Fo Sho, Tile Maker?

The 2017 award for burning through most topics in under ten minutes goes to: Tile Maker.

Guy (looking over to a woman sitting next to him): “What you getting into tonight, little lady?”

Little Lady: “Nothing. Ya know… hitting the dispensary, then watching a movie that I rented from the library.”

Guy: “Fo sho?”

Little Lady: “Fo sho.”

Guy: “Fo sho.”

[Insert two-minute conversation about the dispensary that he goes to… but only for relatives.]

[Insert two-minute conversation about how he loves movies from the library, and just finished Season 1 of American Horror Story.]

Guy: “By the way, what’s your name, little lady?”

Little Lady: “It’s Kim. You?”

Guy: “My name’s Tyler… It’s Greek for ’tile maker.’ We pave the road. Ya know?”

2nd Guy, (randomly jumping in from two rows down): “Tile maker? Yeah, I get that all the time!”

Tile Maker: “You a Tyler too?”

2nd Guy: “Nah. My name’s Marshall. I just mean that I get what you’re saying, because I’m a history buff.  So I understand the Greek tile maker thing.”

Tile Maker: “History buff, huh? Me too!”

[Insert a two-minute conversation about the civil war, transitioning into a two-minute argument about whether the underwater city of Atlantis was real.]

[Kim gets off, saying goodbye to Tile Maker, without acknowledgment. He’s now analogizing Marshall to Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith Show.]

[Arrive at Tile Maker’s stop.]

Tile Maker: “Well, good talking to you Marshall. If we see each other in the afterlife, let’s team up. We’d be a good team. We’d be strong as fuck.”

***

And to think that I almost drove today.  I’m thinking of quitting my day job to be a professional train passenger.

#lightrail #TileMaker

We’ll call him Moses…

I kept walking. I shouldn’t have.

Friday’s commute on the train was remarkably… unremarkable. Nothing witty, funny, or bizarre was seen or overheard. No one was wielding a machete. No one was searching for unclaimed treasure. Nothing worth sharing…

until I got to the station.

I tend to ride on the last car because it’s usually less crowded. As a result, I typically find myself at the very back of a group of 100+ people on the station platform after getting off of the train. Like cattle, the heard always makes its way down the platform and crosses a bridge to the parking lot. If anything interesting is happening on the bridge, I’m always among the last to see it.

IMG_4524 2On this day, there was a man on the bridge. I don’t know his name. But we’ll call him Moses, because the crowd was miraculously parting around him.  He was wearing a bright blue jacket, which wasn’t nearly heavy enough for the plummeting temperature that evening.  He was older—probably in his late 60’s or early 70’s—with a white beard and weathered face. He was lying flat on his stomach, a few feet away from a walker. He was unconscious.

No one stopped.

This bears repeating:  An old man was flat on the pavement, unconscious, with a walker about two feet in front of him.  Among the crowd of 100+ people walking by,

Not.
A.
Single.
Person.
Stopped. 

No one even slowed down. Everyone took enough notice to change course and walk around him. Some even allowed their head to pivot enough to stare as they passed. But in the end, not a single person broke stride.

I wish that this story came with some kind of unexpected, lighthearted twist (as is typical of my stories on the train). It would be great if this turned out to be a prank, a misunderstanding, or some strange bit of street theater. But it wasn’t. It was just a man lying unconscious on the sidewalk, with dozens of people stepping around him.

I also wish that I were writing from a moral high ground, explaining to you that I was the one who stopped to speak up and take action in the moment.

But the truth is, I wasn’t.

Rather, it was a woman a few paces behind me who was the first to stop and contemplate doing anything at all. She looked as though she was trying to decide whether she should stop and check on him, or mind her business and move on as the rest of the crowd had done. I was well on my way to joining the rest of the crowd when the woman and I made eye contact long enough for us to both silently say, “someone should do something.” I walked back to stand with her, and we were soon joined by the very last man to get off of the train. I was ultimately the one who gently shook the man until his eyes opened to ask if he was okay, and stayed until someone caught the attention of a nearby RTD officer to help him. Once I knew that he was going to receive the help that he needed, I left.

As I reflected on it after the fact, the most difficult part was acknowledging that I was almost among those who kept walking. In fact, I had kept walking. I was a good two or three steps past him when that woman stopped. I probably wouldn’t have stopped if she hadn’t. And if she hadn’t stopped, yet another trainload of passengers easily could have walked by. But why?

The prevailing assumption among passersby was likely that he was a drifter, sheltering himself under the roof of the bridge for the night. Admittedly, this was my first thought upon seeing him too. This was in spite of the fact that it isn’t common to find people sleeping in this heavily-patrolled spot, and there were none of the other telltale signs. No shopping cart full of belongings. No cardboard sign. No cup full of change.

