I've witnessed some shocking behavior on public transportation. I've sat next to people who have peeled off their socks and then trimmed their toenails by gnawing at them with their teeth. I've shuddered in disgust as riders with drippy noses used the El's windows as their personal hankies. As a result, every time I board a bus or a train, I get the sensation that I'm stepping onto a giant, rumbling virus.
But, despite the occasional explosion of body fluids, it's usually a quiet journey. Until recently, there's never been much chatter among passengers. So, I've been left alone to stare quietly out the grimy windows and build a healthy fantasy life involving me, Diane Sawyer, and a giant jar of Marmite.
The advent of the cell phone has shattered the peace, however. In the past year, not a day has gone by when my erotic meditations haven't been interrupted by some fool shouting into his cell phone. The conversation always goes like this:
Fool: 'Hi, what are you doing? I'm on the train. I'm at Belmont. Now I'm at Ashland. Now I'm at Sheridan. Now I'm at Wilson ….'
It's not that I mind listening to personal conversations. It's just that these people's lives are so goddamned boring. If someone called me and tried to pass off a litany of Red Line stops as conversation, I'd yank the cell phone out of his hand and beat him over the head with it.
I'd all but given up hope that I'd ever hear an interesting cell phone conversation until last night. The conversation was shocking, cruel, and highly inappropriate. It was the single worst act I've ever seen committed on public transportation. It was thrilling!
It took place on the 147 bus running north on Sheridan. I was the only passenger on the bus until a well-dressed guy stepped on and collapsed in the seat behind me. He flipped open his phone and dialed a number.
'Stephen,' he shouted into the phone, 'we have to talk.'
I gathered all my passive-aggressive powers and prepared to turn around and glare at him. But there was something in the tone of his voice that made me think this just might be worth listening to.
It was, of course, a breakup call. Stephen, it seems, had created a horrible scene at a dinner party. The guy on the phone referred to it as 'the lasagna incident' and said it was 'the last straw.' I couldn't hear Stephen's side of the story, but I could tell he was pleading to save the relationship. The guy sitting behind me wasn't budging, though. When I turned to catch a peek at him, he was casually flicking some dirt from under his fingernails. Then he winked at me and smiled.
I felt sorry for poor Stephen (who, according to the guy on the phone, needs to spend more time at the gym and less time with his mother), but I was excited for all CTA passengers. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I'm hoping that other cell phone users will take a lead from the terrible boy on the bus. If they are going to force us to listen to their personal conversations, they are responsible for giving us something worth listening to. And public humiliation of a loved one is a fine place to start.