I've lived and worked in or near major metropolitan cities my entire life. And because of that, I've learned to love commuting. There are some people who hate it but, God, do I love it. I’m hard wired for it. I live for rush hour power walks through the maze of yawning people that don’t know how to walk. I listen to music, but am attentive to my surroundings, because even though I am the best power walker I know (thanks to cross campus sprints to Cooper Science for Geography classes I eventually failed) I am also a young woman in a city, so I like to make sure I am aware of the people around me, friendly or not.
I've seen quite a number of highly attractive guys on the train, but never have I said a single word to them. Probably because when it comes to guys, I’m literally the World’s Worst FlirterTM. And also, for all I know, they could be serial killers, sex offenders or both.
I gave nicknames to people I saw every morning. I gave these people who I only saw for maybe three seconds a day, if that, little stories. Sometimes I only saw these people once, while others commuters became familiar.
In college, I interned in Chicago. Taking the train in from Indiana, I consistently saw this cute guy on the morning South Shore train. He had an athletic build and wore devilishly handsome black, plastic-framed glasses, which paired so well with his blondish brown hair.
He was slightly hipster, but mostly thanks to f the glasses. He always wore dress slacks and button downs that show just enough of his obvious muscular build.
I had a handful of encounters with him, all of them awkward (shocker!) One time, he sat across the aisle from me on the ride in, and I'm 200% positive he caught me laughing hysterically while reading Katie Heaney's book “Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date.” Heaney’s book is basically the story of my life, and if you think I’m joking, read it yourself. Another time we made awkward (on my part) eye contact multiple times in which I tried to even more awkwardly shift my eyes towards the approaching train or another, less attractive male or even a pigeon. And I hate pigeons.
Though I think the most fun nicknames and stories I came up with were after college, when I started working full time in Chicago. I commuted via the Pedway, and there were no slim pickings when it came to creating stories for the people I passed.
The faces were interesting and refreshing each morning, and there were quite a few attractive guys as well --- more on this in a bit, but for now, here’s a chart describing my thoughts every time I saw a hot guy on the Pedway:
Lazy Baby Jamie Dornan was another fun one. You know, Jamie Dornan, who plays Christian Grey in “50 Shades of Gray.” This guy was like a baby version of Dornan, and he was just as attractive. He was about my age, and, unlike the actual Jamie Dornan, he had no fashion sense at all. In fact, about 80% of the time I saw him, whether it was a rough Monday or Thursday, he was always wearing unflattering khaki cargo pants. Or sweatpants that looked like they hadn’t been washed in two weeks. I concluded he was constantly unable to use his apartment complex’s washing machine due to constant mechanical problems.
There was also Pedway Paul, who got his name because he is the literally spitting image of a young Paul Rudd. A young, hot and “Clueless” Paul Rudd.
Now, I love Paul Rudd. If I’m being completely honest with myself, I’d eventually like to end up with a guy like Paul Rudd: pleasantly attractive, kind, a great, weird sense of humor and a wonderful smile. Basically, I’m asking for a unicorn, but I’m gonna keep dreaming because everyone is entitled to dream a little.
Pedway Paul was for sure a Hot Guy Who Is Probably in Business™ type, which, for me, is not as attractive as a Hot Guy Who Is Probably in Tech™ type, but he was still pretty damn attractive because, again, he was actually young Paul Rudd reincarnated. He always had nice, slim fitting slacks and jacket on, and his hair was perfectly coiffed. He carried a gym bag with him, so I knew that under that slim fitting jacket were probably some muscles. He didn’t seem like the gym rat type, so I imagined his muscles were subtle, but effective in attracting women. I saw Pedway Paul a couple times a week, and he looked like he’d be a nice guy.
One morning, I was sort of rushing because the South Shore came in a little late, so I kept zooming past people on the Pedway. I noticed Pedway Paul about five people ahead of me, which I found odd because he usually took the Pedway in the opposite direction. I didn’t think anything of it since I didn’t want to be late for work, so I kept walking.
I was listening to Spotify that morning, and “The Schuyler Sisters” from Hamilton came on shuffle so I got an extra pep in my step. Somehow I walked past Pedway Paul, but I didn’t realize that until I made it to the doors right before the Red Line. I may have been hurriedly walking, but I noticed in the corner of my eye that there was someone rushing to grab the door behind me before it closed again, so I paused to hold it. When the person came to the door, I looked up as I walked forward and saw it was Pedway Paul. We exchanged a “Hey, thanks for not letting this door slam in my face” look. I smiled and continued on to the Blue Line, texting Elizabeth that I had held the door open for the second most attractive guy I’d seen on the Pedway.
“And people say chivalry is dead!!!” I texted her. Only I was typing so fast as I juggled my coffee and walked around people to the Blue Line, autocorrect got the best of me and input “And people say child care is dead!!!”