But even if any of these assumptions had been correct, why would we simply walk by in such an explicitly dire circumstance? It’s one thing to keep our hard-earned dollars to ourselves when asked if we can spare some cash. It’s another thing altogether to walk past a human being lying face-down on the pavement. Why wouldn’t we stop to ask that person if he’s okay? Or at least check his pulse to see if he froze to death? It seems that we’ve collectively decided that some lives are simply not worth breaking stride for.

And when I say “we,” of course I mean myself, and the other train-goers that day. But I also mean you. I mean all of us. It’s easy to read this story and “know” that you, as a respectable human being, would have stopped. It’s easy to think that you aren’t among “those” people who didn’t. And I’m sure right now you can make a lot of assumptions about whom “those” people might have been.

But I’m certain that, if asked the day before what they would do if they saw an old man lying unconscious on the sidewalk, any of those 100+ people would have said that they would do something to help. They would have said that they’d call an ambulance, or try to wake him, or (prematurely) perform CPR, or something else… they would have said anything except, “keep walking.”

I can assure you that, among those 100+ people, there were baby boomers, gen x’ers, and millennials. There were Republicans and Democrats. There were Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Atheists. They were teachers, engineers, accountants, and construction workers. They were burger lovers and vegetarians. Some lived in the city, while others were going home to the suburbs. Some were rich, while others live paycheck to paycheck. Some were locals. Others were in town on business, or visiting family for the holidays. Collectively, they seemed to have no one trait in common… except that they all kept walking.

I’m also confident that this tragedy isn’t isolated to that one bridge, or this one city. I’m sure that this kind of thing can happen in your hometown. I’m confident that it happens every day.

People probably had plenty of reasons to keep walking. Perhaps some passersby consciously declined to stop because they assumed that he was subsidizing a liquor habit with their tax dollars. Maybe they thought that he overdosed on the latest trending street drug, and that he—both figuratively and literally—was now lying in the bed that he made for himself. Or maybe they were simply in a hurry to pick up their daughter (as I was), and they didn’t bother at all to imagine the circumstances that put him on the pavement. It seems highly unlikely that any of them contemplated the stroke that probably put him there.

But regardless of what we assumed, we all somehow decided for one reason or another that walking on was either more prudent or more important than stopping to check on him. We, as a society, have decided that some human beings aren’t worth the change in our pockets or the minutes out of our day. We have decided that some lives just don’t matter.

What I’m unsure of is how we got to this point. How do our most basic human values become so contextual that dozens of people independently decide that the life and well-being of another person isn’t worth our time, effort, or consideration? Because we have, in fact, reached that point. Or maybe we’ve always been there, and we have yet to progress past it. Either way, where do we go from here? How do we move forward?

The experience has been impossibly difficult to process. Even as someone who teaches bystander intervention for a living, I was astounded by what I personally experienced on that bridge (earlier that very same day, I showed a video on bystander intervention to a group of faculty members in a training). When one person walked by, the next hundred followed suit. But as soon as one person stopped, the two remaining people around her were also eager to help.

I don’t want you to walk around the city searching for lost souls to save, or to give all of your money to charity and live in a box. I’m not asking you to vote for “socialist” politicians, or to quit your job and volunteer in a homeless shelter. But I do hope you will search for your own way to help us all move forward as a society. I hope that you will at least take a moment to think about what you can do to help when you see another human being in danger, distress, or merely in circumstances worse than your own. I hope that you will consider whether someone else needs your spare time, resources, or attention more than you do.

I hope that you will be the one who stops, so that others can follow your lead.

And I certainly hope that I will be that person too.

#lightrail #BeTheOne

I’ve got a fever… and the only cure, is more cow bell.

This high school (?) kid gets on the train today, and has three cow bells attached to various places on his backpack.

My first thought was, maybe he’s a percussionist in the school band, and he needs to tote the tools of his craft. Or maybe they’re meant to be some ironic message of teenage angst.

Then some other guy on the train did what I never do: he asked the kid (and took all of the mystery out of it).

Guy: “what’s with the bells?”

Kid: “I just really like bells.”

Well okay then.

Way to go, kid. You do you.

In case you missed them…

Here are some train stories from the past couple of years.

11/22/17

Guy at the train station has been spitting his chew straight out onto the platform. On one attempt, a solid gust of wind caught it just right and splattered it back on his face/neck/shirt.

#karma #lightrail

 

11/13/17

This morning’s train story comes with pictures.

