Category Archives: public transit

Open Letter to Riders of the CTA – part 2

My dearest fellow public transit travelers,

Last year, I sent you a letter (Open Letter to Riders of the CTA) and I’ve recently come to the conclusion that a follow-up is necessary.  It hurts me that you just seem unable to learn basic rules of commuting and human decency, but I’m committed to helping you make your way in this world with as little inconvenience to me as possible.

Picking up where I left off:

10.  There is absolutely no reason – NONE – for you to sit in the middle seat of an empty 3-seat bench.  Does the “no touching unless absolutely necessary” rule really need to be spelled out for you?  This infraction is the public transit equivalent of one of those various “urinal rules” I’ve heard guys have.  You don’t want to be that person, do you?  The creep in the middle seat who is either going to force people to touch them, or force people to stand because they’re so freaked out by your seat choice?  I didn’t think so.  Do the responsible thing and move over one way or the other.

11.  Your toddler is adorable, he really is.  Who doesn’t love watching a small child take those unsteady steps, with their tiny hand clutching yours for dear life?  I’ll tell you who: the person behind them on the subway stairs during rush hour.  Pick your kid up!  For her safety, for mine, for yours.   Teach him how to walk up the stairs and nurture her independent spirit someplace safer and more out of the way.  Hell, unsupervised on some metal bleachers in the middle of winter would probably be safer than up from the Chicago Red Line stop at 5:20 pm.

12.  I get it – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is just the most AMAZING book you’ve ever read.  You just can’t put it down… I’ve read books like that, where I squeeze in a few chapters on my commute or during my lunch break.  But you know what I never did?  Walk through a subway stop at rush hour while reading it.  Why?  Because that’s stupid.  It makes me want to walk into you on purpose and then blame you for it.

13.  Do we need to have lessons on how to go through a turnstile?  I wish I could just blame the tourists for this, but it’s well past summer and I know a lot of you I see every day have to walk through these things on a regular basis, so there is really no excuse for not knowing how it works.  First of all, if you are scared of the ones that look like they could slice and dice you, I understand.  Go through one of the regular gates (Psst!  They work both ways!).  But maybe it would help if you thought about this like merging on the highway: You need to enter the turnstile and keep it going at the same speed it was when you got in.  That means NO SLOWING IT DOWN to a crawl.  Or waiting for it to make 3.5 empty revolutions before you get up the nerve to jump in.  Be ready to hop into the first available space or stop pushing your way to the front of the line.  And don’t even get me started on the lazy bastards who refuse to do any of the pushing themselves, and let the next person in line do all the work.  One of the days, I’m not going to.   But not during rush hour, because I’m not the kind of asshole who holds up an entire line of people who just want to go home.

14.  I’m going to take what might be an unpopular position here:  Oranges, unless you have pre-peeled and separated the segments prior to your commute, are an entirely inappropriate food to be eating while squeezed into the seat next to me on an overcrowded bus.  If I get orange juice squirted in my eye because of your inattentive peeling, I’m going to be very cranky.

15.  Finally, because it cannot be said enough times, even if you’ve gone back to read the original letter I linked to above, MOVE. ALL. THE. WAY. TO. THE. BACK. OF. THE. BUS.

Thanks guys.  I have faith that eventually you’ll catch on 🙂





Every morning, I commute a little over an hour by bus and L train.  It’s a long ride; it’s even longer on the way home during rush hour.  So I have to come up with ways to entertain myself.

I read books that make me look smart.

(note: while I do read smart books, I have never read Pride and Prejudice.  That title came up when I googled “Smart People Books”).

I also sometimes secretly read books that I make fun of other people for reading.  I make sure the covers of these books are never visible so if someone I know is on the bus, I can’t get called out on my hypocrisy.

Lots of times, especially if I’m on my way to my day job after working my overnight job, I sleep.  I probably drool.

Frequently, after sleeping on the bus or train, I jerk awake about 3 stops before I’m supposed to get off, in a complete panic that I’ve missed my stop and am somehow headed back the other direction again.  This is never true.  I’m not the most rational person right when I wake up.  I’m also frequently not actually awake when I think that I’ve woken up.

[Update: I must’ve jinxed myself.  This morning after I wrote this, I woke up at the announcement that all passengers must exit the train since we were at the end of the line.  My stop is definitely before the end of the line.  Awesome]

Lately, probably because I’m mid-way through season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix, I’ve found it highly entertaining to imagine that everyone I see wearing an enormous cross either around their neck or emblazoned on their clothing is actually a vampire slayer.

Finally, and I think about this probably much more than is healthy, I run through scenarios in my mind in which a zombie outbreak occurs in my train car.  This way, if and when the zombie apocalypse occurs, I will be able to remain calm and get myself to safety.  See, in the movies, it always starts with a virus:


So by the time zombifying occurs, I’m well on my way to the connecting doors of the cars and escape:

Since zombies lack the motor skills to open doors and climb to the top of the train car, I’ll be safe at least until we get to the next stop:

The plan after that is a whole other post.  But trust me… I do have a plan. 

