Needs More Training

April 26, 2015 at 10:06 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Friday morning, my commute gave me something to think about. I now have a theory that the conductors of the elevated trains are lonely and in need of companionship. What makes me think this? The Chicago Transit Authority conductor I had on my way into work.

It’s fairly normal for my train to run slowly and have frequent pauses between stations, especially in the mornings. That’s what happens when the tracks are old and twisted and you have trains backed up all the way to and from the loop, so it doesn’t concern me too much. If we end up sitting for 5 minutes and there’s no announcement then people start looking around like ‘WTF’ but usually the conductor will come on at that point and give us an update. My conductor today? Gave an update for every single delay – even those that lasted roughly 10 seconds. He must have been new or something because he went into more detail than I would have thought possible, i.e. telling us how many trains are in front of us and detailing how we couldn’t move until the one ahead moved first because if we did we would run the risk of hitting them and that would go against CTA policy. At first, I thought he was trying to be a smart ass but there was absolutely no hint of humor or irony in his voice; rather, he sounded like he was doing us the biggest favor in the world with these minute-by-minute updates. So every time we slowed down, we got to hear another announcement about how we would be moving in 10 seconds or so. This was especially annoying because most morning commuters like to make said commute in peace and quiet – having a voice constantly blaring through the train car completely destroys any chances of a relaxing commute.

Did I mention that CTA trains also have automated announcements to inform of us delays, door openings and closings and their policy regarding gambling? Because they do.

At least my conductor didn’t do this.


But then, I considered the fact that maybe the poor guy was just lonely. Conductors don’t typically have a lot of interaction with the commuters (unless one of them is sick or crazy or something and that’s not exactly the kind of interaction anyone wants). They usually stand at the front of the train and pull their various levers and whatnot to keep us moving, which is fine and dandy. But perhaps this guy wanted to feel more a part of the crowd and figured the best way to do that would be talking to us like we were the best of friends, or at least gave a shit about what he was talking about. It’s possible his goal was to annoy us all so much that someone would hit the call button to ask him to stop, which would be a prolonged human interaction. I almost got to that point myself, after all. It could have been a perfect storm of him being new to the job and wanting to over-inform rather than under-inform combined with him not being used to working such a solo type of position. So I should feel some compassion, right?

Nope. I’ve completely avoided trains because of annoying conductors before and I will absolutely do so again if need be. But maybe I’ll give him a long, overly detailed warning about it first.

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Commuting Clusterf*ck

March 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

So the Chicago Transit Authority is remodeling a very important bridge that something like 77,000 people cross every day via the train (yes, really).  In order to do, they had to shut the bridge down.  As you can probably imagine, this has created a bit of a headache for everyone involved, since it basically means all trains have to be re-routed and many of them quit operating altogether.  This construction is scheduled to last for this entire week and another week in April.  CTA’s suggestion to commuters was basically, try to work from home or take the weeks off.  Since this isn’t exactly an option for me (and most others, really), I woke up super early today to face what may come.

There’s the new bridge, ready and waiting to be installed. And I might be on that train in the background!

And, after the hype and worry and MANY warnings, it really wasn’t that bad.  Sure, I had to wake up early and walk an extra 1/2 mile or so to get to the office but the trains weren’t bursting with rabid, angry commuters as I had feared and there wasn’t mass chaos and rioting, at least nowhere that I could see.  The most frustrating thing I dealt with was the fact that the train I was supposed to take should have had a special color on it and, as one CTA official stated, they obviously “didn’t do that”.  It would’ve made figuring out where to go a little easier but I managed on my own.  I even made it to work 15 minutes early (which I didn’t exactly love but did sort of mirror the dream I had last night where I was so worried about the commute that I came into the office at 5am).  I’m still not exactly sure the best route for me to take to get home tonight but I’ll figure it out, and while I realize that the rest of the week may not go so smoothly as today did, now I can at least be optimistic.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings but if I really want to tempt the fates, I might only wake up 20 minutes early and see what happens.

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Crying Over Spilled Juice

January 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Orange you glad to see this?

