Two Foreigners

Near Dearborn and Congress, the woman flags me down while asking something in an obviously Asian (or perfectly Asian-sounding) language. White winter coat, black hair, pointing south down Dearborn and showing me her cell phone, its screen displaying something in what I assume is that same obviously Asian (or perfectly Asian-looking) language I don’t understand but also with the English numeric “62” couched in the middle of it.

There is a Number 62 bus. There is a Number 62 bus whose route runs along that stretch of Dearborn.

I know what she’s asking. I have no idea what she’s asking.

I point towards the bus stop at Dearborn and Harrison. “Yes, you can catch the 62 right over there,” I say.

I think she understands me. I have no idea if she understands me.

She asks something I don’t know how to decipher, this time out loud and with “sixty two” right in there and again pointing south. Or maybe not south but slightly southwest. The 62 runs down State, onto Archer and slightly southwest into Chinatown. I don’t want to assume she is asking if this bus is the one that goes to Chinatown. I shouldn’t assume she is asking if this bus is the one that goes to Chinatown.

I wave my right hand around above me, drawing a kind of circle in the air. “It goes north,” I say, pointing up Dearborn, “then turns around and heads south down State Street.”

She hands me the phone now and makes a motion towards it, this being what we both know as the universal sign for Here, type whatever you’re saying into my telecommunications device.

I oblige, typing into the apparatus that The 62 bus runs north on Dearborn Street, then turns around and heads south down State Street and onto Archer Avenue. and she presses the big blue button with the foreign-looking symbol on it and, like magic, my nonsense becomes useful.

Her face lights up, she visibly relieved and me a little relieved, too.

“Ah,” she says. “Archer! Chinatown.”

Never guess until you absolutely must. Never assume unless you’re absolutely sure. Stay as informed as the times allow and always, always know where the buses are going. Do that, and sometimes the rest will take care of itself.

AMR
Chicago, IL / February 20, 2014

Top