I like riding Chicago’s CTA trains, especially the “L”. Been doing it all my life. There’s something about rocking back and forth on a set of old rickety train tracks at speeds of up to 50 mph that’s kind of fun.
It sure as hell gets me pumped. And let’s not forget the characters you come across when you ride the train system.
A few nights ago I decided to ride the Red Line to this thing I had to do.
I’m sitting on the platform at the Granville stop listening to some music to pass the time.
Train rolls up, I get on and find a seat.
At the next stop the doors open and this old, scruffy looking white guy walks in and sits down on the seat next to me.
I scoot over to give him some space and keep on listening to my music, when I hear a muffled: “Hey, man.”
I pop my right earbud out and turn to him and say: “What?”
“Hey, man,” he says as he pulls out a joint from his coat pocket. “You wanna hit this?”
“No, I’m good, bro,” I say. “Besides, I’m pretty sure you can’t smoke on the train.”
“What the fuck? When did that start?”
“Well weed? Probably since forever, but tobacco, probably a couple decades.”
“That’s bull shit, man,” he says as he shoves the joint back in his pocket.
I pop my earbud back into my ear and keep on listening to my music.
A few minutes go by and the old, scruffy white man keeps quiet.
Then, again, a muffled: “Hey, man.”
“What?” I say as I pop the earbud back out.
“You ever wonder what direction this train is heading in?”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I mean, it can be conducted from both sides, so, are we headed forwards or backwards, man?”
“We’re headed south. That’s where we’re headed. And if we were headed the other way, we’d be going north.”
“Shit, man. That’s crazy.”
“It’s not crazy. You can go north, south, east or west on these trains. Forwards or backwards is irrelevant.”
“That’s some crazy shit, man. Did you go to college or something? You’re a smart dude.”
“Yes, but that has nothing to do with it….”
Frustrated, I pop my earbud back in and try to ignore the guy as best I could, hoping that he wouldn’t bother me again.
After a few more stops: “Hey, man.”
“Bro, what the fuck?” I snap as I pop my earbud out for the last time.
“Whoa, whoa, man. I don’t like your negative energy. I’m just going to have to find my self another seat in this car where the vibes aren’t so dark. I just wanted to see if you wanted to hit this joint.”
“I told you no and that you can’t smoke on the train.”
“Well here I thought you were a really cool dude with your “north and south” talk but it turns out you’re a douche.”
He gets up, walks to the other side of the train where he begins the same routine with another passenger.
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I never liked cops when I was younger.
I endured a lot of harassment–being stopped and frisked, talked down to, roughed up–treatment you learn to accept as normal growing up in the city.
It soured me at a young age and some of the things I saw or experienced quickly made me lose respect for the badge.
Was I innocent all the time? No. I also wasn’t a gang banger/criminal. I was just a kid doing stupid kid shit.
Out of all my negative encounters, there is only one that doesn’t fall under a bad or good experience–it’s, well, just a weird one.
I was hanging out on a corner with some friends on the west side one night, drinking forties (I admit, stupid kid shit) at around 3 a.m. when an unmarked narc cruiser rolled up.
Two cops jumped out and approached us.
Knowing the drill, we put our forties down and put our hands up in the air.
“Turn the fuck around and put your hands on the wall, assholes,” the tall cop said.
“On the wall,” the short one followed.
“Officers we’re just out here hanging and drinking,” my buddy said as the short cop shoved him into the wall. “Damn, is that even necessary?”
“Shut the fuck up, Tyrone,” the short cop said as he patted him down. “You fuckers carrying?”
The tall one threw his forearm into the back of my neck, pinning my face against the wall.
“How ’bout you, Paco?” He said. “Got any shit on you?”
“We’re just drinking beer, officer,” I said as he searched me. “Damn we don’t have anything on us.”
They searched my two remaining buddies and sat us all in a row on the curb with our hands behind our heads. And since they didn’t find anything to bring us in on, other than under age drinking, which is not worth the paperwork, they chose another, more bizarre punishment.
“You motherfuckers are out here drinking in the middle of the night, looking to get shot by some other assholes,” the tall one said. “Then we got to come in and work a crime scene with four dead assholes that can’t drink at home like the rest of world?”
None of us said anything. We knew better. They were ass out with nothing on us but they still wanted to screw us over.
“Well I’ll show you motherfuckers,” the tall one said.
“Yeah, we’ll show you,” the short one followed.
The tall one walked over to the wall where our forties were and grabbed all four of them and placed them in a diamond shape in the middle of the street.
The short one disappeared behind the cruiser and returned with a bowling ball, which he handed to the tall one.
“You want to be out here drinking in the middle of the night,” the tall one screamed. “Well here you go.”