Open Letter to Riders of the CTA

Dear Fellow Riders,

We’re all in this together; there’s a solidarity in our daily sardine-can experience.  And it’s not that I don’t enjoy my morning and evening group cuddle with all of you.  So I’m laying this all out there in the most loving way possible.

1.  If you’re going to elbow your way in front of me after I’ve been standing here at the bus stop for the past 15 minutes, you’d best have your card ready.  Yeah, I said card.  Because if you just pushed past me in order to put quarters into the fare box one by one, I’m not going to be a happy commuter.  Probably not as angry as I’ll be if I’m standing in the rain while you root around in your 50 gallon purse for your Chicago Card, though, so there’s that.

2.  Sometimes, sitting in the empty seat is not about how tired and in need of a rest you might be.  It’s about making more room on the bus or in the train car.  See, because as long as you are standing in front of the empty seat, no one can sit in it.  And a void wants to be filled.  That’s just science.  You don’t want to fight science, do you?

3.  If you don’t like the fact that my leg is touching yours, maybe you should just go ahead and move your leg over a little.  See, this is my seat, and that is yours.  I highly doubt it’s absolutely necessary for you to sit with your legs that far apart.

4.  Also, if you are seated in the aisle seat and I am seated in the window seat, and I need to exit our shared seating area, the easiest and least painful thing to do is for you to get up, allow me exit, and then return to the seat of your choosing.  Because if you just turn to the side, or worse yet, slightly shift your legs, I will not be at all mindful of what my bag might hit as I am exiting.  I know you want to do the right thing here.

5.  That’s quite a large backpack you are wearing.  Have you noticed that it’s taking up the space of a whole person and has also hit the seated passengers in the head multiple times?  Take it off.  Hold it down by your legs.  See?  Legs take up less room than torsos, so there’s tons of room down there!

6.  When we are stopping at a major stop (e.g. anywhere you might transfer from a bus to the L, or any of the Lake St L stops in the Loop), many people are getting off the bus or train.  Therefore, there is no need for all 64 of you to stand up from your seats before we even stop.  Do you notice that there is nowhere for you to move to, because no one has yet gotten off?  And because you can’t move, no one can move into your seat without getting to second base with you.  The bus/train won’t leave before you get off, when 80% of the other riders are also getting off.  And there’s only so much space here – you can’t fill an already occupied space.  This is also science.

7.  The pole by the door there is for people to hold onto, not for you to lean on.  If you don’t like my knuckles in your back, perhaps you should stop leaning on my hand.  See?  Doesn’t that feel better?

8.  I can see that you are very proud of your extremely long hair.  But if you keep flipping it around like that when there are 700 of us packed on this bus/train, so help me I will not be held responsible for what I might do.

9.  For the very last time, MOVE ALL THE WAY TO THE BACK OF THE BUS!!!!!  This does not mean, “Move to the back door”.  You see those steps back there?  After the back door and leading to the back section of the bus?  Those are magic steps.  If you walk up them, we are all less crowded.  It’s a miracle!  And you should try it.  Because there are 47 of us crammed into 10 square feet up here and I’m practically sitting on the driver’s lap.

I know we can do this.


All is well

We had some wicked storms today.

One of my coworkers and I appeared to be the only two people in the entire building who weren’t driving home (we don’t own cars), so we were trying to get out of the office before it rained.  This was made more difficult by the fact that I forgot about approximately 18 things I had to before I left.  Because of this, it started pouring rain sideways about 2 minutes before we needed to walk a block to the L stop.  So we begged a ride to the train from another coworker.  Naturally, by the time he came downstairs and looked out the window, it was barely drizzling, but we made him take us anyway. 🙂   It’s not like we were asking for a rides all the way home…

Although I’m sure everyone would’ve felt bad when they saw on the news that we had either a) been blown off the platform onto the 3rd rail and fried, or b) plunged to our deaths when the train was blown off the L tracks. 

Those things obviously did not happen. 

On the way home, the conversation went something like this:
<super weird, groan-y sound from L car when wind blows extra hard>
Coworker: What was that noise?
Me:  That doesn’t sound good at all
Coworker:  What if the power goes out?
Me:  What if the power goes out after the Cubs fans get on and you get off and I am stranded on the tracks with wet, smelly, drunk people?
Coworker:  Man I hate Cubs fans
Me: I hate riding home with stupid drunk Cubs fans after I’ve been at work all day.
There was more of that.  I won’t bore you.  It took me almost 2 hours to get home on the train and then the sssssslllllllooooooowwwwwww bus.  The rain had let up by then, it looked like the sun might come out, and then I stepped into my darkened stairwell.


