NaNoWriMo post–Day 4: 7,767 words.
My name is Paige Worthy, and I am in the business of counting blessings.
I can get pretty whiny and petulant when things don't go my way — especially if it involves my commute, how my clothes fit or food — but I always remind myself of the good in my life.
However. If I had one wish, it would be to transplant my current job, located deep in the northwest suburbs, into the city where I live. Everything would be perfect. Actually, I'd probably just find something else to sub in as my Chief Complaint in Life. But it really would be nice.
That isn't going to happen, I realize, and I knew what I was getting into when I took this job two years ago.
So I've decided "grin and bear it" is the best approach.
It's working out: I look better smiling than scowling anyway.
All things considered, life is pretty delicious around here.
On Tuesday night, I was making the long haul from Arlington Heights to downtown Chicago and back up to Wilmette for dinner with my father and grandmother. (The Metra! It's everywhere you wish you weren't!)
The first leg of my journey was a joy, as always. In the two years since I started riding the train, I've made a few amazing friends: Doug, my Gay Boyfriend (first introduced here), his coworker Lisa, a lovely French-Canadian man named Pierre.
We're accompanied by a delightful cast of regularly occurring characters: The hugely obese man who snores like a cave-dwelling ogre in the very last seat of the last car. The woman who talks on her cell phone nonstop and tans herself orange — we sing the Oompa-Loompa theme every time she gets on. "Cane Lady" (who we know can walk without it because we've seen it happen, but she abuses. the. privilege.) and her friend — they struggle through the RedEye crossword every day, aloud, as loudly as possible.
Then there's the conductor, Steve. Oh, Steve. We call him Sunshine for reasons no one will ever understand — even me, and I came up with the nickname. He will have his own entry someday. Maybe a book.
Sometimes we buy beer and toast one another as we chug southeastward. Sometimes we mercilessly poke fun at Steve. Sometimes, after a really long day, we just sit and stare at each other until one of us cracks.
We are a happy bunch, if a bit odd.
Maybe it's because we know we're going home to the sweet metropolis of Chicago, where there are no cats, and the streets are paved with cheese.
Maybe it's our nature.
But I sort of thought the trains were all that way, that Metra travel encouraged a sort of conviviality unique to commuter rails.
Because I sat down on the northbound train to Waukegan, the one that would drop me off in Wilmette, and no one spoke. Not a peep.
A man sat down next to me just before we pulled out, his jacket reeking of stale cigarettes and his scowl laced with bile. I inched closer to the window and focused on my writing.
Then I looked around. And everyone appeared just as grouchy, or worse. It wasn't the kind of temporary unhappiness that stems from the sudden knowledge of how stupid you look wearing bright white sneakers with your hose. It was soul-plumbing misery.
Hey, guys! Work is over! You're going home! To your really big houses and sweet, beautiful children and wives you might have cheated on over lunch! You're rolling in dough! You are the North Shore! Life is good!
I've seen the same look on the faces of countless drivers along I-90, too, on the few days I've had the privilege to pilot the Shining Camry to work.
Guys, listen! You get to turn on NPR or put in a CD and sing along as loud as you want! You can go to a drive-through (I will NOT write "thru") and not get strange looks for walking through it! Best yet, you don't have to walk through knee-deep snow in the winter — you get in your car, turn on the heat and GO! Life is good!
They were not counting their blessings.
Some people really seem to hate their lives.
I don't want to oversimplify. The world's not the easiest place to live lately. (Though this is America.)
I know some people are really going through it. People lose their jobs. People get divorced. People have deaths in their families. Life's not fair sometimes.
One of the things I love about my commute is the luxury of mindless voyeurism, making up stories about the inhabitants of the world around me or just wondering what's going through their heads.
But to project so much negativity to passers-by? I couldn't do it.
On that train, in my little yellow peacoat with my tiny white laptop, I was suddenly so happy to be exactly where I was. In my job, in my life station, in my body. Yes, I see a therapist every week. Sure, I'm taking a few things to tweak the mechanics up there. But I'd like to think this vision prescription I've been wearing since kindergarten came with rose-colored lenses. I never lose my ability to see the best in things. That Pollyanna attitude has gotten me hurt — more than a few times — where men are concerned, but in most other situations? It's hard to go wrong with that perspective.
When I arrived at Maggiano's for dinner with my family, we were seated in the corner of the restaurant with a server named Vickie.
Vickie was like me: She had those rose-colored lenses on, and that pink tint looked good on her.
And she treated my grandmother like royalty, a feat beyond words in itself.
After she dropped our check off, she hung around to chat for a few minutes. Turns out she and her sons are moving soon from Division and Pulaski out to Northbrook. They're currently at a great school, but the neighborhood where they live is atrocious. She drives them all over town and works a closing shift at Maggiano's on a pretty regular basis. She waits tables for a living. She's in constant fear of her kids getting beaten up or, worse, falling into a life of crime as they get older. So she's yanking them before it's even an option.
And she was the happiest person I'd seen all day. Whether that's really how she feels or just how she projects herself, it's what I saw. And that was amazing. So I told the manager what an impact she'd had on me, and he just grinned. I got the feeling he hears that a lot.
Take note, northward commuters and Kennedy drivers.
This is the 100th post on paigeworthy.com. I've been counting up to it and kind of hyperventilating about what I'd write when I got to it. Then I realized I didn't really care. And that no one else really does either. Huh.