Red Eye Guy

Dateline: Chicago, somewhere between Belmont and Fullerton. This morning.

The Brown Line was packed. People were nervously avoiding eye contact, as their faces were close enough to kiss. I was one of the fortunate few who got on at the first stop, Kimball, meaning that I was able to grab a single seat all to myself. When I do manage to score the mass transit equivalent of a First Class seat, I immediately check out. I read or listen to my iPod and try to forget that there are dozens of people looming over me.

Today, it was impossible to mentally go off the grid. A fidgety, thirtysomething, business-type with an ill-fitting sportcoat decided that he’d try and read the latest “Red Eye” on the train while standing. Apparently, he’d never been on the El before, otherwise he’d have known that the train moves erratically and makes dramatic and unsettling starts and stops. 

Rather than hold on to the pole, he had the Red Eye unfolded in front of his face, ready to read, while his briefcase sat on the floor. At the first unexpected jerk of the train, he lumbered forward, stopping himself just short of putting his hand somewhere inappropriate that would’ve forced me to respond with reflex violence.

After that, I logically assumed that his thirst for “news” (again, it was the “Red Eye”) would be put on hold for the 15 or so minutes he had left on the train. Not so. He again tried to read the paper and again went stumbling forward, though this time he lost his footing and quickly fell backward into a disapproving hooded teen who was more hood than teen.
The teen shoulder-nudged the man back into place.

Once more, the man was jerked forward, and only then did he decide that it was perhaps best to give up his reading to focus on standing upright, a triumph of his homosapien-ness.

I’m sure that, early on in his trip, he thought, “Dammit, I’m not going to give up my morning newspaper just because the train’s crowded. No one or situation tells me how to live my….whoa! Holy crap!”

Suck it up. Face forward. Hold on tight. And don’t touch me again.

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