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It’s an odd feeling.

You see, today was my first day on my regular hours, which involves waking up at a time most people consider inhumane and most college students define as bedtime.

I have to use a flashlight to lock my door because it’s too dark to see when I leave. I do my rendition of the businessman’s run-while-holding-your-tie-down routine and jog up the steps of the station, forever fearful that the train would arrive early.

I’m the only person at my station. The CTA employee looks at me wearily and responds with a grumble when I chirp “good morning.” There are only three people on the train when it arrives. As it rolls (almost too slowly) to a stop, I’m frantically deciding between sitting in a car that already has people and one that doesn’t. I choose an empty one.

I sit at one of the seats against the walls instead of one of the aisle ones, as per my habit. I think it’s because I like to err on the side of caution (it allows me view of the entire car and all the doors) and because I’ve always been the kind to look around and wander at everything around me. Sometimes I think being an owl would be quite beneficial to my constant desire to explore my environment.

I get off the first train to make a transfer and notice that most of the others waiting are African American. I wonder if it is merely the result of that neighborhood being heavily African American or if it is a sign of the socioeconomic structure of the area. Is it because minorities are more likely to have non-traditional, non-9-5 jobs? Or is it because they are less likely to have cars? Or perhaps it is because more Caucasians have moved out of the city into the suburbs, from which they either drive or take the commuter train to their jobs in the city. It’s probably a mix of all of them and other reasons. It’d be interesting to do a study and find out. [This is obviously an oversimplification of the issue since obviously Chicago is not a black/white place, yours truly an obvious example.]

I get off the second train and walk to my bus. I’m not 100% sure which neighborhood I’m in; I think it’s Irving Park. But in the quiet, breezy morning, this neighborhood reminds me of certain suburbs in China. It’s probably the storefronts and that mix of early risers exercising and workers waiting for the bus. But I can’t pinpoint it.

And that’s the odd feeling. This whole experience is new and I can’t quite define it. It’s not eerie but it is definitely different. It’s solitude but not loneliness. I suppose this will all become less spectacular as the days go on and maybe I’ll be able to describe that feeling more precisely later.

But then again, part of me doesn’t want to be able to define it. Why lose the wonder and exploration and settle into routine?

It’s time to put down my pen (I write these with red ink – it feels less restrictive than black or blue and helps my thoughts flow better). The CTA has made me late again so I must be ready to run the last leg of my commute once I get to my bus stop.

Good morning Chicago.

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