I gave everyone stories, but honestly, none compare to Hot Pedway Guy™. I don’t know when I really started noticing him, but I’m glad I did. He was a fine specimen of a man, and I saw him just about every morning in between Millennium Station and the Washington Blue Line.
Many may believe I cannot technically have a “type” since I have never actually been on a date before. But I’d like to think that after years of observation, I’m entitled to have some sort of criteria for my future partner in crime:
Okay, clearly this isn’t ‘sensible’ criteria, but it’s criteria nonetheless. Hot Pedway Guy™ falls somewhere in the middle, and I would like to think Pedway Paul falls all the way up in the top right corner. Both of these guys have helped me define my so called ‘type’, which I have come to think is either:
a) Bearded bespectacled hipsters
b) Clean shaven style moguls (my friend Elizabeth and I dubbed these types of men Hot Guys Who Are Probably in Tech™ and Hot Guys Who Are Probably in Business™, respectively).
Hot Pedway Guy™, as I’ve said, is a fine specimen of man. He perfectly fits the bearded, plastic-rimmed type I’m attracted to. and honestly the best way to further describe him is to keep in mind the Ryan Gosling ‘Hey Girl’ meme where he’s beautifully bearded and wearing round plastic glasses. You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. Hot Pedway Guy™ was perfectly bearded and bespectacled and is a borderline Ryan Gosling doppelganger.
We made eye contact a few times, but nothing ever came of it. Each interaction probably lasted a total of 1.5 seconds, since we were always walking in opposite directions, like two ships passing in the night. I looked forward to these 1.5 seconds each morning and honestly, who could blame me? Wouldn’t YOU want to see a doppleganger of Ryan Gosling’s “Hey Girl” meme every morning in real life, even if it's only for a mere 1.5 seconds?
I decided that there was no way Hot Pedway Guy™ was in business. His wardrobe was far too casual to be working in business. You could tell he put effort into his style, and to me that was attractive. It seemed like he never just threw something together after rolling out of bed. I know what you’re probably thinking: Was he gay? Honestly I’ll probably never know, but considering I have a very solid gaydar, I was pretty confident he was very straight. This kind of style meant he was probably a creative or a developer, or a creative in tech.
I don’t know this for sure for obvious reasons, but I decided he was a developer for a tech company where I would eventually work once I decide I actually want some sort of job fulfillment.
Joe Fox: He could be anyone! He could be the zipper man!
Kathleen Kelly: Who’s that?
Joe Fox: The Zipper Man! He repairs zippers on Amsterdam Avenue.
-”You’ve Got Mail” (1998)
After about two months of consistently seeing Hot Pedway Guy™ on my morning commute, I didn’t see him for a couple days, which was quite disappointing. There weren’t any other attractive guys to daydream about for three straight days (where were you when I needed you, Pedway Paul?! Where!), and that was unfortunate.
After leaving work early one day to make the early train back home, I convinced myself I probably wouldn’t see Hot Pedway Guy™ again. All good things must come to an end at some point, right? I had resigned myself to a “Single As A Pringle” life again as the train pulled into the Washington station.
That particular third day of being Pedway Paul-less, no one on the train was making it easy for me to make my exit, and as I reached the door, the people waiting to get on were trying to plow their way through because they had zero patience.
I wiggled myself through the door, then, I kid you not, I basically ran right into Hot Pedway Guy™. I was in such a hurry,I did nothing except give a flustered ‘Sorry for running into you and almost knocking you over’ look.
BUT! There was a look, no matter how awkward. I kept heading toward Millennium with an extra pep in my step.
The encounter, which lasted a grand total of three whole seconds (a record!), was pleasantly awkward, and was grounds for imagining what an actual, unrushed meet cute with Hot Pedway Guy™ would be like: I kept seeing the end scene from “Sleepless in Seattle” run through my head: Tom Hanks steps off the elevator at the top of the Empire State Building, and as he looks up, he stops, just as Meg Ryan turns around, holding Jonah’s teddy bear.
The only problem: I am not lucky enough to have something that wonderful actually happen to me. As much as I would like my life to be written by Nora Ephron, I know that’s not possible. As much as I hate to admit it, real life is not like the movies.
Instead, I thought up a more realistic meet cute for Hot Pedway Guy™ and I:
The rush hour crowd is very real as I make my way to the Blue Line. I zoom past Hot Pedway Guy™. Not stopping, but smiling to myself pleasantly as I make it it to the turnstiles at the Washington station. I swipe my pass, and as I’m walking through there’s a tap on my shoulder. I stop to turn around, and it’s Hot Pedway Guy™. He re-swipes his pass and is holding out my car keys to me, which must have fallen out of my purse when I dug out my CTA pass.
“Hey, I think these are yours,” he says.
“Oh, wow,” I say, flustered for very obvious reasons, taking my keys from him. “I didn’t even realize they’d fallen. Thanks!”
