“It’ll be worth it one day” has been my mantra over the past few weeks. I’ve been dragging myself out of bed, through the streets, into school, and into bed, hoping that I can just sleep the weekend away to make up for the sleepless school week. Many of us lead lives like this, in which we’re exhausted and overwhelmed. The freaky, sunless weather doesn’t help either. When life has begun to rake me across coals, sometimes it helps to stop and enjoy the small things in my life.
And dear friends, that brings me to the topic of my blog today: The Chicago Transit Authority, (CTA).
When I first came to Chicago, I was psyched that public transportation was a big thing. Back at home, we have the sketchy Chatham Area Transit (CAT) buses, but because Savannah is such a spaced-out city, it was best to just have a car if possible. This should be really neat, I thought to myself. I’ve only used subways when I visited New York or DC. What an adventure this will–
On my second week in Chicago, I spun around when I heard a sickening thud on the CTA Red Line. A small woman was jumping up and down, crouched, on one of the seats. Another woman was sprawled across another set of seats, holding her cheek with a look of shock and fear on her face. People shifted uncomfortably around them as the small, jumping woman began berating the other woman for touching her. “Don’t you dare touch me!” she shrieked. “Don’t you dare f***ing touch me!” A tall black man stepped between them. “Look, you both need to calm the f*** down,” he said in a soothing voice. He turned to the woman who had been punched. “You need to calm the f*** down.” He turned to the agitated woman: “And you need to calm the f*** down. Okay?” -Red Line
I figured I would just be enjoying the convenience. I didn’t realize what sorts of things I would see. But when I did realize, I began to like the CTA even more. For even though I may be running late (hoping that the bus would just mow pedestrians down *just this once* so I wouldn’t miss my lecture), the buses and trains are wonderful sites for people-watching. Within the swelling, impatient masses of people crowding on and off the transits, there are individual stories unfolding.
Orange Line– Two college-age boys jumped on the Orange Line and announced that they were part of a singing trying to get off the ground. “And we just want you guys to know, we are not bangers!” they said in perfect unison. They performed a great duet, one of them hitting a falsetto so high that made me jerk in alarm. They finished their song as the train approached my stop, but as I exited the train, I heard a woman introducing herself to the boys, saying that she was a talent agent and was interested in representing them.
Orange Line– A young woman and a small toddler sat on the Orange Line, side by side. The toddler was bundled up in a poofy, pink jacket, barely able to move her arms. She begins to fuss, moaning quietly. The young woman beside her snapped “Shut up! I told you to shut up!” The toddler went quiet, then began to fuss again. “I can’t wait to get off this damn train,” the young woman growled, looking at the toddler. At the next stop, a man who had been sitting a few chairs down from me got up, poked the little girl’s shoe, and said “I love your shoe! Have a nice day, okay?” When the young woman and the toddler got off at the next stop, even my boyfriend (who insists children “traps”) gave the little girl a wave (sorry baby, I needed to share that cute moment.)
Bus– I stood at a the bus stop next to a rather large woman who was complaining to a stranger about how people with wheelchairs shouldn’t be using the buses. “Then we have to clear out 4 seats worth of space so they can get on,” the woman squawked, “See, they shouldn’t be using the buses. They have options. They can just– you know, call some service to come and pick them up instead of holding the rest of us up. They really should make rules about it.” The bus finally pulled up, and when I followed her into the bus, I saw she took up three seats.
Bus— (This is my favorite story) A car driver suddenly cut my bus off at an intersection. The bus driver slammed on the breaks. I grabbed a nearby pole and stifled a scream. Half the people in the bus, however, began to rattle off a long string of loud curses. The most prominent of them all was a little old lady, hair in a bun and tucked under a sweet little hat: “”F*** that f***ing mother****er! He ****ing cut the f***ing bus off! F***er doesn’t know how to f***ing drive!! F***!!”
Blue Line– (this just happened to me tonight) A man with a cane approached me, and asked me if I knew what a violence statistic was. I asked him what it was, and he began to mumble, pulling out three $20 bills. “…but at least I got my health.” I heard him finish. “Well that’s good then.” He eyed me, then said “What are you, FBI?” “I don’t think so.” “Damn FBI. You probably are one. You’re an FBI agent!” He began to mumble again, and then proceeded to accuse me of trying to get legal status in the United States. Thankfully, around this part, we came to my stop and I exited the train.