I have no power.   That’s ok, it’s probably only been out a couple hours, I’m sure the power company is working on it.  I call up my mom and chat with her for a little bit and get the electric company’s number because I never save my bills (and I love that they tell me when I call that I can contact them online too.  WTF?  You think I’m calling to chat?  To tell you what a great job you’re doing?  I’m calling because I’ve got no ever-loving electricity!).  Then I call the power company… it’s about a quarter to 7.  They say the electricity should be fixed by 7:30.  I sit by the open window and read my book.  At 7:45, the automated message says there’s been some unforseen issues and now they have absolutely no idea when the power will come back on.  I decide to go get dinner.  Come back with a frozen pizza, notice several blocks are out.  Notice the GIANT tree that’s apparently the culprit (and which I apparently missed on my walk from the bus, which is weird, because it’s closed down an entire street).  Drop pizza off inside for a few minutes to take pictures of tree with crappy camera phone:

I literally walked right past this to get to my apt. Totally didn't see it.

So glad this isn't my car....

So glad I don't even have a car and don't ever have to worry about this happening to it.

After investigating, I decide I should cook the frozen pizza that’s thawing in my kitchen.  Now, I swear I have cooked on my gas stove before when there’s no power, but it’s possible I just dreamed that.  Because the oven and stove don’t turn on with no electricity.  I imagine this is because of the pilot light somehow, but I’m not really sure because I know shockingly little about how my stove works.  So I shove the pizza in the dead freezer, trying not to let out what little cool-ish air is left in there.  Guess I’ll take a walk… seeing as it’s quickly turning into a sauna in here.

All my lucky neighbors with stoops (never living above a business again.  NEVER) are outside drinking beers and watching tree branches lying in the street.  If I were less awkward, I’d ask to join them.  I think you know by now that I did not.  Power’s out all over, and now it’s getting dark, so back to the sweat box.  I light candles and construct reflectors out of tinfoil to maximize their light.  I think it worked, but maybe I’m imagining that…

I am a genius.

When the power finally came back on around 9 pm, you could hear people cheering (and, oddly, dogs howling) all up and down the street.  After waiting what I felt was a safe amount of time, I ventured into the kitchen to check on the contents of my freezer

In case you can't tell, that's: veggie burgers, tater tots, ice cream sandwiches, ice cubes, and vodka

Thank goodness.  The ice cream sandwiches are still frozen and the vodka is still chilled.  Catastrophe averted.

Commuter Face

Apparently I have Commuter Face. 

First, a little background:  two years ago, I moved to a location closer to my job, giving me a delightful 20 minute commute.  Now I have a different job.  It’s an hour away.  5 blocks from where I used to live (yeah, the irony is not lost on me).

So I have a long commute home, and a good portion of it is on the Red Line… which, in the summertime, fills up with drunken Cubs fans at Addison… And while I enjoy meeting and talking to strangers as much as anyone else (note: this is a lie), I do not generally want to talk to drunk people while I’m on my way home from staring at Excel spreadsheets in a natural-light-deprived cubicle all day.  So I put on Commuter Face.  I think it looks a little like this:

I make sure I don’t make eye contact that could be construed as meaningful and inviting conversation, and I mind my own business. 

Today, I was joined by loud, drunken, soaked cubs fans at Addison, loud, drunk, soaked beach goers a little further south (it rained today, btdubs).  Then I got on the bus with a tourist youth group who decided to tell the rest of us regular commuters the way to properly ride the bus.  I had serious commuter face.

I finally made it to the back when the tourist youth group (who was taking up half the bus) got off.  Pushed my way to the back bench, sat down, accidently bumped the chick next to me, who seemed to giving me a weird look.  I was so annoyed.  Seriously, toots, it’s the bus.  People bump you.  Then she waved and said hey.  It was one of my best friends, who I’ve known since 2003, and actually was my roommate for 2 years.  We live near each other and actually hang out all the time.  And I didn’t even recognize her.  I’m the Commuter Face champion.

I am dork-tastic and socially awkward

It’s true.  I try to pretend that I’m pretty cool, but it’s more like I just try to exude cool, rather than doing or saying cool things.

Today, for instance.  I take the L and a bus home every day.  The trip lasts more than an hour, and I finished my book in the first 20 minutes.  So when I got on the bus, I searched through my bag for a copy of Rolling Stone from about 3 weeks ago.  That makes me look cool, right?  Reading RS on the bus?  Yeah. 

A handsome looking guy sat down next to me at the stop after I got on…. and I spent the next 20 minutes simply trying to exude coolness, because I get all tongue tied when talking to handsome strangers, so actually initiating conversation is usually out of the question.  Shockingly, this plan failed miserably.  It’s his loss… what kind of guy doesn’t want to talk to the girl reading about coal ash waste in Rolling Stone on the bus?

There might be a lot of posts on how I’m socially awkward in this little blog.  It’s sort of a theme of my life…