I haven’t had a post on public transit happenings lately so I guess I was due for another interesting ride on the CTA.  I’ve actually been spoiled as of late because Scott (the boyfriend) has a car and has been giving me lifts to places I’d normally be hoofing it to.  The Field Museum, for example.  I have thoroughly appreciated the rides there over the past few weeks as early and cold mornings just don’t sit well with me.  However this last Saturday he actually had to work himself so I was on my own, like in the good ‘ol days.  I had a brief walk, a train ride, a transfer, one more train ride and yet another walk before I could go into the museum so I bundled up and headed out.

The first train ride was uneventful but then I switched to the Red Line.  As any Chicagoan can tell you, each train line yields different…experiences, shall we say.  The Red Line runs 24/7 and is known for smelling like urine.  As I settled into my seat, I noticed that the guy next to me had quite the deluxe breakfast featuring Dunkin Donuts donuts, coffee and orange juice.  You may be able to see where this is going.  At one particularly jerky point, the poor guy’s juice flew across the aisle and dumped itself everywhere.  I felt bad for him because he was clearly embarrassed (and he just wasted nearly $2.00) but I didn’t feel too bad because I got splashed in his wake.  Nothing major but then again, any juice on my pants that didn’t at some point belong to me is just a little too much.  So while I watched the ocean of orange ebb and flow down the aisle with the train, I was just thankful I wasn’t completely soaked.  Then the preacher/rapper got on.

You gotta get bapTIZED

You gotta get bapTIZED

Don’t your realize, you gotta get bapTIZED!!

This is what I heard for the next ten minutes.  While I appreciate his attempts at religious conversion, the part of me that was dealing with being on the train at 9am on a Saturday was just not in the mood.  He yelled and flailed his arms around while everyone tried to not make eye contact and he was able to fit such rhyming words as wise, demise, surprise  and prize into his spiel.  At one point he was gesticulating so wildly that he smacked another passenger in the head as they were trying to get off the train – without missing a single beat, he said “I apologize but YOU GOTTA GET BAPTIZED!”.  I’ll admit, I was impressed with his ability to stick with his rhyme scheme as he said sorry for being a public nuisance.

It was about this point that the guy who lost part of his orange juice to my pants turned to me and commented on what a fabulous morning I must be having.  He was right – that song about baptism was in my head all day and I’ve already been baptized myself.  But now I sort of want to do it again.  In orange juice.

CTA – Transit with a Show!

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The Help

August 15, 2011 at 9:39 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

A while back (so long ago that I can’t even find the original post), I wrote about a book called The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  It’s about a woman who graduates from college in Mississippi in the 50’s and returns home to find her dreams of being a journalist aren’t exactly taking off.  After witnessing the inequality and racism that was prevalent at the time, she has the idea of interviewing the black women who work as maids for the white women in her hometown, to see what their lives are really like.  Their stories are heartbreaking, frustrating, sometimes hilarious and always moving.  The book was an extremely popular one and after our book club read it, I suggested it to my sister who read it in her book club as well.  Then we passed it off to our mom.

The stars of the show

And when I was visiting my dad and grandparents in Louisiana in June, I caught my grandma reading it on her Kindle (yes that was strange for me to type) and we were able to have some really honest and interesting conversations about what it was like for her to have black women work in her home back in the day.  This book has pretty much made the rounds through my family and when the movie came out, a book club gal pal of mine and I decided we had to check it out.

Now as any avid read/movie watcher knows, the books are typically always better than the movies.  Some notable exceptions include Fight Club and The Muppet’s Christmas Movie.  I’ll admit that when the casting for The Help was released, I was initially skeptical of Emma Stone in the lead role.  She’s cute and all but not what I pictured in my head as I was reading.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by her performance and I think she did a pretty good job.  The main characters in both the book and the movie are all women and it was really cool to see a film where the best roles were all played by talented ladies (for those of you in the know, the woman who played Minnie nailed it).  I laughed, I cried and I was really glad I saw the movie.  It did run a little long (2.5 hours could’ve easily been trimmed to just under 2) but it was a long book to begin with and they still didn’t flesh out everything they could’ve.  Ultimately though, they did an admirable job of sticking to the book and I came away satisfied.

