On "connecting" with a psycho commuter.
Twenty years ago, when my husband and I moved to a Chicago suburb from the city, I was working at an ad agency a block East of the Magnificent Mile, otherwise known as Michigan Avenue.
Since the move and the fact that we were now forty miles from Chicago’s Loop, my commute went from being a breeze to a complete nightmare. From one short bus ride to a bus, a train, and either another bus or a long schlep on foot.
I was miserable. Sometimes my husband would pick me up from the train at night and as he duly noted, I always “had a puss on.”
We live two miles from the train station, so I’d get up at the butt-crack of dawn, shower, dress, suck down some coffee and hightail it to the bus stop where I’d catch a bus to take me to the train. Later, I started catching rides to the station from a fellow commuter, and although it didn’t shorten the trek, overall, it did make it a tad easier. Plus, I had someone to talk to.
He was kind of studly, too, and I enjoyed it on those days when we were running late and he’d take my hand so that we could race from the car park to the oncoming train. It was totally innocent guys but it made me feel safe as I never liked being close to the tracks. I’d never forgotten those stories of commuters who were randomly shoved in front of subway trains in New York.
One morning, I was at the station, eyes hidden behind my customary shades even though it wasn’t fully light out when I noticed a guy a few feet away from me who seemed “off.” You know what I mean. You get that prickly feeling on the back of your neck that someone or something isn’t quite “right.”
He was carrying a styrofoam cup in each hand and I had the distinct feeling they were filled with a picker-upper of a different kind. No Starbucks there.
The train finally pulled into the station and I got in line to board. Somehow, this dude ended up in front of me. My routine was to walk all the way to the back of the train, which became the front once we pulled into Chicago.
As we walked, I carefully kept my distance from the guy. Since his hands were filled, he would kick open the double doors separating the cars. Honestly, I don’t know why the hell a conductor didn’t pull the reins on this nut.
Finally, we neared the back of the car when suddenly the guy stopped and stepped aside to hold one of the doors open for me. Since he was still balancing the cups, he used his elbow as a prop.
I stopped dead in my tracks, not knowing what to do, but there were people waiting behind me so I had no choice but to move. I started to sidle past him as he “gifted” me with something between a grin and a smirk.
As I moved past him, I knew that something was going to happen. I felt it even before this psycho reared back and kicked me with all his might, hitting me squarely in my shin.
It hurt. Enough for me to completely lose my shit, and I did, to everyone’s enjoyment as normally, those commutes are about as exciting as dirt.
I screamed and cursed until a conductor finally interceded. He may have gotten a good cussing out, too, if recollection serves. The stump. Where was he earlier when this nut was kicking open doors? Hiding in the john, probably.
Apparently, I made enough of a stink to get the guy taken off at the next stop by the “train police.” I was asked if I wanted to make a formal complaint but I knew that would take a while, I’d be persona non grata for making others late to work.
“Just get his ass off here,” I said. And they did.
I was more than a little shaken up by that experience, wondering “why me?” For some reason, I seem to attract goofs and crazies.
Why do you think that is?
Anyway, after that experience, I stood even farther back on the train platform than I did before, constantly checking to see who was behind me. I’d be damned if I was going to be obliterated on my way to a job that thankfully, I was soon laid off from.
Even on your way to work, you can’t be too careful. You can’t let your guard down. Or at work, for that matter.
Not long before I was laid off, my commute improved significantly in that I made a few friends who routinely sat together.
And, I discovered the bar car.
© Sherry McGuinn, 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.