Freelance Writer Portfolio Website_edited.png
Decorative graphic
Decorative graphic

yeah, write

A THRILLER WRITER'S THOUGHTS ON WRITING, LIFE & WRITING LIFE.

Get write with yourself.

Thanks for subscribing!

A Thousand Fucking Degrees


Every once in a while I experience a little experience that is not life changing or profound or even terribly exciting, but for some reason fascinates me.


I had one such experience on the El earlier this year, when I took the train home early on a warm spring day, and for some inexplicable reason the heat was pumping full blast on the cars. An interesting character boarded the train and in the short time we shared a car, I was thoroughly intrigued by him and the brief interaction he had with another woman on the train. I repeated the story of what I witnessed to my husband, who said I must write it down. The following is what I wrote the next day, to ensure that beautiful moment never dissipates into some vague recollection of a guy who simply farted on a train...


Whoosh! A warm front descends as I step through the doors of the train car. Heat floods my body the way it does in that split second you realize a car almost nailed you as it blew a stop sign. I consider hopping off to wait for the next train but I already invested twelve minutes of my life waiting for this one, so I hunker down in my favorite seat right by the door. It's my favorite because there is only one other adjacent seat (I'm a bit squeamish about sweaty shoulder rubbing).


Whoosh. How is it possible the car is getting even hotter?


I look up and, seeing a vent directly above me, quickly change to another seat (another single-seater but this one faces backward). Still the hot air still blazes down on me. I scan above me, realizing the vents are all placed about a foot apart. Escaping the heat of Hades is an impossibility.


I scurry back to my original seat and look around at the other passengers. Let me just say, the brown line at 3:30 PM is a different horse from the brown line at 5:00 PM. There are only about a dozen other passengers in this car and at least four are stoned out of their gourds, one is quietly crying, another is staring accusingly at me (I probably deserve it) - and then there's a handful like me, skipping out early for their annual dentist appointment or whatever boring, benign grownup thing they have going on.


The doors open at the Harold Washington Library stop, temporarily offering relief as a cool gust of air ushers in a couple more passengers unaware they're about to be cooked alive.


“Jesus Christ! It’s a thousand fucking degrees in here!”


I stop glaring at the vents in order to check out this observant new rider. His sand-colored hair is freshly crew cut and his dry skin is smattered with freckles and pockmarks. He has glazed eyes and a windbreaker in matching shades of blue. The only thing needed to complete the look is loose carpenter jeans and a pair of dirty K-Swisses and, wouldn't you know, he's got those, too. If he's on his way to a 90s mixer, he's on-point.

“I’m not kidding you – it’s a fucking oven on this train,” he continues for the benefit of whoever is listening on the other end of the Bluetooth attached to his face.


“That's the fucking CTA for you," he goes on. He looks around, as though trying to engage the rest of us in his discussion. "You know what the problem is, don’t you?" I don't, but I suspect he's going to enlighten us.


"The CTA can’t manage itself and doesn’t have any fucking money so they hire a bunch of dumb fucks – a bunch of retards – and these dumb fucks walk around with their CTA jackets on and they think they’re important like the fucking FBI or something because they got a fucking little patch on their jacket." He shakes his head in disgust. "Working for the fucking C. T. A.," he says, enunciating each letter in the acronym. "That’s not a fucking career. It’s a job. It’s a job.”


I look around at the other passengers. In typical Chicagoan fashion, everyone pretends not to notice the scene unfolding. This guy could pull down his jeans, exposing torn, blood-stained boxers and take a piss on the floor and no one would bat an eye. That’s not hyperbole - I saw it on the blue line once.


Anywhere, here I am, pretending along with everyone else that I haven't heard a thing but really wondering what fabulous career this guy has that entitles him to pass judgment on a CTA worker.


“These people don’t got no education whatsoever," he continues. (I shit you not, that is a direct quote.) "They’re not educated at all and they got no… no formal education or… or nothing. You got to make good life choices ---”


And that's when it happens.


“Shut up! I’m trying to read.”


I don't turn my head to see from what woman that request sprang. I am far too interested in seeing how the gentleman will react. The gentleman who must have a very formal education and good life choices.


He turns his head to stare at his challenger. “Oh yeah? You're trying to read?" he demands. "Well I’m trying to squeeze this fart out.”


Then he walks over to the woman, backs himself into her face, and lets rip.


I feel the strangest urge to laugh and cry. Instead, I look around again at my fellow passengers. I cannot believe we're all just sitting here like nothing extraordinary is happening. I'm not sure what exactly we should be doing, but it seems inexplicable to me that we're not doing anything about this. Yelling, laughing, crying, cry-laughing, something.


The guy walks back to his spot, standing near the doors as though he's done nothing more than take a closer look at the train line map.


I find myself wondering what his name is and start mentally listing the most likely candidates - RJ seems like a good fit for some reason, but I can also buy Ace, Billy, Gator, and Wesley.


The soul at the other end of the Bluetooth must have inquired as to what was going on because now the man is repeating the story of his fart - loudly, proudly, and in detail.


Suddenly the train stops again and the doors open. Another cool draft of air blows in as the speakers announce, “This is Sedgwick. This is a brown line train to Kimball.”


“Fuck!”


It's Gator again.


“I gotta go, ma!" he yells into his mouthpiece. "I missed my stop. I was supposed to get off at Clark and Lake. Fuck.” His voice trails off as he pushes his way through the onboarding passengers.


This is where I usually find some cute way to wrap things up, but I think I'll just stop here and let this one linger.