How NOT to ride the CTA
“Excuse me. Excuse me! EXCUSE ME!!!” I hear it every single day, in varying forms of politeness, panic levels, and volume. It’s either someone trying to squeeze through the headphone wearing crowd to get off at their stop, or someone asking their fellow commuter if perhaps they may have the seat that is currently occupied by said commuter’s important backpack, or an irritated rider who has just gotten knocked in the head for the fifth time by a giant purse.
My commute since moving is much quicker but more complicated. I take the Chicago bus and the Blue Line, and while I can’t confirm this with hard evidence, in my opinion, more people take these two lines each day than visit Vegas every year. It is never a good sign when you can see the faces of commuters on the bus a block away because they are pressed against the windshield, nor do I enjoy seeing cattle car after cattle car pass me up, desperately hoping I will be able to wedge myself into one of them when the train stops. Inevitably, I wind up in front of the car in which no one is getting off and thus have to force my person into the door to the dismay of other riders.
Last week, an unfortunate string of events left me furiously muttering obsecenities under my breath after I was uncermemoniously launched from a still rolling bus.
Below are the highlights. I would appreciate any and all suggestions on how to improve my own experience.
Real Life – CTA Commute
- Check handy RedEye Tracker and see train is coming in four minutes. Score! This is exactly how long it takes me to cross the street and get down to the train.
- Well, it would be, if two of the lanes weren’t broken and the other was not occupied by a homeless person trying every single card that he has found in the last two days to see which one will allow him to pass through the magic turnstile.
- Shoelace gets caught in the escalator. (There are really not words descriptive enough to convey the sheer panic of this 45 second ordeal.)
- Am freed! Train is already pulled up, but as there’s four billion people trying to get on and off, I probably have a second. Begin “run” to first open car. (Blue line operators think they’re funny and do not “park” in a manner convenient for all waiting passengers.)
- Get to doors JUST in time to have them slam in face. Watch other passengers smirk and resist urge to hit the glass with my shoe.
- Lean down to tie said shoe.
- Am immediately smacked in head with a giant case of some sort, knocking me to the ground. Try to look on bright side – at least I wasn’t closer to tracks and now trying to climb away from my death.
- Stand back up, trying to maintain some sort of dignity. Fail.
- Successfully pack myself in with the other sardines/commuters on the next train.
- Check handy RedEye tracker for bus information. Score again! Ten minutes.
- If man next to me “accidentally” hits my boobs again, I am going to “accidentally” knee him in the goodies.
- Exit Blue Line and attempt to hurry up the stairs to bus. Am delayed by a large group of people blocking the stairs and wearing matching t-shirts that say, “Hard Core Bosnians on Tour!” Seriously?
- Climb stairs behind five person family from Iowa who are very, very busy staring straight up in wonderment. “It’s like coming up from underground!” Bite tongue to avoid shouting, “YOU’RE SURPRISED BY THIS?? BECAUSE THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE DOING!!”
- It comes as no surprise that the bus is pulling away as I get to the top step.
- Next bus is in 12 minutes. Quiver with impotent rage that the CTA stockpiles busses and the fact that there is no reason there shouldn’t be one every four minutes as approximately 30 people are already waiting.
- Climb aboard bus with 30 other people despite there only being room for two more. Have no place to face but directly into the armpit of an extremely hairy gentleman.
- Spend seven minutes desperately trying to avoid accidentally wearing this man’s shirt as the bus driver is obviously a first time driver, extremely malicious and masochistic, or blind.
- Ignore man in wheelchair who repeatedly calls me “pretty lady.” Try to listen to Pandora in an attempt to forget where I am.
- Elderly lady huffing and puffing about the purse strap that keeps grazing her is making me angry. Hairy man is replaced by smiling, creepy-looking gentleman with hair that can only be described as a pompadour holding onto the pole behind me. My personal space has not only been attacked, it has been H-bombed. Uncomfortable doesn’t really cover this particular sensation.
- Each of my senses is being assaulted. I am pressed up against this scary man, the child in the seat (in his OWN seat, I might add,) in front of me has obviously sullied his diaper, my hand is gripping a sticky plastic swinging rung, giving me the appearance of an uncoordinated monkey, and”Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” just came on my radio. Touche, Pandora. Touche.
- I attempt to exit the bus two stops early to stop the bleeding. I am blocked by a big fat woman who pretends not to hear me.
- I attempt to exit the bus one stop early and am moderately successful. I say moderately because in the process, I was thrown into the person in front of me with such force I wondered if we should file a police report, and promptly fell out the back doors of the bus, which, as stated before, did not come to a complete stop.
This all culminated in my shuffling my feet on my way to Dominick’s and subsequently home, mumbling things like, “Beer,” “Stupid cow,” “Stupid cow family,” “Dumb head mean driver, see if I smile at you again,” “Listen lady, I’m trying not to get impregnated by this clown, deal with my purse strap,” “Bosnians? Why?” and “No, YOU shut up.”
Perhaps this is why there’s always at least one incoherent homeless person on every bus? Years of frustration, of getting stepped on, yelled at, knocked over, and being shoved up against people they’ve never met has rendered them helpless to communicate normally?
I’ll take my chances. It still beats the hell out of an hour of stop-n-go on the Kennedy.