Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ahoy, Mateys!


He had a silver hoop earring in his ear.
A gigantic black marble ring on his ring finger.
Small wire rimmed glasses.
A Colonel Sanders style beard and mustache. (You remember my mild obsession of mustaches, right?)
A bandana on his head.
A peg leg.

Ok the last two were made up...but the first part of that list was unembellished and I thought I was going to be caught staring. It was just too good to be true. A pirate!!

"A pirate!" Sang the guy next to me. Yes. Next to me. Sang. He was reading out of two books: The First Book of Tenor Solos and The Operatic Anthology. And as he read, he read aloud, singing softly. Understudy? Wannabe? Or did I just sit next to the next great opera singer of our time? I may never know, as at times I find myself terribly uncultured. I do, after all, find commuting to be good entertainment.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Now, a catalog of readers on public transportation (non-exhaustive, of course).

Red Eye Readers: It's convenient. It's free. It's snarky. It reports on the Jonas Brothers and Obama, covering a wide spectrum of celebs we all hate to admit we love. A majority of readers on CTA belong in the RER category. The crosswords make me feel smart, the Sudoku puzzle sometimes makes me want to cry, but overall this is the category I fall into as well. 

Wall Street Journal Readers (and readers of other prestigious publications) : We get it. You work in the Loop, probably live in a random North Suburb, and consider the commute ample time to catch up on work emails and other various office related activities. You also have a crackberry of sorts. 

Smart Phone Readers: I don't know what you're reading...but you're probably posting on Facebook or Twitter about the weird girl next to you who is trying to figure out what you're reading. Sorry about that. 

Kindle Readers: They are cool, really cool, but I'm just not sold. I really like paper. Does that make me anti-environment? I hope not. I just like simplicity sometimes. 

Chicken Soup Readers: These people read inspirational stories for their soul---not religious literature of any sort, but quaint little anecdotes about people's lives that make them feel better about their own. 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Readers: They read books with provocative and slightly confusing titles. They make me want to go right out and read exactly what they are reading because they are cool and I want to be just like them (yes, this still works even though high school was years ago). Typically these readers look like Urban Outfitters models and have fingerless gloves.

Bestseller Readers: They belong to Oprah's book club. Enough said. 

The "I don't care what you think; I'm reading it because I enjoy it" Readers: The best kind. Go you. Keep up the good work. Read good books, it's good for you. 

Twilight Readers: I cannot even comment on it. Most of them are women nearing middle age. Ok. That's all. I can't comment anymore on it. 

People Readers: Me. Well. People watcher.

I think I might start compiling a list of book titles I see on the train and bus. I might even be inspired to finish the copy of Brave New World sitting on my desk. Don't get me wrong, I love to read. I'm actually always looking for new books...which is why I'm going to start taking unintentional recommendations from the good patrons of the CTA. 

Happy commuting!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The CTA is gonna change in a week...

And here's how I feel about it:

A typical morning starts with my 7am trip to the bus, and then connecting to the Brown Line about a half an hour later. I just have to mention this: I absolutely love the driver; I want to put her on my Christmas card list. She is quite possibly the nicest, most considerate CTA worker I’ve ever seen, and at 7 in the morning, too! I’m worried I won’t get to ride her bus anymore after the route schedule changes.  Sorry for sounding so sappy, but you CTA riders know how rare a find this is!

I am actually concerned about is the cattle car/sardine can situation on the L. Unfortunately, everyone in Chicago seems to start work at the same time. Equally as unfortunate, everyone seems to end work at the same time. I feel like we are already a lot like cattle going through the turnstiles…and then sardines being packed into the L.

The other day it actually did work to my benefit: it was a particularly bumpy ride that day, but elbow room was so tight I didn’t lose my balance at all! I suppose it’s all in your perspective. 

Really though, if it is already packed during those times, less frequent service is only going to make it more frustrating.  I don’t want to see riders being edgy and frustrated and then the workers in turn being edgy and frustrated, crowded transportation is stressful enough.

The buses are already crowded. A perfect example: the other day I was carrying a bag of groceries and a gallon of milk. The bus was definitely at capacity and so crowded that I felt extremely inconsiderate for trying to get home with my extra baggage. I had no choice other than to brave the crowded bus or wait another 20 minutes in the 11 degree weather. I boarded, and offered sympathetic looks and sincere apologies to those I bumped in the face with the gallon of milk. (Really, truly, I am still sorry).

It will be interesting to see how things change in the coming weeks. I am one of the few who actually enjoys taking public transportation (so many strange things happen on the CTA that you can’t make these stories up!) I’m assuming I will have to leave my house earlier, wait for an emptier Brown Line car, and run to my office to make it by 8am on the dot, or will have to switch routes all together. I really don’t want to leave my house before 7. It’s cold. And dark. And early. Please don't fail me now, CTA

(This post can also be found later today at )

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I always like the cozy CTA rides.

I have this, well, problem. I call it a "problem" because even though it's comedic and usually isn't offensive, sometimes it does not work to my benefit.

I communicate entirely way too much through facial expression.

No words are necessary for people to know exactly what I am thinking. So, when I was waiting for the bus at peak rush hour and saw that it was actually "Sardine hour" I thought "I will not give angry glares, I will not express my frustration. This is not anyone's fault, it's just Chicago right after work. This is my life...."

Apparently my pep talk didn't work. I climbed on the bus, and the bus driver started laughing at me right away. "It's ok, I get to run express now, we're at CA-PA-CI-TY." He kept going on and on about how crowded the bus was until I started laughing. "See, now she's cracking up over here." You are correct sir, now I'm cracking up. You've actually made my evening. Thank you, new favorite bus driver.

In other sardine related news...sometimes the sardine factor works to my benefit on particularly crowded days. I may not have a place to sit or even a bar to hold onto, but I'm packed so tightly in a sea of people that it doesn't quite matter. I'm not going anywhere for several stops.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I am almost certain someone was rocking out to some Andrew Lloyd Weber* this morning. Oh, the musical variety that is the soundtrack of the CTA.

Also, I might do all my Christmas shopping for 2010 at this site here:
Yes please, I want a T-shirt of my favorite bus route!

Last, no matter what the context, when I hear the phrase "We have the bus all to ourselves!" I really want to throw myself under it.

Happy commuting!

*Slightly unrelated, but I tend to get Andrew Lloyd Weber and Frank Lloyd Wright mixed up. Very embarrassing. I double checked before actually posting this.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Buses and why the CTA hates me.

Today was a balmy 11 degrees as I left for work. I'm starting a new transit route, so I left a little early to allow for some extra time in case the bus to train commute didn't go as smoothly as planned.

Sometimes, the CTA just hates me, and leaving to allow extra time means you allow extra time to FREEZE.

Bundle up, it will be a cold wait.