Mitch and I have been living in Chicagoland for a little over a year now, in Chicago proper for about eight months. It's been difficult to make friends; whereas in college, we were practically thrust upon like-minded people from similar backgrounds and age-brackets and socio-cultural-economic standing. We came to rely so much on this for our happiness that we've been moaning in our Rogers Park apartment, tears staining our increasingly parched and weathered skin -- we need friends! Etc.
But the winds are changing....
I've been going on long runs with a coworker on Thursday evenings. After I finish, I shower, buy something from 7-eleven and go wait on the cement steps in front of my job for the shuttle to take me home. My least favorite driver drives the shuttle for this particular time slot, 7:20. He gets me home at least ten minutes slower than the other drivers; he wildly slams on the brakes for no apparent reason - standing passengers almost falling over. Someone yelled at him once about it, and instead of changing this practice, he's decided to just shout at everyone before we embark that they need to "hold on." (He also refuses to go around CTA buses, which is crazy.)
Two weeks ago, by the time he was running twenty minutes late, a woman who looked to be about my age sat down and started talking to me. I found out that she had just started a PhD program in sociology. She explained that she was downtown for a grant-writing seminar, and that her classes are usually up in Evanston. As we continued to talk, I enjoyed her company. It made me feel less annoyed when the shuttle arrived a full hour late.
The next week, my co-worker asked if we could change our long-run day to Wednesday. Fine by me. We ran, I showered, I went to 7-eleven and then went to catch the shuttle. Same time slot, same driver. The girl I met before was back! She said she hadn't come downtown since our last adventure the Thursday before, and I hadn't had any reason to catch the late shuttle since that either. We could only guess if the bus-running-an-hour-late issue had been resolved. We agreed that if the shuttle was more than 20 minutes late we would take the train.
This time it was not so late, but the traffic on Lake Shore Drive was horrendous because of construction. It looked like it was going to be a long trip home anyway. This new person and I sat next to each other and continued to talk. (Quite nice -- I need friends!) It was the last trip she was going to have to make down to the Chicago campus for a while.
We were at the bend in Lake Shore just north of Chicago Ave where there are four lanes crammed into the space of three, and there are cement barriers on either side of the road, no shoulders. We heard a crunch and then a plastic dragging noise down the length of the side of the shuttle. The driver stopped and a pick-up truck stopped next to us. He opened the shuttle doors and the driver of the pick-up yelled out his window, "What the fuck, man! You broke my window." By which he clearly meant driver's-side mirror, which is not a window. Our driver said, "You were over the line [sparky. Mark it zero.]." They agued. The shuttle's front right window had large radial cracks and splinters.
Meanwhile, we were blocking the middle two lanes of Lake Shore Drive, one of the busiest roads in Chicago. People behind us were honking wildly. The owner of the truck kept talking to our driver; he'd calmed down some and is clearly too shy to step on the bus and have all of us looking at him. (By the way, the 7:20 crowd is really congenial. This was at least the second major set-back in as many weeks, and still people are sitting nicely, chatting with each other, even smiling. An outstanding group of commuters.) He eventually said not to worry about it, and pulled the truck to in front of the bus.
They swapped insurance, but our driver refused to move. He said he needed to make a police report and that it was illegal to leave the scene of a crash. The police were called. More honking from passers-by, several obscenities. The Soc. student and I were having another nice talk, which it seemed, would be able to continue indefinitely; we hadn't moved for half an hour. It turned out that she lived close to me, only one street over. Eventually, a plan was made for us to get on another shuttle, making the swap in the middle of packed Lake Shore.
"You'll be able to get on the other bus, but I will just have to sit here." Said the bus driver, sulkily. I wondered if he thought we'd feel sorry for him. Then the police showed up. An officer stepped on the bus and asked him what the hell he was doing. "Traffic is backed up to 56th street." Which seemed impossibly far south for that to be true. "You have 72 hours to file a police report. Is there any reason your bus can't move?" There wasn't, so we left.
I got home an hour and forty minutes later than I should have. I excitedly told Mitch about my new friend (we exchanged facebook info), and I thought about the coincidence involved in my meeting her on her two trips to down town (on different days of the week) and getting stuck for an hour-plus with nothing better to do than hang out both times. I'm not one to credit divine interference to the little lucky strokes in life, but this coincidence seemed rather elaborate and so needed and.... Mitch exclaimed that it must have sucked so bad for the people in traffic. He bet that thousands of parents had had to miss their children's sports games because of it. Maybe I wouldn't tell the divine interference thing to Mitch...