Some strange things have been happening to me on the public transportation lately. As background, now that I'm commuting to Hyde Park, on the far south side of Chicago, I'm now in transit for 15 to 30 minutes longer than I was going to work on the west side. I don't mind it. But I get a lot of weird looks from folks when I tell them that I don't drive to school. It gives me a chance to read and to knit. Wow, man, what a bummer.
So, anyway, this morning the train stopped with such sudden force that the woman standing next to me (whose bangs I always covet) completely lost her balance and fell into the laps of two men seated on the inward facing bench. She was my age and hale, so no one felt any guilt that she was standing in the first place but her apparently physical strength made her utter vulnerability to physics seem all that more surreal.
Then, as my bus was pulling away on State St., I looked out the window to see 7 or 8 kilted bagpipers, standing at the crosswalk with their coffees and sunglasses, waiting for the light to change. As we moved forward, I saw that they were accompanied by 3 Chicago policemen that were also carrying bagpipes and from the waist up, wore the standard police uniform. However, from the waist down, they wore special police kilts. That's right, I said police kilts. They were navy blue and pleated just like regular kilts. They were worn with special police knee-high socks with the little ribbons and feathers stuck in the top hem pointing down to their feet, just like the regular bagpipers always have. Seeing the back of a classic Chicago cop's knees was even more surreal than watching my neighbor suddenly decide that those two men were so attractive, she couldn't stay away any longer.
Last night, a compact but obviously powerful man boarded the train wearing military-style black pants and boots, black gloves that buttoned at the wrist, a red beret and a white t-shirt with red lettering that said, "Guardian Angel." As the train moved, he stood by the doors, but held on with both hands gripping different poles of straps so as to take up as much space as possible. He had a well-trimmed goatee and the rest of his face was pale, smooth and slightly foreign-looking. It was an all-around attractive image in a man-in-uniform kind of way. The first time he met my eyes, I had not seen his t-shirt and so I looked away in a way that probably didn't disguise that I had been looking at him, but probably wasn't offensive either. Then, I got a look at his t-shirt and felt bad that he might feel rejected in his role as protector. The next time his head swiveled in my direction, I smiled. At the stop after the stop where he got on, he went through the adjoining doors into the next car. Once more in my commute, he got on my car again, but I was at a good part in my book, so lost my desire to engage him. I've never seena "Guardian Angel" on the El before but I felt a little warm feeling that someone was out there looking out for me. It made me feel a little special.
The final surreality of my recent public transportation career is a little creepier and Mom, you can stop reading now if you want to. On the train the other afternoon, the man next to me pretended to fall asleep and proceeded to lightly, very lightly run his finger along the underside of my thigh that was exposed from the edge of the seat to my knee. Because I thought he was asleep, because I was reading, because he had strategically placed his bag to disguise the fact that his hand was even down there and because who ever really expects the guy next to her to be feeling her up?, it took me a minute or two to identify what was going on. Even then, I wasn't sure and didn't want to make a fuss unnecessarily, thinking maybe it was the foot of the person behind me accidentally coming up from under the seat. It moved so that I no part of my body was touching his for the last stretch of time before my stop, I thought I felt it again, but still wasn't sure when the train pulled up to my stop. I said "Excuse me," to wake him (which happens all the time) but had to say it twice (which doesn't) and he woke up with this incredibly feigned startlement: "Oh, oh, I'm sorry." At that point, my suspicions were confirmed and I was very glad to get off the train.
School is going extremely well and I seem to be at the core a "group" of friends, which has never in my life happened. I've got a couple of other things that I want to share with you, but for now, the image of Chicago's finest in kilts moved itself to the forefront of stories that I wanted to tell you.
a room of her own - Forgive the poor photo quality above. I could only dig as deep as the blog and screenshots today, because if went deeper into the hard drives, or for heave...