Posts tagged Metra
Posts tagged Metra
I’m trying a new train line out today.
I didn’t think it would be so difficult to change something like your choice of transportation.
As I stood in the warming shed at the Burr Oak Metra stop, I looked around and realized I didn’t recognize a single face.
That wasn’t that strange in and of itself, but it made me realize just how much I know about the people at the Palos Park stop where I’ve boarded the train for much of the last six months.
There was the coughing lady, who seems to be perpetually sick, but who prefers to board before everyone else, even if she has to act like a linebacker to do it.
It used to bug me, but now I sit back and watch her work her magic, and it makes me smile and sometimes laugh out loud.
The Catholic school boys in their khakis and Sox stocking caps nudging each other on the platform, while one of the boys’ dad would joke around with them about Notre Dame football, a dirty leather satchel at his side, and a newspaper clenched between his arm and his side.
The guy who would fall asleep as soon as his head hit the backrest after he boarded the train. He snored so loudly I thought about changing cars one more time, but I started listening to music, which provided a bit of a soundtrack to their lives as I watched them work, eat, sleep, play and converse.
These were just my car companions when I finally decided to ride the second car from the end, and they were a microcosm of the bigger world that is Chicago.
And since I had tried nearly every car on the train, I realized I had come to know a lot of people, if only by sight and habit.
There was a little trepidation as I boarded the train this morning. I looked around at the unfamiliar people wearing unfamiliar clothes and doing unfamiliar things.
But then I caught sight of a 60-something woman with dreadlocks and a dapper old fellow wearing a trench coat and sporting a fine cane, and dozens of the most interesting fur hats, and I was reminded that I’m not just a journalist between the hours of 9 and 5.
The good habits of a journalist fall somewhere between anthropology and voyeurism.
I call it people watching. And I learn so much about myself and how little I actually see or understand others by watching the people around me any chance I get. It’s my own private university.
I’ve moved around almost every two years for the past 8 years. My dear wife has suffered through 18 moves in our nearly 19 years together.
I’ve always needed new vistas and new horizons, new classes and new texts to study.
I love Chicago, because I have only to change the way I enter the city each morning to gain a new perspective. To witness life lived just s little differently than my neighbors live theirs.
The train pulls toward the station and you stand, claiming your place in the line of the first to exit
The train empties like a torn serpent, its entrails pouring from a series of wounds
The flood of people starts as a trickle and becomes a rush as they jockey for a forward position
Free of the train, walking fast, moving with a single thought of gaining the doors to escape the bowels of the station
But really we’re just late for work
The lady in front of you walks with a cane, and she’s hobbling fast, as if she’s being chased
And she is
You try to pass her, and like cars on a freeway, so does everyone else
And as the flow of the train’s entrails empties onto the platform, the wriggling mass spreads outward and forward like blood toward a drain
And we fight for position until we are slowed and blocked and then we groan and complain about the lateness of the hour
The congestion of the sliding doors is an equalizer, putting you back in sync with those who lined up early
And in our mad rush or a deliberate wait, we all exit the station at the same time, spreading out into the city like fire
Breathing finally and texting our superiors and subordinates as if this is something rare and altogether strange
To wake tomorrow and do it all again
The train is a complex political compromise.
For as many years as I suspect people have been making this 7 a.m. haul into Chicago, it has done nothing to soften the hard lines of sleep encrusted about their eyes, the furrowed brows and the frowns they wear for smiles.
The train stop buzzes with activity 20 minutes before the 7:06 train. Old men sit at tables near the counter where the pretty blond woman serves coffee, newspapers and parking passes.
She talks to them with just a little flirt in her voice, and they feel young again.
They’re not even here to ride the train, just to drink coffee, talk a little and walk home.
I finally realize why people sit on the upper deck of these commuter trains. Air vents. #chicago #metra (Taken with Instagram at Chicago Union Station)
It’s only been four days since I started commuting, so it’s probably too early to really write about it in depth. It’s the first time I’ve commuted anywhere by train. My longest commute, before this, was my morning and evening drives to and from the University of Oregon from my home in Salem, Oregon. It’s a bit romantic, I admit. My notion of commuting has always been a bit “Madmen” even before the television show made air.