That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
Ever since Google maps started listing 'L' stations, I take the train everywhere. Why bother with a cab? Trains are convenient, usually faster, and cost a lot less.
Plus the 'L' pulses with life, energy. The middle aged suburbanites on the Metra gaze at their phones in dull silence, like cows in a pen. The city kids tumble on and off the trains, shouting, laughing, practically dancing in place.
Or such is my romantic view of it.
So I took the Brown line from the Merchandise Mart to Sedgwick Tuesday to meet a friend for lunch at Kanela's Breakfast Club on Wells Street. Try the barbecue chicken salad. Mmm.
While I was in the neighborhood, I stopped at the Up Down Cigar Shop to pick up a couple Rocky Patels as a treat. And now I'm taking the train back to the paper.
Most people stand by the door, but that gets crowded, makes it hard for others to get in and out. So I step into the center of the train. Considerate. The train is full, there isn't a seat, but that's okay. I can stand for two stops, or 20. I'm a man in motion, moving through the city, on the 'L,' healthy, happy, or as close to happy as I come.
A young woman is sitting next to me. I don't notice her until she speaks.
"Would you like my seat?" she says. I look around, to see who she's talking to. She's talking to me. I look down at her face. About 20. I'd almost guess Navajo, by her cheekbones and her gleaming black hair, but that can't be. Probably Hispanic. A college student maybe.
"No thank you," I say, automatically then, unable to resist, jut out my lower lip and add petulantly, "Nobody has ever offered me a seat before." But she has already looked away, and I do the same.
Fifty-six. A bit grey in the beard, yes, but I thought in a dashing, Richard Branson sort of way. Not in a geriatric, young-people-offering-me-a-seat way. I keep my gaze level, watching the apartments roll past.
"A person is always startled when he hears himself seriously called an old man for the first time," Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. wrote in 1858, when he was ...ulp... 49.
Then again, Holmes lived to be 85, old enough to see his son, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the future Supreme Court Justice, rise to the high court of Massachusetts. Still plenty of time to get used to my role in the universe.
Besides, the offer is a good thing, to see the young offering their elders a seat. And kids, really, they aren't able to judge how old people are. Everybody over 30 is ancient. You can't feel bad about that. Though of course I do, a little. No one wants to grow old, though we all do. Most of us, that is. Nothing to do but accept it. Growing old, remember, beats the alternative. Yeats, as always, points the way out in his "Sailing to Bzyantium."
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
That's a plan. The doors slid open at the Mart stop and, not looking again at my would-be benefactress, I put on my bravest face, not quite clapping and singing, but striding out of the train with all the purpose and dignity and vigor I can muster.