Everyone gathered on the damp gravel tensed as they heard the voice.
The voice asked for attention, please.
A young woman with a multicolored hipster skirt-jacket combo pulled her “Pictures for Sad Children” tote a little closer.
The old man by the end of the gravel patch, the one in a tan trench coat raincoat, the one sitting on a small folding stool he brought himself for that purpose, he looked up toward the loudspeaker.
The voice said mechanical problems.
A gallant with a full mane of product-laden black hair and a watch he flashed and flashed played with his phone a little harder when he heard the voice. A woman with graying blonde hair took a sharp inhale and held her breath a little.
People paced, umbrellas spun against the soil, glasses were fidgeted with and on those endless endless smartphones, candies were crushed and words were had with friends as everyone waited to hear the voice’s next word.
The voice said “inbound” and everyone in the crowd on the east side of the gravel pit relaxed at once, slumping in unison without realizing they had all tensed at alert when the voice started talking. The outbound Metra was fine, still on its way, coming. All was well for most of the crowd.
Yes, a few souls kicked the damp gravel at the Clybourn stop when they heard their train would be delayed, but they were taking the train to downtown from the last stop before downtown. They were waiting for a commuter train that had been packing in people since Kenosha, Wisc., so they could stand (if they could find a place to stand) for one stop. No bus or ‘L’ for these few folks. Just more money for no seats.
It was the outbound crowd that relaxed in unison. They were the ones at the start of their trip, and the ones who made up the bulk of the crowd.
They were the ones gathered in the damp, under the rain that couldn’t decide to turn off or on, on the wet, gray gravel above where Ashland meets Armitage to load up early for empty seats and a calm, quiet man in a special hat to call “Tickets, please” as they sped north out of Chicago.
It was a moment of appreciation, of a bullet dodged.
The outbound train came, on schedule of course. The crowd funneled through each open door, spreading left or right, whichever seemed a more likely spot to find a seat.
The old man folded up his stool, the woman shouldered her tote. They joined the group pouring aboard.
The wait was over. Their day had begun.