I’m trying a new train line out today.
I didn’t think it would be so difficult to change something like your choice of transportation.
As I stood in the warming shed at the Burr Oak Metra stop, I looked around and realized I didn’t recognize a single face.
That wasn’t that strange in and of itself, but it made me realize just how much I know about the people at the Palos Park stop where I’ve boarded the train for much of the last six months.
There was the coughing lady, who seems to be perpetually sick, but who prefers to board before everyone else, even if she has to act like a linebacker to do it.
It used to bug me, but now I sit back and watch her work her magic, and it makes me smile and sometimes laugh out loud.
The Catholic school boys in their khakis and Sox stocking caps nudging each other on the platform, while one of the boys’ dad would joke around with them about Notre Dame football, a dirty leather satchel at his side, and a newspaper clenched between his arm and his side.
The guy who would fall asleep as soon as his head hit the backrest after he boarded the train. He snored so loudly I thought about changing cars one more time, but I started listening to music, which provided a bit of a soundtrack to their lives as I watched them work, eat, sleep, play and converse.
These were just my car companions when I finally decided to ride the second car from the end, and they were a microcosm of the bigger world that is Chicago.
And since I had tried nearly every car on the train, I realized I had come to know a lot of people, if only by sight and habit.
There was a little trepidation as I boarded the train this morning. I looked around at the unfamiliar people wearing unfamiliar clothes and doing unfamiliar things.
But then I caught sight of a 60-something woman with dreadlocks and a dapper old fellow wearing a trench coat and sporting a fine cane, and dozens of the most interesting fur hats, and I was reminded that I’m not just a journalist between the hours of 9 and 5.
The good habits of a journalist fall somewhere between anthropology and voyeurism.
I call it people watching. And I learn so much about myself and how little I actually see or understand others by watching the people around me any chance I get. It’s my own private university.
I’ve moved around almost every two years for the past 8 years. My dear wife has suffered through 18 moves in our nearly 19 years together.
I’ve always needed new vistas and new horizons, new classes and new texts to study.
I love Chicago, because I have only to change the way I enter the city each morning to gain a new perspective. To witness life lived just s little differently than my neighbors live theirs.