The Red Line doors opened and I knew I wouldn’t be getting in.
It was the Grand station a few after 5. Downtown workers and shoppers poured down the various staircases, escalators and elevators to the subway to pool on the platform waiting for the train.
Dinging, whooshing, the train arrived.
A street person was sprawled along the floor of the train car, blocking the doorway.
He was white and toothless, a sandy and gray beard jutting from the black hoodie he wore under a thick tan jacket. With his back against the median and legs blocking the passage, he lolled and weaved as only the truly drunk can.
He smiled wild and held a gray plastic bag containing beer — one screw-top bottle and one 16-ounce can. The weight of the booze stretched the plastic so thin I could see the large, blocky “211” on the side of the can of Steel Reserve High Gravity malt liquor.
The downtown workers and shoppers entering and exiting the car hopped over him, simply hopped. They did it chattering with friends or adjusting iPod music selections. With a glance down that indicated “OK, this is happening,” they stepped over the man as if he were a wad of newspaper or bit of baggage no one claimed.
The man didn’t mind them either, just lolled and rolled, laughed to no one and, as the train doors slid closed, started unscrewing the cap on the bottle of beer.
I waited for the next train. When I got on, the overhead blared, “Your safety is important. If you observe unattended packages, vandalism or suspicious activity, inform CTA personnel immediately.”
A few stops, a few commuters trickle out. A few stops, a few trickles. The first big transfer to the Brown and Purple lines, a gush out. The second big transfer and I’m part of the spurt of workers, shoppers, giggling teens and unidentifiable sundries out onto the platform, from there to station, street and whatever passes for home in their varied lives.
We were outdoor at the Belmont stop, elevated over a city turning from sunlight to neon. A sniffling, rain-threat night, a head cold come real. We poured out of the car.
On the platform was a gray plastic bag with an open screw-top bottle of beer and a 16-ounce can.
It had been knocked over, the bottle sloshing low-rent booze over the wooden platform floor. The plastic had been stretched so thin I could see the large, blocky “211” on the side of the can of Steel Reserve High Gravity malt liquor.
The workers and shoppers entering and exiting the car hopped over it, simply hopped.
As ignored and full of hooch as its former owner, the bag continued to drip on the platform until, finally, a commuter picked it up and threw it in the trash.