#821: The Man in Gray

July 26th, 2017

He stepped out of the black SUV by the train station, and I was pretty sure.

His back was to me, though, so I couldn’t be certain. The small man in the gray suit and the two large men in black were consulting over an iPad, so I couldn’t catch a face. The man in gray and one of the men in black broke off to enter the station, leaving the other bodyguard, the SUV and me behind.

I was a step behind the man through the turnstile — I got through, the sensor didn’t beep his Ventra so he did that embarrassing thing where you clonk into the bar. The momentary clonk let me catch up enough to see his face.

His short, white hair was swept up and back, either hair gel or genetics giving the impression of having driven a convertible through a windstorm. His manner was relaxed and cocky — tan, aviator sunglasses and no tie.

“Huh,” I said involuntarily.

The man looked at me.

“Oh, I’ll let you go about your day,” I said, waving a hand in a “I’m backing off” position.

The man smirked and looked past me to the stairs.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, walking on.

I don’t like a lot of how Rahm runs this city, but I saw no benefit in turning our commute into a debate. I imagined no moments of “You know, weird guy on the train trying too hard to grow a beard that just isn’t happening right now, I think I will reverse years of policy on the PMDs in the Second Ward because of what you just yelled across an ‘L’ car at me.”

This is a story then not about politics, but about celebrity, and about a train full of people who didn’t speak to Rahm Emanuel.

When the train pulled up, Rahm immediately walked to the front of the car and stood toying on his iPad in front of the emergency exit door only used by begging homeless men. His security man in the black suit and earpiece — I make no claims that this was the case, but I have seen similar haircuts and mien from cops on detail — stood by the regular door, scanning the room and holding the mayor’s phone for him.

When he and I walked in, a seated woman did about five or six double-takes before I gave her a nod that, yeah, that’s him. Later on the ride, an older man had been standing next to me for about 10 minutes suddenly says “You know, I just realized that’s the mayor.”

Others craned necks or shot glances, but those who reacted in any identifiable capacity were a minority. Whether they didn’t know who he was, didn’t care or just had better poker faces than I, the seated woman and the old man do, it was a typical commute. Blinking Apple devices, sips of coffee, longing stares out the window at a city that — at least where Rahm and I live — is beautiful and vibrant with investment.

We rode in silence, in the same car as but with no interaction with the ringmaster of Chicago, plotting our fates on an iPad.

The political implications of his missing finger

His financial disclosures, in poetry form

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You are currently reading #821: The Man in Gray by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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