Everyone on the train visibly slouches further, pushes their noses deeper into books, casts their eyes out windows, turns the volume up on their IPods. Because this pained, drunk man can be ignored away if we try hard enough. Then he's hitting on some poor girl. Then he's wailing, over and over, "You've never had an ooooooOOOOrgasmmm" and launching into his qualifications to provide said item. His delivery changes in degrees from flirty (ha.) to adamant to irritated to fucking pissed off. By now, the other passengers are getting restless. The girl has split. At least one old woman abandons the train at the next station. I stay turned away, pretending to read but listening and on edge in case he starts moving from his end of the car to mine. (I took about 2 months of tae kwon doe when I was 10 and I was more impressed with learning how to count in Korean than mastering a round house kick. Skipped the warnings to carry pepper spray too. Haven't figured out if I'm a pacifist or just lazy...) In any case, physical confrontation was going to end badly for me.
The anxiety in these situations is about taking action; the fear is about having to do something in front of all these strangers. Sure, part of you is worried about getting your ass kicked. But its almost taboo to consider doing something outrageous on the train, even in self-defense. It's the unspoken etiquette, and I'm not sure I've ever prescribed to something so powerful without even knowing it. I'm not proud.
A man speaks up, not eloquent, not even loud. He ignores the threats. He ignores this drunk bastard calling him "Nigger," drawling the ugly hard "rrrr" at the end of the word. He even manages to shake this same man's hand right before security comes and escorts him off the train. The man who spoke up mutters something about praying for him. And I'm not even sure I believe there's something to pray too anymore, but I'm impressed. And I'm overwhelmed with respect. And I'm ashamed. And I hate to think of where I misplaced my humanity and courage in the last few years. But today, there was a man on the train smiling quietly to himself as we rode express to Granville. I'm thinking about him, at the end of the day, not about one more amusing/pathetic/sad tantrum thrown on the El.

1 Response on "Get Yourself Together Darlin, Join the Human Race"

  1. Anonymous says:

    I know what you mean...I always feel guilty and cowardly not speaking up to the Crazy. But then I remember that, generally speaking, I like my facial features as they are. Some of us are just not made for confrontation where physical violence is a definite possibility. Also to keep in mind: you don't want to piss anyone off enough that they get off the train with you; that is NO GOOD.

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