All Bostonians everywhere felt shocked, felt hurt, and felt concern for our city after the Boston Marathon this year. But some stuff was just weird.

I saw this:

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… and I said ha! No, Boston, no. That’s not what happened, fool. They told you to stay indoors, and so you did.

There was one nineteen-year-old injured kid with a gun and some scary pressure cooker bombs somewhere in Watertown, and no one knew where, and so the National Guard, the FBI, the Boston Police, and the Watertown Police swarmed our empty streets and yards while our people all hid, hunkered down in their houses, or else watched the crazed scene with bated breath in huddled little groups of fear.

Did we “hunt you down”? Or did we react, terrified?

And then people we elected started pointing fingers at Homeland Security for not being more scared of immigrants, and at the FBI for not spying on us more, as we read here and here.

And that day I was on the train in Chicago, and I contributed. I tweeted this:

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And it’s been a week, almost two, in fact, and yet today I saw this:

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and this:

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and this:

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and this:

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… everywhere.

And I thought, are we bored? We are all safe here in Chicago, but we retweet and comment pointlessly about stuffed animals on poles. We say: “Be careful out there.” Huh?

And so I decided, there and then, to think carefully before I terrorize myself and my countrywomen and men with retweets and reposts and pictures.

Oklahoma City bombing was a terrible thing.
9/11 was a terrible thing.
The Boston Marathon bombing was a terrible thing.

Our current jittery propagation of terror is a terrible thing.

May we reach a place where we simultaneously appreciate the selflessness and heroism of those that protect us, while meanwhile refusing to propagate terror.

Further Reading:

How we are all unwitting terrorists (The First Casualty, April 24, 2013)
This Is What It Looks Like When the Police Shut Down a City (The Atlantic Wire, April 19, 2013)
Running from Terror in Boston (The First Casualty, April 16, 2013)

Thanks to Jay Pinho for curating many of the links in this post.

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There are some Big People in the Midwest. On this particular evening train, most of the twin seats are occupied fully by one person to every two seats.

I eventually find a spot and settle in for a good half-hour read on my commute home.

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About halfway there, I am startled by a massive snort. I look up, look around. Did that come from the man in front of me? I meet eyes with the man across the aisle; he raises an eyebrow, and I smirk. I return to my book.

Suddenly, the snort returns, but this time it is prolonged, sustained, ravenous in its growling-ness. The rumbling is certainly coming from the man in front of me, but I am so confused. Isn’t he awake? His left head is tilting towards the aisle, and isn’t that his hand fumbling for something in his pocket?

Then, a full-out snore. Awake or not, this man is snoring. The train car is filled with the thundering base notes. Only there is no melody, but instead a sort of sustained undercurrent of roar.

I give up my book as a lost cause, and peer above his right shoulder at the passengers ahead. His head swings far rightward and then suddenly shudders leftward to hang over the aisle. All around me, people are smiling.

The handsome man in front of us near the door has a delightful, open smile. He removes his large headphones to fully appreciate the slumberer’s cacophony. He smiles at me, he smiles at the man across the aisle from him. The man across the aisle smiles back and makes a comment, and behind me I hear someone repeat the comment.

I turn around, and she’s looking at me, smiling. A man stands up to get off the train, smiling and smiling.

“SNORE, ruff, ruff, snooooore”, the man howls again, and it pushes me over the edge. I am so grateful for my scarf. I pull it up to my nose, I hide in it, and laughter consumes me.

I try to contain myself, but I am shaking, I am dying, my face is becoming red, my eyes suspiciously moist. How very embarrassing!

There is tittering in surround sound, and conversation gets louder. I peek upward out of my mini scarf cave and see others also shaking with laughter.

What does one do when she’s becoming slaphappy amongst a train full of strangers!? When everyone is becoming slaphappy amongst a train full of strangers?!

Little squeaking sounds burst from me as I try to quench this hilarity straining to be unleashed. I press my lips together and hold my chest in tightly. I am losing control.

I am also missing my stop.

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I hurl myself out of my seat and run for the map over the door. Oh, never mind, one more stop.

I’m next to the handsome man now, and he gives me a wide grin. The man across the aisle from him looks up at me as if we’re old friends.

I look at the snoring man. His hands are on his glasses, adjusting them, but then suddenly his head rushes to his right, and then careens forward towards the pole in front of him.

“He must be drugged,” I say, smiling uncontrollably. How can he still be asleep!?

“It’s been going for 15 minutes now, and it’s highly entertaining,” the man across the aisle says, smiling widely. “He keeps pulling his shirt up and scratching his chest,” he adds, and he’s smiling and smiling.

“I’m glad I was sitting behind him,” I reply, giggling.

And then it’s my stop. The handsome man smiles hugely. I wink, and bound out into the cold air.

He was a tall, stout man, and he put his neat, brown bag on the seat in front of me with purpose and cleared his throat. I paid attention.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “I am here because I am an ex-offender and I need a job. If there is anyone who could find it in their hearts to help me out, I would be most grateful.

“In my bag to my left, I have brought my resume. I am trying to save money to study at DePaul University. If anyone would like to see my resume, I will be glad to give it to you.

“I don’t steal from anyone, I don’t rob, I am an ex-offender, and I am looking for a job. If there is anyone who would find it in their hearts to give me a dollar, or a quarter, or a dime, I would be most grateful. Thank you.”

He was tall, and proud, and he stood still, observing the seated passengers, and the train rumbled on, and my eyes burned.

A person’s arm reached up, a dollar bill fluttering from between his fingers. The tall man moved towards it.

“Good luck,” I gulped. I wasn’t sure he’d heard me in the commotion. “Good luck,” I repeated. Why did it matter if he’d heard me?

“Thank you,” he replied.

Further Reading:
The Prison Problem (Harvard Magazine)