Last week I had a job interview down at 95th and Pulaski. It took three buses to get there from Hyde Park–the 55 West to Garfield, the Red line down to 95th, then some pace bus all the way west down 95th. It was a frigid day, and I was frozen solid by the time I even got on the final bus. The 95th station terminal is a very busy station, with people running in and out and wandering around and going every which way in every which direction. All the while, the Dan Ryan is howling below you.
On my way back, I was waiting for this mysterious bus that traverses 95th street, once more in the frigid cold. This man, probably in his fifties or sixties, with a giant coat, a lumpy bag and a flappy hat comes sauntering down the sidewalk towards me.
(Sidewalks in Chicago in the winter, like any city with exorbitant snowfall, are no longer wide promenades, but rather tiny tracks of foot-packed snow that resemble yak-trails. They funnel traffic very well.)
He pauses at the bus stop that I am huddled inside and he exclaims: “It is too cold out here for you to be so beautiful!”
I laugh, and I respond: “Don’t worry, the longer I stand out here the uglier I get.”
Then, in all seriousness and with great sincerity, he replies: “No. You are beautiful. Every day you open your eyes–every day–creation celebrates you. Because you are so beautiful.”
I was stunned. This was not a curbside pickup, and honestly I felt no creepy vibes of any kind. This was just some old guy defending what he believed to be true: that women were beautiful, and that they needed to be told so.
He had a lollipop in his hand, and I think I was actively blushing when I asked him: “Where’d you get that at?”
“Just down at the doctor’s office there.” He waved with his arm in the direction that he came from.
“Aw I gotta get me one of those,” I replied.
“Well just you remember. Creation celebrates you. This country–it exploits women. But you’ve got to know that you are the most beautiful and strongest person, every day when you wake up.”
Still rather stunned, I just laughed. But there was something about this day that wasn’t quite like all the other days when I run into random people with prophetic talk at a bus stop. That day I was more receptive, ready to take in the world and what it had to say to me. It was early in the morning and the sun was out. I’d been feeling kind of low earlier in the week–distracted by school work and other tasks that were making me feel unavailable to the outside world. That was making me lonely. So instead of just blushing and wishing this guy on his way, I held out my head. “You know what, Thank you, man. I really needed to hear that.”
We chatted for a little while, and then he sauntered on off. I got on the bus, pretty happy. Looking out the window at a neighborhood I’d never been to before.
Several blocks down, he gets on the bus too–and like magic, as he walks past me towards the back of the bus, he slips a tootsie pop into my hands. No words. He’d just magically come up with a sucker and given it to me as a gift.
Humanity? Definitely not so bad after all.