She knows damn well that we’re racing.
Since I get to work early, if all goes well I try to catch the 5:09 train home to find Sheena Easton waiting for me. Well, not Sheena Eason, but my wife, who isn’t Sheena Easton, but that’s okay because I think she probably cooks better than Sheena. I don’t have anything to support that – it’s just a hunch. And since I eat more often than have a need to hear 80’s pop live in my living room I’m not complaining. But I digress.
So I’m on the 5:09 and the train rolls into my stop. A mass of people gets off and those headed north have to wait for the train to pull out so we can cross the tracks. My abode is roughly across the street, about a three minute walk (which explains my stunning cardiovascular fitness level), and several people on the now infamous 5:09 live in my building. I’ve carefully studied all the possible routes home using a simple, yet effective, algorithm that I learned in my operations research class several years ago, and I think I have the route that will most consistently get me home in the shortest amount of time.
I swear I’m one slightly nudged gene away from being one of those people that can’t go to sleep at night unless I am certain that only every other button on all the shirts in my closet is buttoned. Starting with an open one at the top. But I digress.
Partly due to my total lack of interest in socializing with my fellow commuters and partly due to my superior speed walking skills (36” inseam, thank you), but mostly due to my route planning, I routinely arrive home, change clothes, wash my hands three times, and sit down to the dinner table before the rest of my neighbors can say “Hi de ho” to the doorman. Okay, I don’t have a doorman. It might be fun to hire one for the day to confuse everyone else in the building. But I digress.
But there is one woman who challenges my pedestrian authority and takes a back route. She ducks in the back door at ground level, sneaks up a rear stairwell and motors down the corridor, I know just in an effort to try to beat me. Some nights it’s close, so we’ve had to establish a finish line. I think we both would agree that the line would extend from the wall that holds the mailboxes right next to the elevators. Of course, I can’t confirm this is the official line since we both pretend we’re not racing so we can never have this conversation. But trust me, no other part of the lobby makes sense. And like I said, she knows we're racing.
Most days I win, usually just by about 5 - 10 seconds. But if she catches the traffic light and my jaywalking strategy backfires sometimes it’s a dead heat, and I swear I see an extra bounce in her step down the homestretch as I work to get my key smoothly in and out of the lock of the security door out front.
I’m often exhausted by this time so I usually take the elevator, whereas she takes the stairs to the same floor. I’ve considered taking the stairs, but now I’m afraid she’d think I’m copying off of her or I fear it developing into a violent, clawing race up the stairs with hair pulling and bruised shins.
I’m also convinced that my nemesis is WGN health reporter Dina Bair, but my wife says I’m insane. I already knew that.
But recently there is a new competitor. Her presence on the 5:09 is less regular, but in addition to my shortcut through the BBQ joint parking lot and my jaywalking strategy she has implemented another shortcut through the doctor’s office parking lot and possibly over a chain link fence. She appears to be leggy and nimble enough to do so, but nothing that my 36” inseam can’t compete with. But I’ve avoided this second shortcut because I’ve often encountered some muddy spots and don’t want to risk tearing my generic business casual khakis or ruining my fashionable DSW shoes or even falling down and getting kicked in the head with an iron boot. But most importantly, I'm busting my ass with my current route and she is coming up the elevator from ground level just as I’m arriving to take the elevator up. A virtual dead heat every time.
After coming in the door for so long with my arms raised overhead in victory, my wife noticed my distress. She recommended I follow the cheating, fence-jumping whore to find out her secret, but I can’t do it without feeling like I’m stalking her. If I follow her it just seems creepy and it also implies defeat. That's unacceptable.
I’ll just have to pick up the pace until I move again.