Tag Archives: public transportation

Are you giving it up?

Ha. Tricked you into reading this. But this headline isn’t just a gratuitous, April Fool’s Day-inspired hook. I am going somewhere with it. Please wait.

So, I was eavesdropping on the bus tonight.

It’s nothing new really. I find myself doing this when I am in between books or when I’ve boycotted substantial thoughts. The conversation was between a lady and a dude who I assumed to be on a first date because they were asking the typical “getting to know you” questions about roommates and jobs.

I started to get bored with the conversation until they broached a subject that has been on my mind: When do you give up your seat on the bus or train? There seems to be no documented etiquette on this subject beyond the CTA’s announcement to “Please give up your seat for elderly passengers or expectant mothers.”

Are you giving it up?

Are you giving this up?

It’s hard to define “elderly passengers” (which, by the way, is not exactly a PC term) and “expectant mothers.” What does “elderly” look like? I’ve interpreted this as someone who is older and, by definition, has earned the privilege of sitting. I’ve received grateful smiles in return for giving up my seat. However, I’ve received sighs and eye rolling in this same scenario. What is the right thing to do?

Sometimes, it is obvious that you should offer your seat. A few weeks ago, I watched in horror as a cute, old man in a tattered Izod sweater clung on for dear life as the oblivious seated passengers read magazines and listened to their iPods. I was seconds away from giving the seated passengers a piece of my mind, but luckily, someone exited, and he was able to take a seat. Now, insert “very pregnant woman” for “cute, old man.” I’ve witnessed that too. It’s true that you can’t always tell a woman is pregnant until she is very pregnant, but there is a point when it’s clear that it’s the right thing to do.

Is that the key…just knowing when it’s the “right thing to do?” I was chatting with my friend Ryan about the subject the other day. He described how he recently gave his seat up to a girl who had a lot of shopping bags because “she looked like she wanted to sit.” That seems like an interesting gauge…perhaps it’s more about reading people.

When do you give it up…your bus seat, that is?



Filed under Chicago, CTA

Spitting games

I don’t ride the El that often anymore. I’m generally ok with that, especially after what I witnessed last night.

Heading toward the Loop to meet up with some friends, I took my seat on the Purple Line. I noticed a gentleman in front of me, and as I got comfortable, I observed the pleasant, clean scent he emanated. Passengers got on and off as the train made its way around the Loop. Watching carefully for the Washingon/Wells stop, I was interrupted from my iPod listening by a hacking sound. I look up and noticed that the man in front of me had spit on the floor. Really? Is that what we’re doing now? I was repulsed and regretted thinking that he smelled nice.

The culprit

The culprit. I was close to posting the spit picture, but I decided to spare you.

Luckily, I didn’t have to look at the puddle of spit for long because my stop came up. As I walked off the platform and down the stairs, I almost stepped in an unrelated puddle of spit. Gross. Just makes me wonder how often we step in others’ spit without noticing.



Filed under Chicago, CTA

The CTA…starring weirdos like you and me

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


Filed under chicago transit, CTA, Uncategorized