He reached back and with a PBA bowler’s perfect form, rolled the ball down the street, knocking all four of the forties down in a strike.
“Yeah, motherfuckers!” the short cop screamed as he fist bumped the tall one.
“Stay the fuck off my streets, bitches!” the tall one screamed as they both jumped in the cruiser and drove away.
We all sat on the curb, our hands still behind our heads for a minute or so.
“Those dudes are crazy,” my buddy finally said as he got up and went out into the street to recover our forties.
“Did they just bowl our forties down?” I asked in disbelief of what we had just experienced. “And where did the short one get the bowling ball from?”
“Yeah they did,” my other buddy said. “And who cares? Cause they didn’t break them. Cheers, brothers.”
“To crazy ass cops,” I said.
“To crazy ass cops!”
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-Let me help you out to the car, Mrs. Schwartz. Have a seat in this wheelchair.
-That is not necessary. I might be old but I am not frail.
-I know, but it’s hospital policy. I have to wheel you out.
-Well if you must. Thank you, young man. My girl should be around with the car shortly.
-Alright, we’ll just wait for her by the ambulance entrance.
-That will be fine, thank you.
-So what’s the plan for the rest of your afternoon? It’s a beautiful day out today.
-We are headed to the movie house to watch a film.
-Sounds like fun.
-I’m here till late. Got a long day ahead of me.
-Do you like Obama?
-Uh, I guess he’s alright.
-Cause they are going to peach him.
-I think you mean impeach, Mrs. Schwartz.
-What did I say?
-You said peach.
-No I did not.
-Ok, never mind. Who is?
-Because he does not do his job, which, I cannot understand why he does not.
-I take it you’re a republican?
-Yes. I am a republican.
-Well, do you like Obama?
-Oh, yes. He seems like a nice man. Very sincere. But you never answered my question. Do you like him?
-I guess. I’m not really a fan of most politicians, but I don’t think he’s a bad guy.
-I see. But do you know what else he is going to do?
-Do you know all those immigrant children? He is going to let all the immigrant children stay.
-Where in the hell is he going to put all of those immigrant children?
-Well, Mrs. Schwartz, I don’t think he has to put them anywhere. They’re already here. Some folks just want them to stay cause they grew up here.
-Well they are going to peach him for that, for sure. Do you remember the last president they peached?
-I was very young, but yes, I do.
-That rotten Clinton. He refused to do his job either. Chasing women and lying was his idea of what being the president was.
-Again, I was young, but I think the impeachment didn’t work out. The Senate cleared him and he finished his term.
-I am pretty sure you are wrong, and they will peach Obama. You mark my words.
-There is my girl now. I will be fine from here. Thank you, young man.
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-Hey, New Kid, you got a minute?
-Yeah, Frank. Whatcha need?
-I just need help with this guy in room 19.
-You got it, Frank.
-Great, grab some patient labels off the counter there for this guy and come on in. It’ll only take a minute.
-Ok….Why are all the lights off?
-Cause we do that sometimes for the families.
-Hold on, I need to grab a bag out of the closet….
-A bag for what, Frank?
-For the patient, dummy. You get those labels?
-Yeah, Frank. Here you go.
-Let’s see…. One for the belongings, one for the outside of the bag and one for the toe. Alright, we’re set.
-Hey, New Kid, you wanna learn something, or what? Stop with all the questions and pull that sheet off the patient. I’m trying to teach you the job.
-Alright, alright. It’s just that… Oh, fuck. It’s a dead body.
-Of course it’s a dead body. The patient died an hour ago. Where the fuck were you when the radio nurse screamed out “arrest” and all the loud alarms were dinging and a dozen people were screaming shit back-and-forth, like, he doesn’t have a pulse?
-I don’t know. In another room. I’ve never seen a dead body before.
-Hey, sit the fuck down before you pass out. You look like shit.
-I’m fine. No, I’m good. Let’s do this, Frank.
-For fuck’s sake, New Kid. They’ll just hire any bastard that watched a medical TV show and thought it’d be cool to work in an ER, won’t they?
-I’m sorry, Frank. Seriously, I’m good.
-You pass out, or throw up, or piss your pants and you won’t get no sympathy, we’ll just send your sorry ass out on the floor all pissy and vomity to finish up your shift.
-I’m good. Really.
-Alright, roll the body to your side. But cover the mouth with this towel cause shit tends to come out and you don’t want it all over your scrubs or shoes.
-I’ll slide the bag under and we’ll flip the patient to my side and you can pull the bag under to your side.
-Keep your shit together, New Kid. It’s just a dead body.
-I’ve never seen a dead body, I’ve never touched a dead body….
-We’ll guess what, today you get to do both. Now flip the guy to your side. I wanna get this over with so I can go eat lunch.
