Have Train, Mouth Will Travel

January 18, 2013 at 2:21 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

As any consistent reader of my blog knows, riding public transportation can be quite entertaining and/or frustrating.  I’m constantly privy to other people’s bad taste in music, conversations and body odors and all for the low, low price of $100/month.  I was riding home Wednesday evening when some guy sat down across the aisle from me and continued his overly loud cell phone call.  Here are just a few things I learned before I got off at my stop:

  • Train Guy was on his way to see his girl.  They were getting dinner.
  • He drank way too much Miller High Life last weekend and had the worst hangover of his life.  Even worse than the one he had at David’s house last year.
  • He was bringing beer “for the big boys” to the upcoming Friday night party.  Corona, to be exact.
  • He didn’t want to drink as much this week and if he was going to take shots, he’d be taking them early in the night.  Whiskey.  However, he knew that Phone Dude #1 would be getting “SHIZ-FACED!”.
  • He wanted to know if  Phone Dude #1 (the host, apparently) had thought about “Boooo-duuuuh” (Buddha?  Boodah?  insert other spellings for marijuana here).  Because if not, Train Guy would gladly bring a blunt instead of the man-beer, Corona.  They could smoke it in the backyard.  So think about it.
  • He also loved Django Unchained and thinks “it’s the best Tarantino movie, like ever.  Gory as f*ck and SO GOOD.”

Close enough.

Those were the highlights from his first conversation.  Then he called whom I can only assume was his drug dealer:

  • Train Guy wanted to be picked up from work on Friday by Phone Dude #2 (aka the dealer).  He has Phone Dude #2’s money.  Also, Train Guy “wants to pick up….uhhh….ahhhh….” Then silence.  Then, “Did you get that, man?”  Yes, Train Dude.  We all got it.  You want more drugs.

That conversation didn’t go the way he wanted and he sounded let down/depressed/in withdrawal when he hung up the phone.  Then he made the last phone call that I heard before I hopped off the train (mind you, this all happened in about 20 minutes).  This was to his girlfriend (Phone Dudette #1).  I must note that I had to laugh when I heard his voice drop in pitch so he sounded older and more mysterious:

  • Poor Train Guy is tired.  He’s worked all day and taking the train alllll the way out to see his girlfriend for dinner is such a hassle.  He hopes she appreciates this.
  • He also wants to know the chances of her coming back to his place later that night.  Because if she’s not going to be around, he’s not going to sit at home alone and wants to know so he can make other plans.

Train Guy seems like a real catch.  I feel privileged that I got such a glimpse into his fascinating life, and I’m sure everyone else on the train that night felt exactly the same way.



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Sounds of the City

April 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

My previous post highlighted an interesting visual experience here in Chicago and a walk I took down State Street yesterday during rush hour provided a few more.   I think I noticed all this more than usual because I was on my cell phone at the time and could barely hear a thing.   If you’re familiar with the city then you’re probably familiar with some of these people/events but even if you’re not, hopefully it will show you a little of what goes on on a typical downtown Thursday…and teach you not to try to talk and walk when it comes to State Street.

  • Trains, overhead and everywhere.  The noise echoes through some of the streets.
  • Some random art installation that lit up various bulbs as it blared AC/DC to anyone with working eardrums.  This was in more than one area and I was lucky enough to pass these pieces at least three times.

    Not exactly Lamb Chop

  • The elderly gentleman who plays a violin on the street corner.  He’s usually accompanied by who I can only assume is his wife but he was performing solo yesterday.  Which makes me hope she was out shopping the Magnificent Mile and nothing more serious prevented her from making an appearance.
  • A bicycle cart that doubles as a puppet stage, where puppets put on a dancing and singing show for anyone who wants to stop and watch (see photo).
  • Sirens and taxi’s honking as if their lives depended on it.  Wouldn’t be a day in any city without that.
  • A group of probably 9 middle school kids playing drums using upside down large plastic paint gallons and wooden drumsticks.
  • Greenpeace Workers trying to sign up every Tom, Dick, and Harry so they can meet their daily quotas (I’ve had Greenpeace friends, I know how it works).  I’ve pledged before and these days I just try to keep my head low and eyes averted as I pass them by.
  • The mass confusion overheard from a group of tourists who were trying to find the recently-moved Garrett’s Popcorn.
  • The preacher who stands with a microphone and amplifier and denounces things like  homosexuality, birth control, premarital sex, puppies, ponies, TV, chocolate and just about anything fun (this list might not be entirely accurate, but it’s close).  Yesterday there were actually three guys holding signs that said “God Loves Gay People” right next to the preacher and so of course I (and many others) gave them a high-five as I passed.  This did not phase the preacher but it helped anyway.

