by Kenneth Justice
~ “Are you kidding me, we’ve only been on the train for five minutes!” she said
Yesterday morning I boarded a train bound for Chicago on this weekend’s leg of my Drinking in the Culture Tour. There were few people on board and the first hour of my 6 hour trip was delightful; free WiFi offered by the train service, the opportunity to get a lot of reading done (did you know that the Governor of Mecca outlawed coffeehouses in the year 1511?) and a row of seats all to myself….but then, the drunks got on board.
When I originally booked my Chicago trip earlier in the year, I had no clue that I would be coming on St. Patrick’s Day; and if you’ve never seen how crazy people can get on the Irish holiday then just swing by the Windy City for a few hours and you’ll see drinking like you’ve never seen it before. The four women and four men who boarded the train sloshed had been drinking since the night before; this party for them was an all weekend event and they were ready to get down.
I felt bad for the young woman seated in front of me, she couldn’t of been any older than seventeen, and after a half hour of a drunk guy towering over (the revelers were standing for most of the train trip so they could walk back-and-forth among their seats) she couldn’t take it anymore and hauled down her massive piece of luggage and high-tailed it out of our train car and into one presumably far away down the line.
Less than 10 minutes after the party goers boarded, one of the women in their group couldn’t take the motion of the train (I guess straight up Jack Daniels and train travel didn’t mix very well with her) and she quickly leaped up to dash toward the bathroom; she didn’t make it. Fortunately, a fellow passenger had enough sense to force a motion-sickness-bag into her hands; and the woman proceeded to puke right in front of us.
After about forty five minutes of listening to the St. Patty’s Day people talk LOUDLY about “vagina’s” and “penises” (but they used the other terms for our anatomy; the words that make Nun’s blush) I’d made up my mind that the teen girl had the right idea; it was time for me to change train cars. But it was in the moment of putting my laptop away that the stranger sitting silently next to me finally opened her mouth.
She was of Asian descent and had been sitting next to me for more than an hour, and when I greeted her initially as she sat down, she politely said hello but conveyed an “I don’t want to get into a conversation with strangers on a train” look, so I had made sure to leave her alone. However, it turns out that heavily intoxicated St. Patrick’s Day revelers can break down the icy cold demeanor of even the most private train traveler; somewhere between the drunk woman puking in front of us and another drunk guy trying to force my row-mate to eat beer chips (she refused repeatedly) the young Asian woman now desperately wanted to talk to me and find a safe person to cling to in case the drunks got even more rowdy (they were really only a couple steps away from grabbing at body parts that didn’t belong to them).
The young woman was born in South Korea and adopted by a couple from the Mid West when she was a year old, “Its always been so strange for me because my friends growing up would repeatedly ask me if I was ashamed for being adopted from a Korean orphanage and being taken away from the country of my birth” she said “But for the life of me it never made sense why people would ask me that because I’m glad that I was adopted. My parents are the ones who raised me ‘and I’ve never considered for a moment that my ‘real’ mom is the one who gave birth to me; not at all! My real mom is the one who changed my diapers, and who held me when I cried, who comforted me when I was sad, and who has shown me more love than I could ever imagine” she said
Now in her early thirties, the young woman and her parents visited South Korea a couple years ago to see the culture that she was born in, “I didn’t go there to try and find the birth mother, no not at all. My parents had booked a trip for us to Hawaii and asked me if I wanted to spend a week in South Korea as well so I said ‘sure’. It was really interesting seeing Seoul and experiencing Asian society but my home will always be near my family and I wouldn’t ever want to move away from the Mid West”
Talking with the woman it was undeniable how much she loved her family. Her grandfather was/is an Anglican priest (her mother is originally from London, England) and they are a very religious family. She talked to me at length about traditions and how much she enjoyed liturgies of her church tradition and she rattled off the history of her family as though she wasn’t adopted into it; but rather as if she was a full blooded family member. But that’s really the truth isn’t it; when we are adopted, we’re not meant to feel like an outsider….we’re meant to feel as though we are part of the family.
“I’m not saying that people are wrong for wanting to find their birth parents; I simply can’t relate to it or understand it because I know who my parents are and I love them so much” she said.
Today I’m in Chicago and I’ll be at Filter Cafe and then The Gallery Cafe, if you’re looking for a cup of coffee and a conversation you should swing by! I’d love to have coffee with you.
Categories: Culture & Society