Bad things can happen on the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line. It runs 24/7 which sounds convenient but in actuality means there are a lot of people awake at hours that they really shouldn’t be. This story is much less harmful than many, and has a happy — er, karma-fulfilled — ending.
The story goes that a couple dozen people are on a crowded late-night Red Line train heading northbound. It’s a mixed crowd with individual late-shifters, older folks, weekend-girls-night-outers, and drunken Lollapalooza patrons.
Our particular subject — let’s just call him ‘Steve’ — is of the last group mentioned. Muscles-for-miles, backwards hat, sunburn, and one of those tank tops that five years ago were exclusively for women. The certain male archetype built around intimidating everyone into enjoying their presence.
At North and Clybourn a seat opens up. Steve has come from Lolla with . . . ‘Shannon’ but Steve is not a gentleman so he plops down drunkenly in the seat and tells Shannon, “Come here and sit on my knee, baby.”
At this point everyone around Steve is trying to picture him having a mother and father. Let’s just say he does. How did they raise him that this is how he carries on in front of people? Is this chivalry?
And these same people, some of them a little older (thirties) than Steve, are now graced with conversation they didn’t initiate, nor would they have. You see, they’ve been on the Red Line before and they know you don’t start harassing strangers on the train late at night.
Steve’s telling them they should come out. How great it’s all gonna be. And that — “I’m going 100% tonight, bro.” That’s an actual quote.
And they are polite and say, “No thanks,” and sort of laugh. But Steve has been drinking and maybe he thinks they’re laughing at him wearing his big sister’s tank top, so he starts mumbling and harassing them about being ‘past your prime,’ and generally making it a very uncomfortable experience.
And now they’re at Fullerton and Shannon is trying to push Steve out of the train because that’s their stop. “Don’t you push me . . . too old . . . past their prime . . .” A few more four-letter words and it’s all over. Steve is off to the bar to pick a fight with a complete stranger just because . . . well he can’t remember why.
Relief comes over the remaining Red Line passengers. Sometimes it’s the crazies. Sometimes the smellies. Sometimes the drunks. But it’s peaceful on the train again.
And for our ‘older’ friends on that train, they’ll probably get over their thoughts of being past their prime. And because karma is a B sometimes, and because every once in awhile things even out, one of the older gentlemen looks down on Steve’s abandoned seat and joyfully exclaims, “Are these that guy’s keys?!”
Because maybe they’re past whatever Steve considers their prime. But at least they’re able to get into their apartments at the end of the night.
Charlie Monte Verde always wanted to live in one of the ‘big three’ cities, and darn if he didn’t land in the best one. Charlie was raised in Upstate New York before his current five years in Chicago, and honed his writing skills in Mrs. Bonar’s AP English class before he was bumped down to the regular English class.
Charlie creates original American art forms about growing up, or childhood, or girls, or trains, or his beloved Buffalo Bills. Sometimes it’s about all of those things, just like in his dreams. He’s currently working on his first based-on-a-true-story novel, The Great Hate, which will be available . . . hopefully someday.
Charlie daydreams about shaking off the work-a-day 9-5 blues and becoming a writer like his idol (predictably) Ernest Hemingway. Charlie uses a catch-as-catch-can method for writing that includes many bar napkins and disorganized notebooks. When these notes do make it out of the bar, they can occasionally be found on his blog at cultofamericana.wordpress.com.