I’ve been riding the Max on Mondays for substitute teaching work in the Beaverton School District. Once a week is enough to keep it interesting and not make it a dull routine. Someone always seems to act out when I’m on the train. One morning getting on the yellow line at the Denver Ave station heading downtown, I noticed a guy wearing a sparkly New Year’s pork pie hat. His odd style caught my eye even before he stood up and started doing Tai Chi. My internal suburban panic mode kicked in as I tried to assess the threat level. Soon after I was making cynical asides in my head critiquing his Tai Chi abilities. Kung Fu Tai Chi is what it looked like—too fast, too jerky. Although I know nothing about Tai Chi. It seemed wrong.
The kid in front of me intrigued me. He was stuffing his backpack with a healthful lunch of seaweed soup in tupperware and another container of beans and rice. I saw the soup sloshing and could imagine it spilling in his backpack. His food out shined my sad provisions that included an outdated can of chunky beef soup and a serving saver of dry Raisin Bran.
Tai Chi guy moved closer. He was standing ten feet away looking at me. It did not seem like a good time to jot down notes. I eyed the train’s panic button that would allow me to contact the train’s driver. Since seeing his behavior I had debated if it was okay to flail about in a Tai Chi manner in public on a Max train when there was no apparent Tai Chi class scheduled or instructor in sight. It seemed threatening. He had demonstrated some karate looking moves and could flip out at any moment and start kicking ass. His hat made him look like he was on a New Year’s Eve bender nine months after the fact. He looked more crazy than tough with his slight build and tight faux leather maroon jacket. I was hoping he’d get off the train. Maybe my Jedi Mind Trick worked because he hopped off at the next stop.
The kid across from me pulled out a text book. The only two letters I saw from the title were a P and an H. Physics, I thought, nice, a scientist. The pictures were sketches of the human body which caused me to conclude that it was an art book. Now I was looking at another Portland artist. No, the title had the word physical in it. It was the human body. The kid will be a Doctor for sure. Science wins.
I had to get prepared to spend six hours working with children with autism so maybe analyzing my fellow travelers and seeing a guy acting strange wasn’t such a bad thing after all. I wondered what his aim was. Did he need attention? Did he want to connect with other people and talk about Tai Chi? The mystery remains, but this guy seemed to want to follow a Max train tradition of doing what he wanted to do in public. I arrived at my sub job early and while in the staff lounge I stumbled across a picture of Robert DeNiro in US Weekly, doing what else, but Tai Chi while rehearsing for a movie role. Maybe Tai Chi is not such a bad way to start the day.
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