-Alright, here I go.
-There, was that so difficult? It’s like touching any other human being, only a dead one.
-I feel sick to my stomach…. Oh God did it just move?
-Yes, asshole, cause you just moved it. Bodies tend to shift when you move them. For fuck’s sake….
-I’m sorry, Frank.
-Now I’ll flip him my way and unroll the bag under him, we tag him, zip it up and we’re done. There you go.
-Sorry I got all squeamish on you, Frank. And thanks for taking the time to teach me the job.
-Don’t worry about it, New Kid. We’ve all been there.
-So were you just like me when you started the job?
-Fuck no, are you kidding me? I wasn’t half the chump you are. You looked like you were ready to pass out. And you’re no where as good looking as me, so no, New Kid, we’re nothing alike.
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-Where you headed?
–I finna go over by Mike’s and them house over there right off the Jarvis stop.
-What you gonna do over there?
-Can I come with?
–You know damn well Mike and them don’t fuck with yo dumb ass.
-Well fuck ‘em anyway. I’m on my own shit.
–Yeah? What you finna do?
-I got me this here pint of Cognac and a fresh pack of Newports. I’m going to the crib and get it right tonight, baby.
–You got you some Newports and some yak?
-Best believe I do, baby.
–Can I get a square off you then?
-Nope, can’t even do it. But I’ll sell you one for 75 cent.
–See, that’s why nobody wanna fuck with yo ass. You too god damn cheap.
-I tell you what. Why don’t you come over the crib and you can get more than a square. You can get some of this bottle and a little bit of some break you off right delight.
–Fool, you done lost your damn mind? Ain’t all the Newports or yak in the world gonna make me go home with you.
-I’ll treat you right, baby.
–You’ll treat me dead. I’d have to kill myself if I ever laid down with yo scrawny, dirty, no front teeth having, ass.
-It’s all the same to me, baby. I’mma get mines with or with out you. This my stop. See ya later, baby.
- Last chance, baby. We can… Turn off the lights, and light a candle. Tonight I’m in a romantic mood….
–Boy, take yo dumb ass on.
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-How much longer to the El?
-We got like five more blocks, bro.
-I’m tired, man.
- You’re lazy, that’s what you are.
-I’m just saying…. We’ve been walking for like an hour.
-Chill, bro. We’re almost there.
-I’m hungry, too. Give me some of those Cheetos.
-Here, take them. Damn you like to complain.
-Just give it here.
-Bro, bro, look at this shit.
-That stroller in front of that building across the street with those two babies.
-They’re alone. Where the hell are the parents?
-That lady over there’s got to be the mom.
-Across the street digging through the trunk of that truck.
-She’s like a block and a half away. And she’s got her back turned to them. Any psycho could just snatch those kids up and run away.
-No one’s going to do that. Who’d try and snatch a couple babies up like that?
-You never know. There are plenty of psychos in this city. What sane parent does that?
-They’ll be fine. Stop tweaking.
-You know what I feel like doing? Scaring the shit out of her so she learns her lesson.
-I’d run up, grab the stroller and start running away with it while screaming ‘I’m stealing your babies! I’m stealing your babies cause you weren’t paying attention to them!’ It’ll scare the shit out of her and she’d never do that dumb ass shit again.
-Yeah. Yeah it would scare her. And it’d probably get you a free trip to County at the same time.
-I mean, I wouldn’t actually run away. I’d stop and snap on her for being a neglectful mother and tell her I did it to teach her a lesson.
-Yeah. I’m sure the cops would buy that story. You really are right. There are some psychos in this city. I’m walking next to one right now
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-You see we got Gasol from LA?
-I saw it on the SportCenter last night. That’s a big man.
-He is a big man. That’ll be a nice one-two threat with Noah down low.
-Where’s he from now? Slovakia? Slovenia?
-He’s from Spain, you dunce.
-I don’t know…
-Another good thing that came from the signing is we got rid of Boozer.
-Right? The man is a bum…
-Worst 80 mil the Bulls ever spent.
-Loved him when he was at Duke though.
-He was great at Duke.
-Pretty descent at the Jazz, too.
-But with the Bulls…
-And what’s with the painted beard and hairline?
-Who knows. Maybe that’s the black guy version of a toupe. Is that racist?
-I don’t think so.
-I give us two years and then we’ll bring the title back home.
-You think so?
-I know so. D Rose will be back stronger and smarter. Noah and Gibson, too, we’ll be unstoppable in the East.
-I hope so. This city needs another championship.
-Either way, I’m just glad we got rid of Boozer. I couldn’t take another season with that bum.
-I did like him at Duke.
-Yeah he was great at Duke.
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