Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Tale from the Pink Line: Riding Trains in Chicago, Episode One

Maura set out from her home in little Mexico wearing a new red dress she’d bought for $3 at a thrift store; it was the perfect compliment to her black velvet knee length jacket her dear friend Tina had helped pick out. She had a scarf wrapped around her head, as she is want to do, because it was raining and windy and because she enjoys dressing like she is in a play. She boarded the train going to the Loop. The train was very crowded and she stood next to a kind looking man who was seated along the window. Maura felt the older man’s gaze looking up at her and they exchanged a glance and a smile. He was about forty, clearly foreign with graying hair.

At one of the stops, more people boarded the train and Maura moved further into the car. She was now standing directly behind the seated man. Another young woman, with tan skin, curly hair and a leather briefcase, took Maura’s place beside the man. As the train rumbled along, the man stood up, turned to Maura behind him and said sweetly, “Would you like to sit down?” with a Middle Eastern accent. Now Maura was faced with a dilemma because clearly the available seat belonged to the woman standing beside it, not Maura behind it. But he had offered it to her and she felt it rude to refuse, so she thanked him, eased around the other woman and sat down. Maura felt slightly guilty but smiled at the man and took out her knitting. The kind gentleman began to make his way toward the train door to exit at the next stop. Out of no where, the other young woman raised her over plucked eyebrows and said to the man in a superior tone, “If you wait till the train has stopped to move, you won’t bump into people as you leave!”

Maura was shocked. Who did this young woman think she was? What right did she have to educate other passengers on her version of train etiquette? Maura didn’t think that anyone had the right to impose his or her opinions or preferences on strangers. Perhaps where he came from, the polite thing to do is to ready oneself to exit the train as to not delay departure. Perhaps he wanted to look at the map above the door. Perhaps his foot was asleep and he needed to regain blood circulation before setting off on his journey. Or perhaps he wanted the pretty girl in the Victorian traveling costume to have a seat on the Pink Line, since she was obviously exhausted from all the time travel she'd been doing recently.

Maura was now assuaged of all guilt. This snooty woman did not deserve a seat on the train at all. Maura thought the best way to counteract the other young woman’s negativity and general nastiness was to enjoy the seat as much as possible. She stretched out her legs, adjusted her kerchief, smiled once more at the man and knitted happily away until the train reached Clark and Lake.

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