And here’s a fun fact:  the woman who plays the character Hilly in the film is Ron Howard’s daughter.  I know this because I had a conversation about the movie with a lovely middle-aged couple while walking out of the theater.  She was good too, so those acting chops must be genetic.  I mean she was no Opie but she wasn’t half bad.  But don’t take my word for it….

(Sidenote: that last phrase there is lifted from one of my favorite childhood programs, Reading Rainbow.  And I sang the theme song to that show in a duet with a stranger while her boyfriend looked on in embarrassment while we waited for a train just after I saw the movie this weekend.  I can’t make this shit up).

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CTA (Crazy Transit Anecdotes)

March 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

If you’ve read my blog long enough, you’re familiar with the fact that public transportation in Chicago provides for some interesting stories.  This week has been no different and, while it’s just Tuesday, I’ve had enough interesting for the week.

The first story took place on the train Sunday evening as I was making my way home from the megabus stop near Union Station.  The closest train stop for me wasn’t exactly the nicest one but I’ve been there plenty of times and don’t really think much of it.  I found a seat and hunkered down with my luggage, then settled in for the ride.  But the ride had to wait because an elderly man displayed pure badassary and single-handedly stopped a pickpocket.

Oh CTA, you so crazy

I didn’t really understand what was going on but I did see an older couple with a ton of luggage blocking the door to the train.  There was also a man who seemed to be being held by a few others and at first I thought he was drunk and trying to board.  Then he was pulled away by a few security guards and the couple fully boarded so the doors could close.  It was clear the older man was shaken and as he sat down and  began to speak to his (likely) wife I figured out what had actually happened.  He basically caught the pickpocket red-handed and held onto him for dear life while the security guards were brought in.  Standing in the door was the smartest thing he could do and the other passengers helped hold the would-be thief until he was apprehended.  I was happy for the man and impressed with his quick thinking – I also held my purse a bit tighter the whole way home.

The second story took place on the train coming into work yesterday morning.  I was sitting quietly with my eyes closed as I usually do on the ride into work, trying to mentally bend the space-time continuum so my train would arrive in the future after the work day was already finished.  I was having problems with this when I could sense the person sitting next to me squirming around a little more than normal.  Upon opening my eyes, I saw a woman who was obviously very uncomfortable.  Since I know what it’s like to be hungover nauseous on a moving train, my heart went out to her.  Then she put her head between her legs and made a retching noise so awful that I did a double take to see if she was harboring a small rabid animal in her purse.  Seriously.  She wasn’t.  When she came back to a sitting position the poor girl was obviously extremely surprised by her outburst and also very embarrassed, which probably got worse when a bunch of strangers started asking her if she was okay.  Perhaps she was pregnant and experience the first wonderful throes of morning sickness?  Maybe she was the host for an alien that was trying to burst from her stomach (hmm…similiar to pregnancy)?  Or maybe she had a ham and cheese breakfast sandwich that just wasn’t sitting right.  Regardless, when her stop came she was the first one off the train and I couldn’t exactly blame her.

Last but not least (holy crap this is turning into a marathon post), I overheard a couple of teenage girls on the bus this morning discussing their Driver’s Ed course.  Apparently they’re both terrified of lane merges and think that the recommended stop sign wait time is much too long.  This gave me yet another reason I’m glad I don’t have a car and it made me extremely thankful I’m no longer in high school as well.

Besides, if I drove everywhere then I wouldn’t be privy to these crazy transit anecdotes.

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Trains, Pains and No Automobiles

December 9, 2010 at 2:00 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Relying on public transit has its perks, such as not ever having to worry about needing a DD.  However, this also means that you’re at the mercy of anything than can and does go wrong when you push hundreds of thousands of people into train cars day in and day out.  Case in point: yesterday.

I got on the train after work per usual and was happy to find a place to sit.  I settled down with my reading material and off we went.  At our first stop, the door to our car didn’t open right away and some guy manually pulled the lever to get out.  Then the door didn’t shut.  An announcement came over the speaker saying there was a train malfunction and the conductor walked back, shut the door and once again we were off.  Then the same thing happened at the next stop.  Awesome.  The conductor looked at the door for a while, shut it again and proceeded to our third destination.  The door stuck again.  Then we sat for almost 15 minutes while the conductor walked around, poking things and looking perplexed.  At this point there were people stuffing the train car and we were well behind schedule.  So of course we got another announcement, this one stating that the entire car was broken and we all had to get off the train.  Onto a platform full of dozens of other people who were waiting to board to begin with.  You can imagine how happy everyone was.  I myself almost got pushed on the tracks by an angry woman with someplace so important to be that she was willing to commit homicide in order to get there.  The next train that pulled up a few minutes later was already so full that roughly two people were able to squeeze in before it pulled off.  I caught the one after that, which was still like wading into a can of sardines.

