I've seen a myriad homeless man arguing/singing/evangelizing--for an audience or for himself.
I've seen a dad open up a can of Sprite and pour it into his hungry baby's bottle.
I've seen a woman hawking seemingly-stolen purses while using a lighter to burn sensors off of men's slacks (and flicking plastic sensor remnants onto nearby passengers' seats--mine included).
The question might be then, "What HAVEN'T I seen on public transit?" Chicagoans seem to see it all. And what a privilege that truly is.
In Chicago, Businessman sits next to Homeless Person who sits next to College Student who sits next to Mom with Baby. All walks of life converge on any route of bus or train.
In Los Angeles, there is no such convergence on such a scale. Public transit exists--but more as a public service of sorts than as a way of life. Sure, public transit is expanding. But it won't ever be as needed or as utilized as it is in Chicago. In Los Angeles, we don't use public transit because we need our cars.
Experiencing Chicago's public transit--and then returning to suburb life (outside of Los Angeles, in my case)--, I am no longer connected to humanity on such an intimate level. Because while I may not befriend the likes of all of the aforementioned Chicagoans, I'm at least allowed into their world for even a moment. These people expand my perspective. Constant reminders that there is more to life than just my story.
In Los Angeles County (as spread out as it is), on any given day, the most exposure I have to Others is by going to the nearest strip mall to raid Target or Old Navy. In Chicago, no matter if you're from Ravenswood or Streeterville or Humboldt Park or Hyde Park, you're going to be exposed to the Others on your daily commute. You're going to arrive to work or return home having truly been immersed in society.
I've grown to love Chicago's public transit. It makes me feel alive. Connected. If only for 20 minutes as thighs touch on a train seat or I overhear a phone conversation or watch someone hustling something or other. But most times, it is in the interactions of the Others amongst themselves. Sharing bits of their day and what's important to them-- like boys or music or putting food on the table (and for the record, I'm fully aware that to the Others, I'm also an Other).
I believe that we need to see people in order to care about them. In order to truly be affected.
I miss being affected.
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