Three weeks ago Christina lent me a novel called “The Fifth Floor,” a campy whodunit, to read on the bus. It was a quick read, and I finished it in a week and a half in 35-45 minute increments during my commute. After that, I read “Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings and 8,000 Miles of Music,” written by my academic adviser and mentor in college and purchased by me months ago. This week and last I’ve been alternating between that Dorothy Parker compilation I mentioned and finally finishing “Slaughterhouse Five”. When “Slaughterhouse” gets too intensely depressing, I’ll switch to Parker’s uplifting short stories about newly weds whose marriages are doomed to fail. This newfound time to read is all thanks to public transportation and my absolute refusal to drive in downtown Chicago.
I take a bus for 15-20 minutes each morning to the Belmont red line El stop. I get on a train there and take it seven stops to Lake, and walk to work from my stop on State Street at Lake. I did essentially the same thing when I worked at the store, only I’m on for a couple more train stops. I almost never drive my car, except to carry groceries or cover assignments for Patch. That’s just as well too, because between a “check engine” light that refuses to shut off and a flat tire the other day, I can barely look at my car much less force it to leave its resting place on my street.
If it wasn’t for making the occasional trip to Ohio and for the security of knowing my car’s there if I do need it, I might not want one at all. I’m paying for car insurance AND a monthly CTA pass now, although I’m happy to say I only have a couple more car payments left.
It’s hard to remember how Columbus’s public transportation fared; it seemed so inaccessible. In Chicago, it’s your first move, and likely your best bet. People at work make plans on which bars to hang out at after work based on whether they live along the red or blue line. Everyone knows their way around the transit system. I’m still learning it, but I like it. It used to seem scary and unpredictable, but it turns out there’s nothing MORE predictable. A bus or a train is only going to go one of two ways. It’s not like it’s going to suddenly turn a corner on you and get you hopelessly lost. Transportation has become one less thing for me to worry about — or at least one thing I can worry LESS about. There was that one time I accidentally got on an express train and ended up several blocks south of the department store, but in retrospect, that one was on me.
What are your thoughts on mass transit?