Judging Strangers on a Train

Well, it’s that time of year again. Chicago lured us into a false sense of hope with a few nice days, then slammed us with some more snow. But who are we kidding? This isn’t a post about the weather. No, this is about all the delightful pain in the ass moments that the weather forces us to endure. For those of you familiar with the Chicago area, I’m talking about the overcrowded els, the slick streets, and the salt stains that leave ghostly footprints on your hardwood floors.

In case you’re not getting my point, I’m over this whole winter thing. I know what Punxsutawney Phil said, but I don’t care. I’m tired of watching three els go by before I can finally wriggle myself into one, jammed between a girl’s ‘Pink’ inscribed ass and a guy’s already damp armpit. I mean, seriously, it’s 8:30 in the morning, how can you possibly be sweating already?

Still, we make do with what we’ve got, right? Still, last night was a good night. I managed to make the first train and get a seat. It’s usually one or the other, rarely both, but what can I say? I guess I’m a lucky guy. Anyways, with everyone crammed in there and me comfortably enjoying my seat, my eyes begin to wander. I always like to look around to keep busy, just so long as I avoid reflective surfaces. I know, that’s my bag of crazy, but we can talk about that later.

So I look to the girl next to me. She’s tall with brown hair and a sort of earthy vibe to her. In short, she’s cute. You know, in an “indie” sort of way. She looks over as I’m watching her mess around with her phone. I smile kinda bashfully and she smiles back. Not exactly a Craigslist caliber “missed connection” with the whole gay thing I’ve got goin’ on, but whatever, it was a pleasant little moment. A few minutes pass and I find myself looking over at her again. This time she’s got her iPod out, undoubtedly trying to find something to block out the clammer of the tracks and the crowds surrounding those of us who remain seated.

Recently added. S & M.

Now, I know I don’t have all the facts here, but to my knowledge, there’s really only one “S & M” song out there and that’d be the latest Rihanna song which plagues the airwaves with its generic bass and indecipherable lyrics. I know, I’m particular about my music… and by that, I mean I’m a music snob and own up to it, but in that exact moment?

It was instantaneous. Any minor attraction was gone. I had no idea who this girl sitting next to me was, but something just absolutely clicked off. I don’t know if, in the exchange of a glance, I earned the right to judge this girl, but the truth of it is, I felt betrayed. On the outside, she was entirely something else. She was quiet. She was sweet. She was a bit of a mystery. Then again, I’m not sure she ever stopped being a mystery. I mean, it’s like I said, I thought she was one thing and she turned out to be something entirely different.

I don’t know where the indignation comes from. It’s not as if it’s warranted or if I ever really knew her, but there’s always something so devastating about that moment you think you’ve got someone pegged and then they pull the rug out from under you. I don’t know what the moral of this story is; whether it’s “don’t judge a book by its cover” or “nobody is ever who they really seem.” Maybe it’s “Don’t look at other peoples’ iPods and you won’t be disappointed in humankind?” I really have no idea, but then again, maybe that’s the beauty of people. You never have any idea with them.


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