“Red Line Justice” has also been published in the February 2, 2015 edition of Write City Magazine, the magazine of the Chicago Writers Association
Bad things can happen on the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line.
It runs 24/7, which sounds convenient, but in actuality means there are a lot of people awake at hours that they really shouldn’t be. This story is much less harmful than many, and has a happy- er, karma-fulfilled- ending.
The story goes that a couple dozen people are on a crowded late night Red Line train heading northbound. It’s a mixed crowd, with individual late-shifters, older folks, weekend-girls-night-outers, and drunken Lollapalooza patrons.
Our particular subject- let’s just call him ‘Steve’, is of the last group mentioned.
Muscles-for-miles, backwards hat, sunburn, and one of those tank tops that five years ago were exclusively for women. The certain male archetype built around intimidating everyone into enjoying their presence.
At North and Clybourn a seat opens up. Steve has come from Lolla with…’Shannon’, but Steve is not a gentleman, so he plops down drunkenly in the seat and tells Shannon
“Come here and sit on my knee, baby.”
At this point everyone around Steve is trying to picture him having a mother and father. Let’s just say he does. How did they raise him that this is how you carry yourself in front of people? Is this chivalry?
And these same people, some of them a little older (thirties) than Steve are now graced with conversation with Steve that they didn’t initiate, nor would they have. You see they’ve been on the Red Line before, and they know you don’t start harassing strangers on the train late at night.
And Steve’s telling them they should come out. And how great it’s all gonna be. And that-
“I’m going 100% tonight, bro.”
That’s an actual quote. And they are polite and say ‘no thanks’ and sort of laugh politely. But Steve has been drinking and maybe he thinks they’re laughing at him wearing his big sister’s tank top, so he starts mumbling and harassing them about being ‘past your prime’, and generally making it a very uncomfortable experience. And now they’re at Fullerton, and Shannon is trying to push Steve out of the train because that’s their stop. ‘Don’t you push me……too old…past their prime…’ A few more four-letter words and it’s all over. Steve is off to the bar to pick a fight with a complete stranger just because…well he can’t remember why.
Relief comes over the remaining Red Line passengers. Sometimes it’s the crazies. Sometimes the smellies. Sometimes the drunks. But it’s peaceful on the train again.
And for our ‘older’ friends on that train, they’ll probably get over their thoughts of being past their prime. And because karma is a b sometimes, and because every once in awhile things even out, one of the older gentlemen look down on the seat next to them where Steve had been sitting and joyfully exclaim:
“are these that guy’s keys?!”
Because maybe they’re past whatever Steve considers their ‘prime’. But at least they could get into their apartments at the end of the night.