#129: Your Attention Please

February 22nd, 2013

The Brown Line slowed as it made the turn before Belmont. The car and track made that inexorable slow-down groan all train-riders know.

The turn sliced the morning sun at an angle that lit the newspapers of the people facing the back of the car without hurting the eyes of people facing forward. The creak crescendoed. The train slid into silence. Then the three beeps.

Beep beep beep.

“Your attention please: We are standing momentarily, waiting for signal clearance. We expect to be moving shortly.”

The typical pause. The break. The groan from the track is echoed in the groan from the riders.

Don’t they know?

Don’t they know how beautiful this is?

To my left was a line of men in the single seats, all young and fiddling with devices. A young Asian hipster type sat in one of the in-facing seats by the door. He had a stocking cap and a board of some purpose that was sprinkled with touches of paint. An artist, perhaps? He looked around the car as curiously and attentively as I was looking.

An old man across the train read about gay marriage in the RedEye, Chicago’s overpriced free paper. A woman behind him was reading the same issue.

I leaned against a heated wall, happy and sleepy in my seat.

Don’t they know?

Don’t they know how nice this is?

Don’t they know how nice it is to have a seat on the train on a cold, bright morning? To pause for a moment by the wall painted “Torstenson” and have the February sun light your reading? Yes, it’s cold. Yes, we’re going to work. Yes, the paper is just the RedEye, the Tribune’s answer to a question no one asked. But it’s beautiful and warm, and if we choose, happy.

Don’t they know?

Or are they looking at me and assuming they know but I don’t?

The train would soon lurch back to life, taking us to the Belmont stop where a glut of riders trample over from the Red Line and vice versa. The car would soon be packed and people would stand with posture that looks how grumbles sound.

It would have been an ignored split second if the signal clearance hadn’t stretched it to half a minute. But the delay made us look, made us soak it in, made us notice what we breezed by every day.

I hate to say it, but it made us pay attention.

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A nice moment outside of Chicago

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