Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Easy commute my foot

I have always said that every trip is an adventure no matter how short/long simple/complex it is. I sometimes find that the shorter the trip is supposed to take— the greater of an adventure it becomes when that trip is somehow delayed. This week, Prodigal Magazine is featuring travel stories, and I thought I would contribute a story about my commute home that occurred four weeks ago:

One of the nice things that I discovered about my new office is its location. It is about two blocks from the Metra station and a half block from the Green line station for the CTA El. I take the Metra since the station is about 4 blocks closer to my house than the CTA, and I can more easily predict when the next train departs the station.

A few weeks back I got into Ogilvie station downtown only to find that all of the northbound trains indicated that they were delayed. Thinking that this was probably just a switching problem at the station, I decided to wait it out.

After about 30 minutes of waiting I overheard someone say that the trains were delayed because a train struck a passenger around the Ravesnswood stop. I decided that I wouldn't wait any longer and take the CTA instead.

I called my wife telling her that I was planning on taking the Green line east to the Red line, then take the Red line north and would call her when I got to the Morris stop. I then hung up and proceeded over to the Green line station. Right at the time I was on the platform digging in my coat pockets to get change for the CTA fare, my phone rang again. My wife told me that there was a fire near the tracks and that all northbound trains were stopped.

I proceeded to get off of the platform to get away from the noise of the train so I could offer some other possibilities. I suggested that I get on the Northwest line since that train was not effected by the delay and get off at Dee Road, but she didn't want to drive all the way out there just to pick me up. I then said that I would take the Green line west to Western Avenue and would call her before I took the Western bus north.

I put as much change on the transit card as I could, then proceeded up the handicap ramp towards the westbound platform— but halfway up the ramp realized that the Green line does not stop at Western Avenue. I turned around and headed towards the eastbound platform. I knew that the Blue line did connect with Western Avenue, so I would take the Green line east to the Blue line, then take the Blue line west and get off at Western Avenue.

The Green line was not very crowded and I was hopeful that the Blue line would be the same— but I was wrong. I don't know if you ever see the pictures of Japanese commuters getting packed into the trains— this was very similar. Thankfully everybody was in the same boat (so to speak) and was very polite about being packed like sardines the whole time.

I decided to call my wife to let her know that the 49B bus route that normally stops near our house probably does not go this far south and that I would have to take the 49 bus first, then transfer over to a 49B bus. I did see a bus arrive about 5 minutes later, but this bus was packed full. The driver opened the door and yelled that there was a bus right behind, shut the door and pulled away. True to his word, there was another bus about 5 minutes behind that one.

This one looked just as crowded as the one that pulled away, but I got on anyway. I don't know wat was worse, having the lady with a stroller who wouldn't move, or the handicap man with his oxygen tanks in the middle of the aisle that made this more unpleasant than the Blue line fiasco. As we went further and further north, the passengers shifted so that I could get out of the roadblock at the front of the bus and could actually hold on in order not to fall on those seated.

Just as we are approaching Lawrence Avenue and the Brown line station to where I would be departing the 49 bus… but what should my tired eyes should appear— but flashing lights and fire engines near the tracks. Could it get any worse… would I ever get home???? Thankfully it was just a fire that wasn't effecting the northbound busses.

I waited a good 20 minutes for the 49B bus to come from the north and turn around at the Brown line station. I got on and made my way to the rear door and stood there so I could easily get off— only to be told by the driver that everybody has to pack it up better, and wound up sitting at the very rear of the bus. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to depart the train and would have to push my way past a dozen or so passengers just to get to the rear door— but the further north we went the lighter the number of passengers in my way became. I slipped out at Peterson and walked the rest of the way home.

By the time I got home I looked at the clock which said 8:30. Three hours late isn't too bad considering…

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