1. For those who may have doubted my story about the guy doing chin-ups on a tree, here he is in action.

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2. There are tanks today. Not fish tanks, or dunk tanks. Military tanks. Lined up on a cargo train. There are probably about 50 in all. Fill in your own conclusions, I guess. I’m not even sure what to do with it.

23473072_10215093387634833_1478090889666576211_n

 

 

11/9/17

Guy at the train station is approaching people to buy “icy cold” Pepsi products out of a cooler for $1. It’s below 40 degrees.

Kudos to the guy for working to make that extra buck, but I think that he needs a different marketing approach for his merchandise.

#lightrail

 

11/8/17

A particularly disheveled looking guy on the train started frantically asking strangers if they knew where the bank was, exclaiming “I COULD HAVE A WHOLE POCKET FULL’A MONEY IF I KNEW WHERE THE BANK WAS!” Someone told him that there was a Wells Fargo at the next stop, and he ran off of the train yelling, “SWEET BABY JESUS!”

Sudden windfall? Or bank robbery in progress? We may never know.

#lightrail

 

11/6/17

A guy waiting in line for the train just suddenly got out of line, walked over to a tree, climbed it, and started doing chin ups. Everyone watched. A guy in his 30’s with glasses and a Pokémon hat nodded his head in approval. A college-aged girl mockingly fanned herself. And an older man just looked confused by the whole situation. Without a word, the guy hung from the tree until the train came.

#lightrail #WhoHasTimeForTheGym

 

10/20/17

All but two people on my train are reading real books right now. Ironically, I’m one of the two (listening to an audiobook instead). Bibliophiles, rejoice!
#lightrail

 

10/12/17

For the past few days, a guy on the train has been carefully studying a book called “Coaching Volleyball for Dummies.” He has been giving considerable attention to Chapter 5: Revving Up the Offense.

I hope that the other coaches in his league are ready for all of the fury that his team is about to unleash.

#lightrail

 

10/6/17

No train stories today because I’m flying to Ohio. But my layover in Chicago has filled the void with plenty of interesting characters.

This guy makes for an even better Abe than I do.

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9/21/17

This college student wearing aviators on the train was staring straight at me the entire ride home. I tried to ignore it, until it just got too weird. I finally decided to address it head-on, and asked (in a way that was more forceful than intended), “can I help you with something?”

It turns out she was asleep. I eventually woke her up at the last stop.

#lightrail #WeekendAtBernies

 

9/6/17

Spotted a super cute girl on my commute home, and decided to take the seat next to her. We hit it off right away, and talked the whole ride back to the station. She even drove me to my car in the back of the overflow lot and dropped me off. So smitten.

 

8/21/17

Train update 1: guy outside of the station selling “eclipse” glasses for $50 each. They look handmade.

 

Train update 2: guy riding with a huge USPS box, with the ends wrapped in a concoction of aluminum foil, duct tape, and what appears to be a piece of black trash bag.

 

Train update 3: The sun was in my eyes until this guy sat in the seat across the aisle and blocked it. He was only there for a couple of minutes though.

No, I’m not kidding.

 

7/3/17

This guy on the train is wearing what appears to be a pleated skirt with cargo pockets. Breezy, functional, and stylish, all at the same time. Brilliant.

 

5/26/17

My train is full of St. Louis Cards fans. Gross.

 

5/24/17

Fun fact: A quick visual survey reveals that iPhone dominates Android by a margin of about 10 to 1 among Denver’s train-goers.

Now you know.

 

4/27/17

The train doors open to reveal a man with a 12″ knife in a sheath on his belt.

Apparently concealed carry is for wusses.

#lightrail #train #CrocodileDundee

 

4/26/17

Today’s train story is a multiple choice quiz.

A man loads his bike onto the train. The bike’s water bottle holder has which of the following?

  1. Water bottle
  2. Can of Pabst Blue Ribbon
  3. A spare pair of underwear
  4. B & C only

#lightrail #train

(And the correct answer is…
B. But only because the spare underwear was attached to his backpack rather than his water bottle holder. And for the record, he managed to attach them with a rubber band.)

 

4/5/17

Overheard between two women in their early 60’s(?) on the train:

“You’re losing your appetite? Maybe you need more activity. I play rugby on the weekends, and I eat all of the leftovers in our house… especially the chicken. I always eat the chicken.”

My thoughts after getting off of the train, in this exact order:

  1. I’m so impressed right now.
  2. Huh???

Apparently rugby gives you chicken cravings?

 

1/24/17

Random guy gets on the train and hollers at the top of his lungs, “HOW MANY OF YA’LL ARE THERE?!?! ONE… TWO… THREE… FOUR…” and proceeds to count all 114 of us aloud. Random guy gets off the train.

