#265: Whiteout

January 6th, 2014

The CTA buses were doing surprisingly well for a snowstorm Sunday morning.

The wind swirled and whitened the intersection at Fullerton and Ashland (and Clybourn) while I stood in a bus shelter near a Wendy’s that had been torn down to make a bigger Wendy’s.

I had come from a friend’s house where an afternoon of beer and pizza and sorting through LPs (and more beer) had put me to sleep on a couch that still smelled like cigarettes even though he quit smoking months ago.

Opening my eyes on that couch in the morning took me to the world of “Well, crap” as I realized I had to take two buses to get back to my nice warm bed that didn’t smell like anything.

The friend’s neighborhood is not the best.

The bus service was spotty at the best of times.

A foot of snow is not the best of times.

As I left the house, I saw the bus pulling away.

My mid-blizzard cursing aside, a new bus pulled up within 15 minutes and I soon trundled past the earlier morning risers, the snow shovelers and the other denizens of a white-covered Chicago.

That took me to the edge of Lincoln Park, where I stood in the bus shelter by the once-and-future-Wendy’s in the blowing snow and wind.

Then the man walked up.

He trudged to the shelter directly across the street — no crosswalk or sidewalk for him. He was mid-5os or so, black and had a long cigarette clutched defiantly in his mouth. The slush and wind of the morning snow spattered his tan overalls, which made him look as bedraggled as your average homeless guy, but I wasn’t sure if he was homeless. The same could have been said of me at that moment.

He stamped his feet three times to get the snow off and took the other end of the bus shelter.

The snow was beautiful in my friend’s lousy neighborhood, covering closed dollar stores and abogados offices with wintry Burl Ives scapes. Pulaski’s a bitch of a street at times. But the people are really nice there and the snow was just lovely.

But here in Lincoln Park on a busy street inked in black slush, the snow was awful. There, it warmed. Here, it wettened.

I texted the number to see how long the bus would take. That’s when the man spoke to me.

I wish it were full of wisdom and pith. I wish it were comical or sad (or rock star awesome).

Actually, it might have been, had I been able to understand what he was saying. I sounded like a series of seven B’s, with the last one possibly “bus.”

“Sorry?” I said.

He repeated the sounds. I pretended he was asking about the bus time.

“About eight minutes,” I said.

He looked at me, confused. I looked away. Two men in the snow.

He would later say something that sounded like six D’s and the word “damn” (I think I heard “coming down” in there). He would later step into the street, stamp his feet three times again to get the snow off and walk out into the middle of Ashland. He didn’t wait for the bus, just disappeared into the wind and swirling snow.

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