So I rang in the second day of Christmas, not with two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree, but with a steaming hot mug of glüwhein underneath the Picasso in Daley Plaza. Or, as white people casually call it, "glögg."
It was a picture perfect day downtown. The sun was beginning to set over the buildings;the weather was mild with a light breeze; the evening rush hour just started to heat up. I walked around the Christkindlmarket shops, taking in the sights and smells. Lightly emboldened by the rush of hot mulled wine I allowed a slight smile to creep across my face and the spirit of the season to roll over me.
Then I hopped on the Red Line and was crudely thrown back to reality.
I'm a Chicagoan, born and raised. I'll die a Chicagoan. I've ridden the subway for as long as I could have cogent memory. As someone who frequents the subway I understand that there are certain risks involved with riding the trains. Specifically, that odds are more than fair I'll step on a car with that delicate potpourri of hospital-grade sanitizer and stale urine. But the car I stepped in this afternoon was simply foul.
Words cannot accurately describe the smell of fresh pee on a homeless man passed out standing in middle of a subway car. My eyes were literally stinging from the smell. There were passengers who wanted to complain but were afraid that the smell would settle on their tongues. I only had four stops before transferring to the more satisfying olfactory confines of the Orange Line, but wasn't sure I could make it to the Roosevelt Road station.
That's when I remembered that I was carrying my glögg mug. I placed my nose in the mug and deeply inhaled the remnants of that sweet wine all the way to my transfer train. My eyes still stung, but at least I wasn't teetering on blowing my lunch everywhere.