this morning, BoyCat and i walked into the Belmont El station to find a gaggle of people standing around at the foot of the stairs that lead up to the train platform. it was all clear on the side heading north, though, so after ascertaining that we had no idea what was going on, BoyCat went up to catch his train. i sidled up to the group standing around doing nothing and looked around. there was a guy with a walkie talkie blocking off the stairs to the south-bound platform, but no other signs of anything amiss.
of course, in this brave new world of ours, one of your first thoughts upon encountering this kind of abnormal situation is terrorism. ridiculous? yes. and part of your brain tells you "that's ridiculous" even as you're thinking it. but the other part of your brain, the one father back, deeper down, is whispering,
it's a bomb.
was there a bomb?
is there a bomb?
maybe it's a bomb.
i shush this voice as best i can and ask a girl standing next to me if she knew what was going on. she said, "they're blocking the stairs because there's a train delay, and the platform is overcrowded."
oh, ok. plausible enough. i sit back on my heels a little and watch as the area fills up with hapless commuters, just trying to get somewhere, but at the moment having nowhere to go. then, to my right, two big guys in bulletproof vests and police badges brush roughly past me, and make their way up the stairs to the platform. looks like there's a train up there, actually, and i see another guy in a bright yellow CTA vest walking alongside it.
terrorism. terrorism? terrorism.
my brain is now actively at war with itself. one side says, "just be patient, you've got no good alternatives right now." the other side says, "get out of here. this is suspect. walk back to clark street and take the 156 bus, anything, just go!"
i don't move. i think about the small insanity of such decisions, i wonder if these are mental arguments i will always have to have with myself as long as i choose to live in a big city, but i don't move.
within a minute or so, the bulletproofed policemen come down off the platform, another train pulls in and debarks some passengers, and we are allowed up the stairs. i get on the next brown line train that comes by, sit down, and put my headphones in. right before the first song queues up i hear the doors suction shut and the familar computerized voice telling me that "wellington is next. doors open on the right at wellington."
and just like that, things are normal again. but then again, i guess small insanities are the new normal anyway.