yesterday, i was sitting on the El on my way home from work. i sat in on of the double seats just inside the sliding doors, which face sideways instead of forwards or backwards. across from me was one of the elusive single sideways seats, and in it was a man. he looked like the professor type: khakis, scuffed up brown loafers, a leather portfolio-type briefcase that had seen better days resting on his lap. Professor Guy was reading a print-out of something intently, his glasses perched partway down his nose.
it wasn't until two stops into my journey that i realized Professor Guy was doing something remarkable. there was about a 12 inches of space between the left edge of his seat and the metal divider at the edge of the sliding door, a divider that reached all the way to the floor in one solid piece. instead of having his left foot aligned with his left leg, as i imagine is most comfortable for anyone in a sitting position, he had it pressed up against the divider. or, more specifically, he had it pressed up against an empty corona bottle, which was in turn pressed up against the divider.
at some point before i got on the train, the corona bottle must've been careening wildy around the floor of the traincar as the El hurtled around the Loop. Professor Guy, in a magnanimous gesture, had trapped the bottle between his foot and the divider, and he had been holding it there with his foot ever since.
my first thought: "wow, that's nice of him."
my second thought: "i hope he's not getting off before belmont."
i didn't even have to worry about that, though, because even Professor Guy's altruistic gesture was about to be topped. as the train pulled into diversey, the man sitting next to me got up to get off. wearing dress pants, button-up shirt, tie, and the ubiquitous headphones, he seemed like your typical disaffected, unconcerned passenger. however, i watched as in one smooth movement he leaned across the aisle, scooped the dirty, smudged bottle up off the floor and away from Professor Guy's foot, and straightened up again. as he moved toward the door he nodded at Professor Guy, and Professor Guy nodded back. the doors slid shut behind him, and Professor Guy returned his attention to his photocopies.
i smiled to myself, head tilted down as if i was almost ashamed of my appreciation of the moment. in true city fashion, though, i imagine neither of them even noticed me.