I’ve lived in Chicago sine 1997 and I think of it as my home. Originally I was a little too nervous to use the CTA, since the bus system was huge and very random. Mind you, I do take buses all over town now, but the bus routing system boggles my mind. Oddly, I was more scared of the El system at first.
In a way that seems strange, since Cleveland’s Rapid is rather the pansy ass version of the El, and I’ve never minded that (though the Rapid’s ‘pay as you leave/westbound’ set up is nutty). The El looked pretty simple on paper. There was above and below ground sections, everything was color coded, and the trains all had these easy to follow maps. How could it be hard? I’d been on D.C.’s subway before and that was pretty easy. I’d been on the Paris subway and had no problems, and that was a different language. So what was my problem?
I’d been on the New York subways with my Aunt, and I assumed the big city of Chicago would be just the same. Big, scary and weird.
It wasn’t until I’d been in the city for six months that I dared the CTA system alone. I took the Blue Line from O’hare to the loop, transferred to the Red Line, and popped out mere blocks from my apartment. I had done it!
Okay, so the El was smelly and had a lot of crazy people running around, but it was fast, easy and kind of fun. The fun remains today, especially when I can tell stories like how I’m a ‘fucking dot-communist kid’ or how a maxi-pad saved a kid with a bloody nose. You know, the fun shit.
But I am the CTA killer.
So far I’ve been on an El train that caught on fire, one that seemed to have no brakes, one that road through a fire on the tracks, one where a homeless woman was on fire, one where a fellow had a heart attack and one where the train door never closed on the Subway and people almost fell out. I’ve also been on a lot of CTA buses that have died.
My first year of El riding, I took the brown line to Ravenswood for a party, to meet some mates as it were. It was a slow day, and I was sitting up front talking to the El driver. it was a short train (2 cars). Suddenly he slammed on the brakes, sending up all flying forward, and there was a terrific bump. I remember the sound pretty well. My first thought was ‘We hit a dog!’ The second car bumped as well, and then we stopped. As the driver walked out of the cab and locked the door, his face was ashen. The train had run over someone. Later on I found out the guy had ripped off a quick-e-mart and was trying to elude the cops by running on the El tracks…
Just a few weeks ago, I was on the purple line going home, during rush hour, when the train stopped at a station. Normal enough. There was a lot of hubbub out side, and the doors didn’t open. After a while, we were led off the train and put on another one, which then had to go backwards around the loop. Finally we got back on the right path to go home. I couldn’t figure out what had happened, even using my wireless Palm to check the news. When I got home, I turned on the news and there it was. An old lady had her bag caught by the passing train and was thrown under the car. They had to use a helicopter to lift the car off and get her out.
My buddy calls me the CTA killer because of all that, and I can’t blame him.