I’ve ridden the CTA almost every day for the past three and half years. When you add it up, that’s thousands of hours of priceless people watching and mental-note taking.
Most trips on the bus or train are rather uneventful and pass by quickly. But some days, I’d like to pull popcorn out of my purse and stay on past my stop to watch the duration of the show. I’ve seen my share of colorful characters and smooth operators on the CTA. I’m sure you have as well.
The cast rotates daily, but here are some characters that can be seen riding daily:
- The Long Sigher: Undoubtedly, once it’s obvious that the bus is taking longer than usual to get to work, the Long Sigher begins his performance. It goes something like this: Soft sigh. Check watch. One minute passes. Check watch again, followed by a longer, louder sigh. Finally, the cell phone comes out and everyone on the bus hears: “Um, hi, it’s Jim. I’ll be in a little late.” We didn’t see that one coming.
- The Loud Phone Talker/iPod Listener: Scanning the bus, you’re bound to see several folks chatting away on cell phones. But there’s always one person who is talking more loudly, so loudly that even the people in the very back can hear that her roommate ate all the sour cream or that he’s soooo pissed at his boss. I usually am forgiving of the loud talking until I realize the person is not in fact speaking to his or her 90-year-old grandma. The loud iPod listener comes from the same breed as The Loud Phone Talker. He or she is also oblivious to everyone on the bus can hear what is coming out of their personal electronic device. And the fact that the Santana/Rob Thomas song really sucks.
- The Person with an Abusive Backpack: Have a seat, and you’re likely to get clocked in the face repeatedly by someone with a giant, abusive backpack. You’re probably too nice to say anything, so you endure the abuse for the rest of the ride.
- The Aggressor: The CTA brings out the worst in some people, especially the Aggressor. I’ve seen grown men on packed buses engage in shouting matches and verr on the brink of fist fights over the lack of personal space. I’ve also seen The Aggressor get so angry at an annoyingly boisterous dude that he turned around and yelled, “Do you EVER shut up?” My husband actually witnessed a full-on fight on the bus the other day. Oh, the joys of bus rage.
- The Weirdo: The CTA is a magnet and safe haven for weirdos. I’ve met a whole host of them. Some of the all-stars include woman-in-half-yoga-pose, nail-clipper-man and dude-carrying-an-opened-frozen-pizza. The weirdo that took the cake for me was man-with-a-cat-in-the-suitcase. That’s right. I once saw a man get on the bus with a cat in a carrier and a suitcase. The first assumption was that he was going on a trip. That was wrong. He sat next to a patient, young woman in front of me and began telling how he’d been displaced from his apartment due to a fire and had been living in a hotel with his cats. “Cats?” the woman asked. Yes, the man replied. There was a cat in the carrier and in the suitcase. But the man was sure the cat could breathe just fine because he was a doctor. The man coincidentally reeked of beer. To make a long story short, the horrified young woman in front of me eventually convinced the man to take the cat out of the suitcase and let it hang out on the bus. And…scene.
- The Passive Rider: The most common and most popular patron of the CTA. He or she probably looks a bit like you and me. He or she usually successfully completes a bus or train ride without being labeled as the weirdo or any of the aforementioned characters. At least he or she thinks.
Look for the performance soon. Coming to a CTA bus or train near you.