Saturday, January 15, 2011

One heckva ride.

I wonder if they knew I had a figurative Kimono in my suitcase.

As my friends and I stepped onto the St. Louis Metro at the airport, it was quite empty. We spread out around the train car with our luggage in tow. I popped a squat, swinging my legs into the aisle, shoved my luggage near the inside seat and chatted with my friends. 

I didn't pay any attention when, the closer we got to the city, our Metro rail car filled up. 

I didn't pay any attention when the young guy sat in the row behind me.

I did pay attention when this kid began fidgeting with something, a baggie.... full of...what? 

I could no longer resist, my curiosity got the best of me. Since I was sitting, facing the aisle, it just took a short turn of my head to see what he was doing. 

What was he doing? Packing and unpacking his baggie full of... pot. Ten or so smaller baggies inside the bigger one. Unless he's in the Weight Watchers version of Pot Smoking, with pre-portioned hits for the week, I'm guessing he was dealing. Just as quickly as my eyes widened, they averted to whatever I could find. He began to chat me up asking me where I was from. As he exited on the next stop, I pulled my knees in to let him pass, wondering what life was like for him, watching him as he stepped off the train. 

People continued to shuffle on and off. 

The train filled up once more. 

In walked a young African American gentleman in his twenties. Reserved. He sat across from me and flashed a polite smile. As I returned the polite smile another guy walked in. This one not so gentlemanly. He was in his late fifties, very large, disheveled and seemingly drunk. 

"Who gonna give me a seat? I needa sit...whoo gonna get up and give me a seat?" he shouted to the full train.

Before I could even contemplate whether I could scoot my luggage in and free up the seat next to me, the young gentleman stood up.

Since I was sitting facing the ailse and since he was spilling into the aisle, he ended up being only a foot away from me. And there I was, now facing him. 

I moved my knees forward.

"Hey..... Hey... (motioning with his hand for me to lean in)...hey come here!"

I shook my head.

Motioning again and saying "Hey... I need to whisper something."

I shook my head once more. 
"I don't whisper with strangers," I explained. 

"But how am I gonna tell you something? I gotta whisper so no one hears..." 

I noticed the young gentleman, who'd given up his seat, glancing my way at this. 

"Sorry, I don't whisper with strangers." 

"I watch dirty movies." he confessed with a snicker.

"And that's why I don't whisper with strangers," I confirmed.

More people began to glance my way. With his bulging eyes, leery look, and slurred speech, he continued to snicker and mutter things to me.

At this point, the young gentleman, who witnessed this exchange, along with the others in this standing room only train car, spoke up.

"Hey, you should leave her alone. It's obvious she doesn't want to talk to you. Just leave her alone." 

Big drunk guy began yelling "I'm a gangsta. I'm a gangsta! Don't mess with me, I'll mess you up." 

I considered saying "...because you're a gangster, right?" but opted not to.

But then young gentleman didn't back down and they began to argue.

I began to envision an 'all hell broke loose' kind of fight and I began to intervene. 

In my diplomatic, leader voice... "We're cool here, guys. We're cool." I mouthed "Thank you" to the young gentleman and gave him an agreeing nod. "It's done, we're good."

Guess what. It was done. 

The train stopped, they both shuffled off and a seat opened up next to Mandy and she called me over. She was three rows away, in the last set of seats, where that train car connected to another, leaving a standing room only area that was full. 

One guy didn't understand why I was moving away from the nearest door, towards him, with my luggage in tow. As I took Mandy's free seat, he wound up standing right next to my seat. Again, due to my luggage, I ended up swinging my knees into the aisle.

"Are you guys with that group in town? Are you here for that conference?" 

I noded. I could hardly register his words, still internally processing what could have just happened a few moments before. 

"Oh yeah, I just met a bunch of you guys from your group. You're going to have a great week here." 

He had salt and pepper hair, in his late fifties (not drunk though). He was dressed professionally, like a salesman. I don't know if he'd witnessed the previous exchange, but he chatted away as if nothing had happened.

"Oh, you guys are going to have a great week here." He then slipped a small piece of paper in my lap. Before I had a chance to see what it said, he leaned over and whispered in my ear, his voice lower, "Here's my number, give me call me anytime." 

It had his name and phone number written on it.

I think I said, "oh, uh, thank you." 

I think my body language said, "I DON'T WHISPER WITH STRANGERS!" 

A older woman sitting near me, who looked like she oozed street smarts, asked me, "Are you from a city?" 

I looked through her for a second, trying to take in all that had just happened, and gave her a quizzical look. 

"I'm from Las Vegas." I said quietly, tired.

"Oh, you'll be fine, honey. Many people come to St. Louis, from small towns, and they think it's all sweet and fine here. Then they get here and they don't have street smarts. But you'll be fine." 

The train came to a stop, and with that sage word, I grabbed my luggage and emerged from the train, for my week in downtown St. Louis wondering what else was in store. 


Anonymous said...

haha! wow what an intriguing story!! you sure do have street smarts, layla! you're awesome! :)

Teri said...

Geeeeeez. What a ride. So, do we automatically get street smart just being FROM a city? I'm from Vegas so I'd be able to handle myself on the St. Louis Metro?
That is quite a story, Layla. Good policy not to whisper with strangers. Or call them either. I mean, assuming you didn't call him... Did you call him? 

Tammy said...

Made me smile, I had a similar experience with my first ride on the L when I first moved to Chicago. It's nice when strangers stand up for you.

Rob said...

Umm..."popped a squat." Eh?

heathorock said...

good thing you're suck a city slicker!
what a ride, what a ride!
and hey, i noticed you have my less oft used blog on your blogroll. fine if you're going for green-ery.
LOVE your new blog design
makes me want to learn html. if only i had the time
a shower and some sleep (and maybe an hour to myself) would be like christmas!

Elysia Angel said...

Hilarious, Welcome to St. Louis Layla :)

Leslie said...

I don't understand how you have so many interesting, exciting, funny, scary things happen to you all the time. I need to hang out with you more often.

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