And this was all in just about ten minutes.  Needless to say, my conversation got put on hold until I found a quieter part of the city (read: when I left downtown and got back to my own neighborhood) but I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’m also thankful I do not live in this area and that the most annoying thing in my street is the occasional cop car or drunken group missing a trolley.

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Hard Times

November 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

You know the city of Chicago is running on broke when you see the Mayor on the train during your morning commute:

Why hello there

At least, that’s what I thought when I looked up this morning to see Rahm Emanuel standing nonchalantly in my train car.  He was accompanied by two security guards, one giant tough looking dude and a small yet mean seeming female.  I really wanted to talk to him  (specifically, I wanted to discuss the state of our city’s libraries and museums and plead with him to quit cutting funding) and when I remembered how he was President Obama’s right hand man in the White House until becoming Mayor, I really wanted to bend his ear about some of my concerns.  Unfortunately, his security guards looked about as friendly as a cactus and they stood around him in such a way that made approaching him rather intimidating, to say the least.  So they stood around and secured a rather large space for him to stand in (especially considering this was during the morning rush commute) and the woman continually whispered into a little hand microphone every time we came to a new stop.  This prevented me from my usual morning nap on the train but since she looked like she could snap me in half with one hand tied behind her back, I let it slide.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed our atypical passenger this morning nor am I the only one who snapped his picture (he was reading The New York Times, in case you were wondering).  However, I may have been one of the only ones to make eye contact with him long enough to share one of those It’s-Monday-morning-and-neither-of-us-really-want-to-be-here half smile grimace things.  So that was something.  Perhaps I should start carrying around a letter full of polite suggestions for him in case I ever run into him again.  Though if I tried to hand it to him, chances are his security goons would think it was full of anthrax and that might not work out in my favor.

Oh well, it made for a more interesting Monday morning nonetheless.  Maybe I’ll run into him doing his own laundry next?

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Long Weekend, Long Post

June 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

My trip last weekend went pretty well, though as always it was a little too short.  Because I’m in yet another list-making mood, here’s a little recap of the highlights:

  • Having an elderly man on the train ride to the airport thank me profusely for my “pretty, pretty smile”.  I wasn’t sure whether I should be flattered or creeped out so I settled on a little bit of both.  At least he didn’t follow me to my plane.
  • Airport beer.  ‘Nuff said.
  • I had a stopover in my hometown so I waved a little, then had some girl who freaks out on plane rides sit next to me.  In

    The special I spent half my life watching

    related news, I realized how thankful I am that planes don’t really bother me too much.

  • The woman at the Hertz rental counter in the New Orleans airport took one look at my last name and launched into a long discussion about how one of her daughters married into our family a while ago, and did I know so-and-so, whose father was the brother of some guy named Mark.  It made me laugh, since up north no one can pronounce my last name but down south it’s common enough where everyone can make a connection.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know Mark.
  • I took a ride to the Morganza Spillway, which is the huge spillway making recent news as they had to open it for the first time since 1973 because the Mississippi had flooded so badly.  I’ve been out here before because my family used to own some of the land before the government turned it into the spillway but I’d never seen it look like that.  Water was everywhere.  The Mississippi is one helluva thing to mess with.
  • I had a pedicure.  With my father.  And it was his idea.  Apparently he’s still way too sore to reach down to trim his own nails (and while I’ll do anything for daughterly love, I won’t do that) so when my grandma came back from her weekly toe appointment, he suggested we go next.  Daddy/daughter pedicures ensued and I have photo evidence should I ever have the need to blackmail him.
  • During the pedicure, a huge storm came out of nowhere.  Now the “salon” we were in, Nail Biz, was actually a small concrete room and we were the only clients so it was a little weird when the power kept going out.  We were glad to be out of there, especially after lightning struck a transformer next door.  The ride back was a little scary since I’m not exactly used to driving in bad weather (and dad’s not up do sitting behind the wheel quite yet) and at one point we had to turn around because a tree was in the road.
  • Due to this storm, I spent the majority of Sunday picking up massive branches and sticks in the yard, righting a few chairs and swings and cleaning all kinds of debris from the pool.  In 90+ degree weather.
  • I didn’t mind the hot weather because I’ve been cold for roughly the last 8 months in Chicago.
  • I got bit by some ungodly looking creature with wings, pinchers, horns, fangs and an evil force field.  Or something like that.  Whatever it was, it left a nasty whelp featuring three weird punctures before it was through with my apparently delicious flesh.
  • I had a mimosa with my grandma, which was the first time we’ve ordered drinks together.  Yay milestones.
  • I watched a 5 hour Lawrence Welk marathon Saturday evening.
  • I read two books, watched 4 movies, caught up on my favorite TV show on Hulu and played a lot on my laptop.  It’s amazing how much time there is to fill when everyone in the house takes 4 naps a day and goes to bed by 9pm.
  • I dealt with another storm on my drive back to New Orleans to catch my flight.  I almost peed myself.  There was hail and lightning and more rain that I’ve seen in years – I actually pulled over in some truck stop to try to wait it out.  Then I became worried about missing my flight so I braved it anyway.  After dealing with a faulty pump at the gas station and an endless line at security, I made it to the gate as they were boarding.  The beer I somehow got for free on the flight calmed me down a bit and the whole ordeal made me even more thankful I’m car-less in the city.
  • Most importantly, I spent some good quality time with both my dad and my grandparents.  I’m not going to lie and say everything was easy – my dad is almost a foot taller than me and currently weights less than I do,  so that alone was difficult to see.  He’s doing well considering everything he’s been through but he’s not taking care of himself the way I would like and some difficult conversations were had.  However, I’m still extremely thankful I was able to go down and I already wish I was back.

