I'm at the Roosevelt stop on the Red Line. This is the stop I get off at most every day. All of my classes this semester are within walking distance of it. It's kind of a weird stop. Go any further south than Roosvelt and you're suddenly on the South Side.
A friend of mine once told a story about riding the Red Line past Roosevelt. They were sitting next to this man on the train. The man said, "I'm gonna show you a magic trick. I'm gonna make all the white people on this train disappear." All he had to do was wait for the train to depart the Roosevelt stop. Presto.
Anyway, this wasn't the sort of weirdness I encountered at the Roosevelt stop. It was a much less race-driven form of weirdness. A much more surreal form of weirdness.
It's a Thursday afternoon. Cloudy. I'm walking to the turnstiles when I look up – and what I see leaning against the wall is a giant, red cartoon character.
It's somebody in a Bulls mascot costume. He's holding a narrow box; I can't quite make out the writing on it. But who cares? What I'm amazed by is that the costume is the real deal. He could've stolen the thing from the Cubs' locker room. But hopefully he didn't do that. Because a cop is standing next to him.
The cop's wearing the official CPD facial expression, this mix between goddamit-I-bet-shit's-gonna-go-down-at-any-second and I-don't-give-a-fuck. He glances occasionally at the Bulls mascot. And when the cop's not looking, the Bulls mascot steals a glance or two at him. It's like a scene from a cartoon.
Everyone who can see this is a little on edge. Passersby, CTA attendants, the pigeons strutting by. You can even sense some anxiety from the cop and the mascot.
The mascot steals one last glance at the cop. Then he tentatively puts the box he's holding down on the ground. And then it becomes clear what the text on the box says: DUNKIN DONUTS.
And the mascot takes his foot – er, hoof. He nudges the box over in the direction of the cop, like an under-the-table deal. You saw nothing. You just happened to find a dozen donuts.
Before the cop knows what's going on, everyone at the stop just dies. Then he looks down at the box. Thankfully, he's smiling.
The mascot slinks away toward the turnstiles. I like to think that he was going to ride the El wearing the thing.