Candid camera with Rahm on the Brown Line

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The 10 most awkward seconds of Ben Albers’ life began shortly after Mayor Rahm Emanuel boarded the same Brown Line train he was riding to work.

Albers was sitting. Emanuel, trying to find a place to stand in the shifting crowds of a packed car, ended up about a foot away. Conditions were perfect for a clandestine photo.

“I nonchalantly angled my phone up at him, but the flash accidentally went off,” said Albers, 25. “You can really see that deathly vampire stare in the photo.”

“I just immediately put my head down right after that and just hoped he wouldn’t tell his security guard to kick my ass or throw me off the train or anything like that,” he said.

“It was extremely awkward, but it could have been even worse if he hadn’t gotten off at the next stop about 10 seconds later,” Albers said.

The encounter, which took place in February, may have been a bit eerie— but not altogether unusual.

Opportunity abounds for furtive photographers since Emanuel rides the train to work twice a week from his home in the Ravenswood neighborhood. A quick Twitter search shows several candid and mostly mundane pics of Rahm reading a newspaper, looking at his phone, scanning a tablet.

With the mayor out of sight, Albers looked at the photo and posted it to Twitter with the message: “Look at the gem I got. Warning: he may look deep in2 ur soul.”

“I’d never seen some higher up guy or official let alone the mayor on the train, so I felt like I had to take snap,” said Albers, who works in sales. “I got a little more than I bargained for, but it was well worth it.”

Emanuel chose not to comment for this story.

If you asked Carla Nessa, Emanuel isn’t even the main attraction.

For Nessa, mayoral sightings have morphed into mini sociology projects in which each person on the train is a test subject, the mayor is the stimulus and the fun lies in observing the observers.

“There’s a group of people who think they’re the first person to realize it’s Rahm, and they look around the train to see if anyone else notices,” said Nessa, 40, a graphic designer from Ravenswood.

Most people keep their thoughts to themselves; others approach the mayor.

“He seems really friendly to the people who stop and get his attention,” Nessa said. “And everyone seems kind of jovial when they’re talking to him.”

Others don’t care.

“There are people who consider him a commuter like everyone else, you see him and it’s like, ‘Oh, yea, that’s Rahm.’”

Nessa falls into this category.

“To me, he’s just another guy on the train, but it’s entertaining to watch everyone else.”

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