Looking over this post, it seems I accomplished quite a lot on what was supposed to be a quiet and laid-back trip.  Though if I don’t see any Lawrence Welk between now and when I come back at Thanksgiving, it won’t break my heart – and hail can stay the hell away too.

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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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Don’t Mess with the Metra

February 19, 2010 at 8:40 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Before I get started, I just want to say that this post should have appeared yesterday.  However, due to a gross malfunction on wordpress.com, it did not.  So here it is now in all of its glory, and I apologize for the delay.

You may or may not know that I take the Metra train to work every morning.  Chicago is a plethora of public transportation and there are many ways for me to get around since I live sans car.  There are buses and the L (short for elevated train – basically an above ground subway) as well as the actual commuter train which is the Metra.  The Metra is a really nice ride (I usually sit up top, which I find sort of fun) though it is a bit more pricey than the other modes of transit.  However, it works out nicely because the station I get dropped off at is directly across a parking lot from my office.  In short, I use the train just about every day.

There aren’t many rules on the Metra but the ones they do have are important.  You know, no standing too close to the tracks, no smoking and no loud talking on your cell phone (this last one gets ignored all too often).  You can pretty much do anything else you’d like – chat, read, get drunk.  I’ve seen some interesting things on the train but last week I saw something that was actually quite disturbing and it reminded me of Rule #1 – keep back from the tracks.  Last week in general was a bad one for the Metra, as two women were killed in separate accidents.  One was in a car and I think she got stuck on the tracks and the other was a woman who was trying to beat the train and didn’t make it.  The latter was actually on the line I ride on and caused some delays, although it happened a bit north of where I was.  These incidents prompted us regular commuters to commiserate with one another about the stupidity of trying to outrun a huge, fast-moving hunk of steel that can’t exactly stop on a dime.  Obviously these deaths were a tragedy but they could have been avoided, as far as I can tell.  I heard some stories about close calls others had seen and was grateful I’ve never witnessed anything myself.  The next morning though, that all changed (don’t worry, no one dies in this story).

This is the train station I get picked up in the morning.  Notice the crappy little shelter, which leaks and provides absolutely zero protection for the 25 or so people that sometimes have to wait an additional 30 minutes on a freezing cold platform when the train is late.  Not that I’m bitter or anything.  Anyway, I was standing here one morning last week and chatting with a few of my train buddies as it was about to pull into the station.  In case you’ve never ridden one, the train makes all kinds of noise, flashes a bunch of lights, shakes the platform and typically sounds a loud and obnoxious horn.  It’s very noticeable when it’s approaching, and anyone within a block radius of the thing will pick up their pace if they’re trying to catch it.  Normally this isn’t an issue, as most people who ride my train walk (or run) up the stairs on the side the doors open on, so there’s no crossing of the tracks involved.  Last week, though, a woman was running down the other side with a small child in tow.  She was yanking her by the hand while she tried to make her way to the crossing platform (you can only cross the tracks in one area, the rest is separated by a fence).  Every one of us on the other side was urging the woman to stop, because she was cutting it DAMN close.  We all tensed up and held our breaths as she dashed across the platform with literally inches to spare.

The conductor of the train was NOT happy.  It was really a foolish thing for the woman to do, especially when there’s ice and snow on the tracks.  One wrong move and she and her child would have been human pancakes.  The conductor had literally laid on his horn the entire time he was pulling in and he stopped before the edge of the platform.  He wouldn’t let anyone on the train until the other conductor-ticket taker guys walked around and found the woman, presumably to give her a much deserved verbal tongue lashing.

Trust me, I know how much it sucks when you miss your train by mere seconds and have to wait for another one.  I’m sure she had someplace very important to be too.  Still doesn’t make it worth it.  Anytime there’s a battle between a train and a mere mortal, the train will always win.  That’s why you don’t mess with the Metra.

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