Just another day, folks. #lightrail

 

1/6/17

Conversation between a little girl and her mom while walking their puppy past the train station:

Girl: I trained Mickey (the dog) to eat macaroni.

Mom: huh???

Girl: I trained him to eat macaroni.

Mom: what do you mean?

Girl: I trained him so that when I give him macaroni, he eats it… you seem to have trouble understanding this, and I’m not sure why.

Mom: …

#lightrail

 

12/19/16

Stood next to a couple on the train that dwarfed everyone. The man was about 7 feet tall, and the woman was about an inch or two shorter than me (putting her at 6’5” or 6’6”). I recruited their future kids to join mine to form an unstoppable volleyball team in 20 years or so. #lightrail.

 

12/6/16

It’s 4 degrees out. A guy on my train shows up every morning in his University of Michigan hoodie and shorts to send a clear message to the world: he’s from Michigan, and he can handle the cold.

As a kid from the snow belt of Ohio, I appreciate you showing Colorado how tough Midwesterners are, sir. Now put some pants on. 4 degrees is still cold.

#lightrail #pantsaregreat

 

11/3/16

I just sat next to a woman on the train in her late sixties (maybe early seventies?) playing Clash of Clans on her phone. I jokingly asked her if she was the one who pilfered my village last night. Her response? “Probably. I annihilate just about everybody. If you want to keep your gold, then step up your game.” 😳 #lightrail #GrannyGotGame

 

10/5/16

College girl just boarded the train double-fisting her Starbucks: one venti pumpkin spice latte, and one venti iced coffee. Because, why not?

#lightrail #turndownforwhat

 

9/20/16

Guy just boarded the train with a 32 ounce cup of soda with no lid, and sat down next to a woman in white pants. Stay tuned for updates. #lightrail

 

9/6/16

This outdoor outlet looks like a solid place to charge your iPhone while you wait for the train. Good idea, RTD. #lightrail

outlet

8/31/16

When the train breaks down, and there are no interesting people to post about. #lightrail #stuck

 

8/25/16

According to the woman ranting on the train, “James is not a leader. He’s such a follower that he would follow his own butt to the toilet.”

???

#lightrail

 

8/17/16

Sometimes I wonder if anyone is writing a Facebook status about me on the train. #lightrail

 

8/12/16

Dear guy sitting next to me on the train,

Please save your porn videos for home.

Love,

Everyone

#lightrail

 

5/9/16

A woman on the train just called four different people to tell them that Alfredo called her, and he claimed that they were out of bread. She skeptically explained to all four that “there’s no way, unless he sold eight foot-longs on wheat, and ten on honey oat in the last two hours.” A man sitting nearby then offered his expertise as a frequent Subway customer, arguing that her proposed scenario was “totally possible.” They were still arguing when I got off. #lightrail #SubwayFamine2016

 

5/3/16

A man boarded the train wearing Mickey Mouse ears, which he spray painted silver. Then he whipped out a book titled “The Geography of Genius.” My morning commute is better than yours. #lightrail #geniusindeed

 

4/27/16

A college kid boarded the train, sat down across from me, then got up and moved across the aisle to sit directly across from a college aged girl. Do I smell? Or is a courtship brewing? Stay tuned to find out.

4/21/16

I see two particular people on the train almost every morning. One is a guy in his 40s who works in a t-shirt printing shop, and is still trying to make it as a metal rock star. The other is a woman in her 70s. I was within earshot about four months ago when they were sitting across from each other, and she politely started to make small talk for the first time. Now, he corners her every day and talks about his band and the nuanced process of t-shirt printing, and she’s just stuck politely nodding her head. I love the train.

 

3/28/16

I just saw a guy on the train throwing down some mad tricks with a yomega yoyo. The 90’s are officially back, and it feels so good.

 

1/14/16

Man 1: “See that place right there? That’s a great place for a car wash.”

Man 2: “Oh! Is it one of them ones that you drive through? Or one where ya wash it yourself?”

Man 1: “Don’t know… Never been there.”

Convos on the train are the best.

 

9/30/15

I just spent my entire commute sitting next to a man who was studying Klingon vocabulary words on homemade flash cards. Taking the train is the best.

(So at first I was intrigued enough that I almost asked him what language he was studying. Then I saw his ziplock Baggie labeled “Klingon flash cards” and decided that wasn’t a conversation that I wanted to start. I geek out about a lot of things, but Star Trek is not really my thing.)

 

8/18/15

Overheard on the train ride home: “Yo, these new windows are the best windows I eva’ seen… Like seriously, they energy efficiency be blowin’ my mind, dawg!”

I can only hope that my new living room window turns out to be half that exciting.