Sunday, August 21, 2005

More tales from the El

Well, I had my own CTA Tattler moment on Saturday night. Heading downtown on a red line train from Howard, I was witness to an incident that makes it easy to understand why El riders--among many others--feel animosity towards privileged, suburban white kids.

A group of girls boarded the Red Line at Howard from the Purple Line train that ends at the station. They first made a big squeal about whether they were on the right train, which seemed pretty dense, because the train that goes in the other direction is on an opposite platform and would take them back from whence they came (which would have been nice).

When they finally figured out what they were doing, these girls, all sporting Abercrombie-esque wardrobes boarded, two or three of them holding pint glasses half-full with beer. They made a lot of noise about going to an O.A.R. concert (surprise, surprise) and continued squealing and yelling and acting like the train car was their own private room. They made the garden-variety public drunk seem like a reserved sophisticate.

Two fairly young, African-American woman sat down not far from these girls, and one of them started staring out into space and rapping about the weekend. Then the suburban girls, clearly excited that they were seeing a real, live black person who probably conformed to their every stereotype (look, she raps!) focused their squeals on this woman. Noticing she had a cigarette, one of them, a blonde Budweiser-sipping girl, offered her a light. Unfortunately, the woman took the offer, and the two started smoking, which caused one rider to tell them that there is "no smoking on the train." The girls started challenging the man. (As one blonde so cogently challenged me with this well-reasoned thought as I was leaving the car "Don't you go to bars and clubs? There's smoking there." Whatever I could have mumbled about that not being the point, there's no smoking allowed on the El, and that smoking in bars is becoming endangered anyways would have been lost on that one).

The woman who had been rapping began singing a Christmas song while puffing away and filling the car with smoke and cigarette fumes. The suburban girls wanted her to come over and rap more, and in a sad sight, this woman obliged.

Another woman in a nurse uniform had been sitting by these girls, and they were chiding her a bit, I guess for not being as lively as the public singer, to which this woman responded that she had just gotten off of work. I can only think that such a concept was probably foreign to these girls.

A younger man and I both switched cars soon after, and I remembered that sometimes the best El stories are the most unpleasant to endure.

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