She told me that it’s obvious to her who is from the city or lives in the city, and who is a tourist trying to pass as a local. I tried hard––quite hard I might say––to be a local. My fanny pack was left at home, I wasn’t looking up for the top of each building I walked past, and I pronounced the number nine like a good midwesterner rather than a good Tennesseean.
The giveaway, though, was that I didn’t have train legs.
She was in her seventies, groceries in tow, because that’s apparently what you do if you’re a local, and she was watching my knees buckle each time the L hit a bump, wiggle or stop in downtown Chicago. It was the ride back out from a weekend trip that was supposed to be with a friend who couldn’t come at the last minute, so I was a single dude spending a weekend in the city I thought of as home for two years in college.
My ride from Midway into town found me wearing my white earbuds plugged into my second generation iPod (you’re welcome) looking out the window of the Orange Line as we (me and all these strangers) made our way into the city. I don’t remember the song, and the fact that I remember the moment without the song makes it all the more important to me. Jostling into downtown, my legs apparently giving me away more than I realized, I found myself gazing out the window noticing that times like these are things of movies and soundtracks, people and lives and entire worlds passing by as the music plays to make sure that you know that every moment of what you are seeing is important for something that’s coming in the story, or for something that has just happened that you’re still chewing on.
It wasn’t until my trip out that I was informed that my legs gave me away as an outsider.
Now, in the small, rural West Tennessee town that holds my work and family and friends, I often forget that were I to add a soundtrack there is great importance to the transit, the one mile commute to work, the people standing on the side of the road, in front of me in line, in the waiting room at the office, on the other end of the phone. And my realizing that the soundtrack is––or at least should be playing––makes me more aware that I am using my non-city legs, perhaps my small, rural West Tennessee town legs, to navigate these waters in ways that hopefully do justice and love mercy and walk humbly in the town that is and has been home for quite some time.
It’s worth a soundtrack, I think. The people must be.
And we will spot your city legs. ha.