Thursday, January 10, 2008

You gotta have faith

When I first entered the world of advertising, I landed on a desk that fed my need to work in a creative environment. The client was fantastic and I was SO happy in my position. I mean, sure, there were frustrating and stressful days (I do work in advertising, folks - this shit is crazy), but for the most part, I left for work with a smile on my face. After a period of time, I rotated to new responsibilities. It was more of a lateral move than a promotion, but the gears switched and I have since been working with a different kind of client - focused on tedius task-master type projects rather than creative strategy. I'm sure some people would thrive in my position. The daily tasks are clear and free of ambiguity - things are pretty cut and dry.

I, however, have been extremely unhappy. I went from loving my job to dreading most every day. I head to the same building as I did 6 months ago. I make the same amount of money (actually a little more), but I am miserable. I stay because I adore my co-workers, I love the company, and lets face it - I just don't want the hassle of going somewhere else. I can't lie, though, there have been days when I have left work at 7:30pm and headed to the El close to tears.

Thankfully, the days my career depression overwhelm me are few and far between. Nevertheless, every time I am having a horrible day...I see the same guy...a street musician with a beautiful voice.

I don't know his name, but I have come to the point where I know his sound before I even make it down the stairs. I have seen him on good days, but I always see him on the days where I have surrendered any hope of a positive attitude. For this, I am so thankful. He lifts my spirits and helps me put things in perspective. It's not even the songs he sings, but the way he sings them.

One of my favorite songs is Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" - a song that carries a certain sadness, but brings a feeling of hope. My Subway Savior sings the song a bit more up-tempo, but with the same amazing soul and conviction that I love about the original. When he sings it as I wait - it touches my heart and allows me a moment of peace to reflect. It's almost as though just hearing him sing lifts the weight of my day off my shoulders. All of the noise and unpleasantries of the CTA disappear, and a sense of serenity overwhelms me when he is present.

I know there will be a day when I am feeling particularly down, and he will not be there on the subway platform, and that's ok. I may only know him as the man with the sweet voice and a guitar, but he has taken permanent residence in my memories - and when I think about the sincerety of the music he plays - I know it will make me smile.

Just is Sam Cooke...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Bus Witch

Every morning, I catch a bus and take it almost a mile to the nearest subway stop - which I then take to work. Nearly every morning, I end up on the same bus and train as one of my favorite "Auxiliary characters" in the movie of my life.

I call her "The Bus Witch" (TBW) because she has strange growths all over her face and arms - similar to what comes to mind when you think of the wart on a witch's nose. They may be all over her body, I just haven't had the displeasure of seeing that much detail with my own eyes. Either way, I see her almost every day. She is an older woman, perhaps in her mid 50's. She has greying dark hair, which she pulls back with a barrette. She also has some of the most stunning facial hair I have ever seen on a woman. I'm not just talking a few stray dark hairs here and there...I am talking cop mustache. She does occasionally wax or shave, but I think she could pull off a convincing Burt Reynolds if she chose to do so. It appears as though she has a uniform of mom jeans, short sleeved muted Hawaiian shirts, and Keds. To recap: Warty growths, long grey hair, cop 'stache, tourist outfit (without fanny pack).

There are a lot of odd looking people on Chicago's public transit, but it is TBW's sense of urgency and panic that cause me to find her particularly interesting. If you know anything about Chicago buses during the morning rush hour, you know that they are ridiculously packed full of people. To liken my morning commute to being in a can of sardines is more telling than you will ever know unless you experience it first-hand. The smell is even similar. By the time the bus reaches my stop, I am lucky to get on. TBW gets on at the stop after me, so the bus is already filled to the gills (I am on a roll with the fish references). While many will try to squeeze on in an effort to get to work on time, TBW takes it to the next level.

She will cut in front of children, the elderly, hell- she would knock over a pregnant woman if that's what it took to make sure that she could get on the bus. It is extremely entertaining to watch from afar - though not as funny when you happen to be in her path of destruction. The woman shoves her way onto the bus, but it is not enough that she gets on...oh no. That would be too easy. Once she gains entrance, her main objective is to shove her way to the back exit. If she is not able to immediately take residence next to the back door, she becomes increasingly agitated with each stop closer to the subway.

Now, keep in mind that approximately 70% of the riders will exit the bus at the subway stop so there is little to no chance that a person would be unable to get off - even considering the crowd. I don't think that the concept registers with TBW. The woman will start to grunt and pace anxiously as she shoves anyone who proves to be an obstacle. If someone dare mention that everyone in front of them will also be exiting at the subway, she will shout "You don't know that!" "- and she will continue to heave herself towards the exit. I have watched her take down grown men in quest for the coveted standing position near the door.

I heart TBW because she is relentless in her pursuits, however bizarre they may be. She symbolizes so much more than than a nutball on a mission. She accomplishes her goal on a daily basis, and those that try to impede are left bruised and battered in her wake. I dig that kind of determination - but only because I know to get the hell out of her way.