City Living with Kids: Metro Adventures
When I decided to move from the suburbs to the city, a lot of people thought I was nuts. Aren’t you supposed to move to the suburbs when you have kids, not back to the city? Maybe that’s what the Baby Boomers did, but that doesn’t mean there is something inherently wrong with living in the city with children. For what it’s worth, I live in Cleveland Park, which barely even counts as the city.
So far, it’s been great. We love that we can walk to the library, the grocery store, the park, and five nail salons. We love that we can walk to the Metro, which means the whole city is open to us on the weekends and we spend more time actually doing things than driving to things. That’s nice.
That being said, the Metro has been…interesting. If you want to see a wide slice of humanity packed into a 16 x 6 box, this is the way to do it.
Yesterday, for example, was all the self-involved me me me people. They blocked the spaces reserved for wheelchairs and strollers, they hogged the elevator instead of taking the escalator. (I know! Stairs that move are SO HARD.) But today people couldn’t be nicer. A man with a suitcase was in the wheelchair spot and offered it to me, but then two high school boys got up and told me to sit. Usually I prefer to stand, but they insisted, and don’t we want to encourage considerate behavior in teenagers? I wanted them to feel good about their actions, so I sat, and made Lily sit too.
This was a good day.
It was not a good day when I saw the homeless man sleeping. His foot was grotesque; it had swollen to the size of my torso. I worried that he would need it removed, or that it would kill him. Lily had questions, and I tried to answer. I left him a bottle of water. It wasn’t enough. It never is.
Then there was the creeper on the train. He sized me up, realized instantly I was a single mother (the missing ring, perhaps?), and started asking questions and laying on the flattery a little too thickly. It grew more and more uncomfortable by the minute, and I felt vulnerable and trapped.
Then he said, “It’s just incredible that you do this with your children every day. It must be so hard, looking like you do (!!) with all these people around.”
All these people around. Oh, right, them. I looked around the train and realized for the first time that several people nearby were looking back at me, like they were paying very close attention to the girl with the two young children and the man who wouldn’t leave her alone. You know when you have a silent conversation with a stranger, when you know what they’re thinking without saying a word? I locked eyes with a man who looked like a professional football player and he nodded at me, and took a few steps closer.
Nothing happened. The annoying creeper shut up and I got off at the next stop. But that moment has stayed with me, because I realized that even on a train full of strangers, I am not alone. And that’s the thing about city life: You’re never really alone. (And if you are? Run, girl, run! You shouldn’t be there.)
It’s a blessing and a curse.