“No problem,” he says.
“Have a good day,” I say.
“Yea, you too,” he says, sort of turning to walk back through the gate, but a definite note of hesitation in is demeanor.
I smiled (an actual, non-perpetually awkward girl smile!!!) and turned to walk down the steps to the platform, but he stops me. People start to hustle up the stairs and escalator around us, but we don’t move.
“I know this sounds odd, since we don’t actually know each other,” he says, “but I see you a lot on the Pedway.” He looks flustered but continues, “And honestly now that I’m saying this out loud I probably sound like a weirdo…..but would you like to get coffee one morning?”
For once in my life, I’m able to contain myself. “Sure,” I say, smiling without hesitation (without hesitation! I like this version of me). “I’d like that.”
“Wow, really?” Hot Pedway Guy™ says, somewhat perplexed. “You don’t find it weird that some random guy just asked you to grab coffee?”
Oooh, even better. He seems like a feminist. I do a little Schuyler Sister “WORK!” arm wave in my head.
“Well, I guess it’d be normal to assume you’d be a weirdo,” I paused. “But I’m guilty of seeing you on the Pedway a lot too,” I say.
Wow, you go, imaginary Hannah. That was smooth.
He smiles, and it’s a dashing smile. “Really? Awesome. I can meet you at tamale coffee shop tomorrow morning, around 8:15?” There’s a definite tone of excitement in his voice.
“I’ll see you then!”
We both start turning to continue on our routes, the people still weaving around us.
“Hey!” he calls one last time. I turn at the top of the stairs. He’s still standing where he gave me my keys, but says over the crowd, “I didn’t get your name!”
I laugh. “I’m Hannah,” I say.
He takes that in. “Hannah,” he says. “I’m [INSERT HOT AND SEXY NAME HERE]. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow, [INSERT HOT AND SEXY NAME HERE].”
This obviously VERY unrealistic daydream gets interrupted by the automated CTA voice saying, “UIC-Halsted is next. Doors open on the left at Halsted.”
I continue on with my day, thinking about how a turnstile run in with Hot Pedway Guy™ would actually be way more awkward and afterward, I’d probably want to crawl in a hole and sob while drinking an entire bottle of wine.
A month after my daydreams about meet cutes with Hot Pedway Guy™, Elizabeth came to visit. I looked at my phone for the time, and if my calculations were correct, by the time we got to the mall right before the Blue Line on the Pedway, we’d be able to sit and see Hot Pedway Guy™ walk by.
She sat facing the doors and my back was to them, so we’d decided to use a code word if she saw anyone come through that she thought could be Hot Pedway Guy™.
A few minutes passed. “Mango?” Elizabeth said hesitantly as a guy with thick plastic glasses walk through the doors. I shifted in my seat and looked behind me and shook my head.
Another few minutes went by. I talked about how ridiculous I was being. I mean, I was sitting on the Pedway literally waiting for Hot Pedway Guy™ to walk by. How insane was I? Very.
We sat there with our coffee, pretending to have an actual conversation, and I started to say again how ridiculous I was being (honestly I was) but Elizabeth reminded me she also wanted to see Hot Pedway Guy™, so if anything, she was just as crazy as I was.
Another minute passed, then Elizabeth looked up as she saw another plastic bespectacled guy getting ready to walk through the doors and said excitedly, “Ooooh, mango?!?!?”
I casually but quickly turned in my seat, and saw Hot Pedway Guy™ walking through the doors.
“Mango,” I said smiling.
We both looked up at Hot Pedway Guy™ walking by in perfectly fitted jeans and a grey button down. He saw us, but paid little to no attention as he was very obviously trying to make the next available train. But it was clear that we saw him. Elizabeth had seen Hot Pedway Guy™, and she got it. She understood my endless Twitter threads and meet cute wonderments.
She looked at me after he was out of our eyeline, and we immediately started laughing our asses off, not fully believing that we had actually sat on the Pedway just to see Hot Pedway Guy™ go by.
This made me realize something: Every girl has a friend or two whom they recount every aspect of their love lives (or lack thereof). Friends that confide the many details of relationships from blossoming beginnings to a magical first kiss. There are the friends that listen and laugh at your incessant daily ramblings about hot guys on your morning commute. And then there are best friends that willingly go with you to sit on the Pedway just to possibly see the hot guy you keep going on and on about every morning at 8:30 a.m. Elizabeth is one of those friends for me, and I am and always will be forever grateful for her supporting my crazy, idealistic hopes of finding a love from a grand moment in an underground walkway.
Will I see Hot Pedway Guy™ today? I wonder. I get off the train. I walk impatiently to pick up my coffee. I move through the revolving doors and my breath catches in my chest as I look up and see him. For three seconds I hear nothing, not the shuffles of feet. Not even the sound of the paper man. Just the beating of my own heart. I look up, and see Hot Pedway Guy™ as he passes.