Waltzing Mechanics

Chicago's Home for Documentary Theatre

Where our train began its journey


In less than two weeks when the Waltzing Mechanics celebrate the first anniversary of EL Stories, rehearsals will already be underway on the acclaimed series' fourth edition.  In addition to featuring all new stories from CTA riders, the show will be helmed by fellow company founder Zack Florent and will feature veteran EL Stories performers Eleni Pappageorge and Shariba Rivers alongside ten immensely talented cast members making their Waltzing Mechanics debuts.

While the Mechanics look with great anticipation toward the year ahead (including a world premiere documentary play this fall that has absolutely positively nothing to do with public transportation), we wanted to take a moment to remember where we began.  Those who joined us for our production of EL Stories: Red Line at City Lit Theatre last February may remember the first story shared.  Performed by Eric Loughlin and Shariba Rivers, it featured a homeless man on a platform trying to warn a female rider to look away from him before he defecated on the tracks.

We are pleased to share the source audio and transcript from DeeDee, South Shore (click on the link to play) who supplied us with the hilarious yet insightful story that began our train rolling.

One time, I was standing on the platform waiting to get on a train, and this man was at the very, very end.  I like to walk to the end.  And he-- I like to pre-walk. 

But I be-- but I-- before I left the city, I decided there were two sorts of crazy.  There’s actual crazy, and there are people who’ve decided that it is easier to be crazy and step outside of society and intimidate you than to be normal.  And they fuckin’ do it on purpose.  To be like, I have no money, I have no job, all I have is my power to make you uncomfortable.  And that’s that sort of crazy.

So I walked to the end of the platform, and there’s this dude down there, and he’s like,


And he was like throwing his arms at the end of the platform, he was like,


And I was like, I’m gonna take three steps to the left, but I am very much going to establish my, my space, and my right to stand here.  Because sometimes if you let, let them know that the crazy’s getting to you, they will then follow you and like, be like, “Oh, this bitch is really uncomfortable.”  So I was like, I took three steps to the left, but I stood there, and he’s like,


And then finally, he just goes,


And he turned, and he took off his white t-shirt, and then he pulled down his pants.  And he turned his ass to over the track, and he shat onto the track.  Then he wiped his ass with his white t-shirt and wrapped it around his hand, pulled up his pants and got on the train.

And at that moment, and I watched the whole thing go down, ‘cause I couldn’t look away, and I was like, “oh Jesus, oh Jesus, oh Jesus.”  And I was like, “don’t look, don’t!”  ‘Cause I saw him pulling down his pants, and I saw him taking off his shirt, and I was like, “stop looking, stop looking, stop looking!”  But I couldn’t stop!  Because it was happening!  And I knew I had to see it!

And then when he got on the train, I was only mad at myself, ‘cause I go, and crazy homeless man, he was trying to tell me in a polite way,

“Excuse me, miss.  Please look away.  I’m about to shit on the track and wipe my ass with my own t-shirt.”

And it was my inability to listen to him as a human being, and hear what he was trying to say to me and his courtesy in his crazy homeless way to go,

“Ma’am, I’m gonna shit myself and wipe my ass with my own t-shirt.  You don’t wanna look at it.”

But because he doesn’t have those courteous ways, all he could say was: 


And when I ignored him for the sixth time, he said, “FUCK YOU - I tried to warn you.”  And then he did it, and he walked on the train.  And that was day I also realized that I would never travel on the subway system without Purell.  Because there are people who shit, wipe their own ass with their t-shirt, and have the money to then take a train ride to the Upper East Side while holding a rail that you will then touch in the morning and eat a breakfast sandwich.  So there’s several lessons wrapped in that.

One - listen to the homeless.  They are trying to tell you in their own way - in a polite way, “Beware, I’m gonna do some crazy homeless shit, ‘cause I have no other options.”  Two - oh, two - sanitize always, and don’t eat on the train.  I’ve learned many a thing.