Thursday, June 19, 2008

Two days ago, my brother joined me on my commute home. Now, the train ride home is quite different than the one TO work, mainly because it's the exact opposite (of course!) It starts out like lemmings and sardines, and ends like a...well...I don't have an illustration. It's empty. I'm the third to last stop. You can imagine.

Anyway. I invite you to listen in on a conversation my brother and I had, involving the character I am introducing, affectionately known as "Fruit Stand Lady."

As the brother and I were waiting for the train to pull into our station. As we were talking about something (I'm not entirely sure what, as it is unimportant) I saw a lady I see every day making a beeline (who even knows why we say "beeline?") for the waiting area by the doors on the train. I look at my brother and say quietly, "Dude, this lady is a CRAZY," and he brushes it off.

All of a sudden, after her entrance to the area we are in, my brother is mid sentence, we hear Fruit Stand Lady very loudly saying, "Um. NO. There's a FRUIT stand right there. No houses. A fruit stand." (She was interjecting into a conversation that was not her own.) She goes on to discuss recent flooding in the area (it's been horrible and devastating for some) proclaiming "anyone who builds their house on a floodplain deserves to be flooded out."

Mmmkay. Except most of the area North and West of Chicago is a floodplain, all the way to Iowa and up through Wisconsin, especially this time of year, especially with the extra snow from last winter.

It took everything in me not to say "You're a flooded Fruit Stand, Lady, and you deserve every inch of it!" But I refrained, as it doesn't make any sense, and people don't seem to react well to unintelligible insults.

The next day she told another complete stranger, "I've made baby blankets, sweaters, and afghans on the train! I mean, where else do you get an hour and a half of uninterrupted crochet time?" I then vowed never to look at yarn ever again.

It's interesting, the Commuterology of it all. I've drawn a parallel to lemmings as being a theme (side note--I heard elephants on the other end of the line of a call just now. hmm. Zoo anyone?). Anyway. Lemmings seem to be the theme. I find myself guilty of being one. Lemmings, contrary to myth, do not commit mass suicide as we usually assume, but they do migrate in very large groups, stay with their groups, even to the point of exhaustion or death (man I love wikipedia.) Commuters are the lemmings of the city. We travel in large masses, and stay in those large masses. Ever think, "I can cross on the yellow light as long as I'm not the last one!"? Yep. That's what I thought. That my friend, means you are a commuter lemming. We cross the street in the same pattern, dodging cars, walking as quickly as our sneaker clad, well dressed selves can go, hoping the Chicago heat doesn't melt us before we get to the station. Lemmings. We follow. We follow the path of least resistance (least amount of taxis cutting of pedestrians) or the "walk" and "don't walk" signs.

I wonder if banana/juice man is a lemming. I'll have to watch for that.

Commuter patterns are so fascinating. Here are some unspoken rules which I have observed. When you commute, you learn them quickly.
1. Unless all available solo seating is taken, do not sit next to someone you do not know. Seriously people. Don't do it unless there are NO options.
2. First come first serve to the exit. People line up a stop in advance to get off at the end of the line. They're not polite or courteous either. The men aren't even gentlemen. It's every man (woman) for themselves.
3. There's always more than one exit. It's true. I shaved five minutes off my commute by finding another exit.
4. All exits are bottlenecked, and make you feel like a herd of cattle.
5. No shoes on the seats. (The conductors are serious about this one.)
6. No skirts on the upper deck. (For your own sake ladies.)
7. Don't eat smelly food, or drink too much beer.
8. No one wants to hear your life story. Well. At least I don't.
9. If you stole Tom Selleck's mustache, he would probably like it back.
10. If you walk slower than someone who is, say, 5'9" with ridiculously long legs (ahem...self description...) keep to the right. Do not meander. Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars. (if you do, tell me where you found it?)

And I almost forgot to add this:
On my ride in this morning, the 'Stache man decided to not only stare, but wink at me. First of all, I get on the train to find ANOTHER classmate from high school. And came to the unfortunate realization that I was wearing a t-shirt I've had since high school (one of those Anti-drug, anti-underage drinking clubs that was part of). No dodging that one, other than getting into a separate car, where 'Stache man conductor was chilling out. He winked at me. Everything in me wanted to say "Do you find that subtle? Hmmmmmmmmm?" in a really condescending way, but I remembered my coffee in hand and decided to stick with sipping that instead.

Then he sat down across from me and tried to talk to me.

I'm sorry, but we don't talk to strangers at 6:03 in the morning.
He even talks to me when I'm all uggo-no makeup and mismatched in my "commuter clothes."
So strange.
If only you could see it.


  1. Your unspoken laws of commuting? Totally emergence theory.

    Just thought you might like to know.

    Good stuff to look into. Very interesting.

  2. Well, actually, correction. The lemming aspect of commuterism. That's what's emergence theory.