Early morning walks to the Max station.
Yup, those can be funny.
Or – if you’re me – both.
I woke up after four hours of super solid sleep this morning. Wide awake. At 2:00, I caved and did some reading, then tried sleeping again just before 3:00.
It’s 4:45 and I’m on a Max, heading to work. I guess you could say that my last effort at sleep went…not well. But tonight is another day. Nope, that didn’t sound right, but I’ve only got 16 hours before my next attempt.
Wish me luck.
Anyway, my slightly earlier walk to the Max was different than my normal early walk. Usually, I’ve got a bunch of Central City Concern denizens airing out their crazy to one another on the corner of Sixth and Everett.
Key words: To. One. Another.
As in: Not. At. Me.
Then there’s the Mayor of Old Town, with his peacock feathered tam, smart vest and six-foot, hand carved walking stick…not to mention his occasional kilt. I enjoy getting to wish him a good morning when our corners line up.
All-in-all, I don’t draw much attention. Between myself and the handful of other bland early morning commuters, our numbers are pretty evenly matched compared to the more colorful Old Townies.
But today, today I admit that I was a little scared.
At first, I was a little too busy being amused by the two brothas I walked between. They were standing on opposite sides of the sidewalk, forcing me to confront my latent racism and discomfort as much as they forced me to walk between them. That pretty much faded immediately when the one that looked like Mike Tyson broke out his Wayne Brady voice to mutter “Workin’? You workin’?” at me.
Please. How dark is it that he thinks I’m either a drug dealer or a street walker? Last I knew, khakis weren’t the dress code for either.
By the time I reached the corner, I was aware that there was a whatever the homeless version of a domestic dispute is happening just out of my line of sight. I figured it was some of the Sixth and Ev street crew going at it and also took comfort in the knowledge that if I could see them, they probably couldn’t see me.
As I picked my way carefully through the minefield of their possessions and fractured social norms, the guy looked me straight in the eye and yelled, “Hey Buddy! Come ‘ere.” from three feet away.
“I don’t think so” I replied hastening into the crosswalk.
By the time I got to the dingy character diving into the recycling bins, I was ready for the relative security of Max’s harsh fluorescent lighting.
I noticed he’d had a productive morning, as his cart was filled with bags of cans and bottles. The top bag had what looked to be almost two dozen Heineken bottles in it.
Once again, this guy brought situationally incredibly focused eyes to bear on me, increasing the discomfort of the last block.
I was beginning to miss my Wayne Brady voiced Mike Tyson as I picked my way through scattered McDonald’s side dishes and amused myself with Dave Chappelle quotes that are inappropriate for white guys to repeat. Plus, it was probably the actual French Fries that smelled like French Fries and not my industrious yet grubby sidewalk mate.
I’d given him a wide berth, walking quickly in an impressive feat of curb balancing. Still, my quick pace found a bit more pep as the wheels on his cart squeaked rapidly behind me. Without obviously and totally losing my shit over the course of two hundred feet, I made for the daylight bright bus stop at Fifth and Everett.
Not my stop, but a momentary haven of sanity.
Before I reached it, I ratcheted up my pace once more to put some feet between me and Squeaky Wheels as my own murder scene flashed across my mind: me, head bashed in by a Heineken bottle wielding homeless man.
What scared me most was how ridiculous it wasn’t.