So eventually I made it off the train and went home.  I had evening plans for board game playing with some friends and had a brief window of time in which to get home, give my special needs cat her insulin shot and get back to the train.  I did all that and was happy to see one approaching not long after I started waiting again.  The platform I was standing on is in the middle of the highway and the passing cars, wind and freezing temperatures made it so I don’t want to hang around there any longer than I have to.  You can then imagine my disbelief when this train failed to slow down and passed us poor commuters right on by.

What in the wide wide world of sports?  That was the one and only time I’ve ever seen an express train on that line and it’s my personal belief that the conductor was just too lazy to make his regular stop.  Or he saw me, knew about my luck and decided to make it worse.

At least I could have all the beer I wanted with my pizza dinner and not have to worry about driving home.

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As Seen on the Bus

April 15, 2010 at 2:46 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Oh, public transportation, how you entertain me.  Every now and then I do one of these posts, because every now and then I am so highly amused by what I see and hear on the bus or el that I feel I must discuss.  This is another one of those days.

Last week, I overheard a very bright teenage kid and his mom having a conversation about cancer.  This wasn’t a depressing conversation; rather, he seemed to be asking about what kinds of cancer what types of people could get.  He brought up breast cancer and said that it was only a lady thing (I was glad his mom corrected him, or I probably would have).  He then mentioned prostate cancer, and asked his mom if women had prostrates.  Now, this kid did was not exactly using his indoor voice and you could just see his mom getting more squeamish by the second.  She tried to stammer out an answer and as we locked eyes before I got off at my stop, she seemed to be wondering how she had gotten herself into that situation.  I had myself a chuckle as I exited the bus, and was once again thankful that I don’t have any inquisitive kids of my own.

I saw a pet bird on the bus earlier this week.  Actually, I should clarify – I heard a bird and I assumed it was a pet.  The bus in question was extremely crowded and when I heard the squawking I tried to find its source.  As I craned my neck this way and that, the girl next to me looked up from her book long enough to tell me that there was a lady in the back with a bird in a cage.  I chose to believe her, as the other explanations included a person making that inhuman sound or a wild animal that was trapped in a moving bus.  Whatever it was, it wasn’t on long enough for me to figure it out.

Last night was the impetus for this post.  As I made my way home from my evening at the food pantry, I encountered some absolutely trashed Cubs fans.  These were not your average frat guy Cubs fans – these were middle-aged adults.  There were two women, who I later found out were sisters, and the husband of one of them who just sat there silently the entire ride and looked as though he was trying very hard not to throw up.  The women were blond and brunette, respectively, and you could just tell the brunette was the older sister.  She spent most of the ride yelling loudly about how she had to pay for her ticket while her sister, being cute and blond, just walked right in (who knows if this was actually the case).  Obviously she was dealing with some sibling rivalry issues.  She also talked shit about the blond’s cute new baby and gigantic diamond rock on her ring finger (to be fair, the thing was HUGE).  Then she started hollering at the rest of us on the bus, asking if we knew what it was like to get the shaft when the cuter, younger person with you got the goods.  The blond just rocked back and forth and laughed during this whole scene, and after a while demanded that her sister hand over her cell phone.  The brunette did not have the blond woman’s phone and I got to watch a few drunken panicky moments where they both searched fruitlessly for the lost cellular device.  They seemed to quit caring when they couldn’t find it, although I’m sure that changed once they sobered up.  During this all, the husband just sat and watched.  Smart man.

I doubt these women were able to function today.  Did I mention that when I saw them it was close to 9:30pm, and the Cubs game had been over for at least four full hours?  I can only imagine how much alcohol they were able to consume in that time.  At least I know it’s officially summer, now that the Cubs fans are coming out to drunkenly play.

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