Train Blogging: Life on the Rails

A CTA Car, Where Dreams Happen

I have to clear two things up before getting into the magic of riding the L train. First of all I’m not writing this on the train so loyal followers of my Train Blogging series will see a more polished and clean cut article. Second of all, I blog a lot about public transportation. To get a better feel of where my attitudes lie regarding public transportation guidelines read this post.

Today’s installment of the Tran Blogging series surrounds the thought-processes that go through my mind while riding the train and what I perceive (just or unjust) to be going through the minds of my fellow passengers. In the recent weeks I have been reading a fantastic biography of Albert Einstein written by the famous Walter Isaacson. Einstein himself has a life interesting enough to fulfill the next month’s worth of blog posts. The book is also part of the reason why I have not made a Train Blogging post in quite some time.

Oddly enough I find the rickety clanking noise of the train to be the most comforting environment to read in. While reading the Einstein book I find it humorous that I am able to completely tune out the outside world and become completely encapsulated with this book. I have to give Isaacson much credit for that because his writing style is so clear and imaginative that it is difficult to put the book down. This also speaks on greater volumes about what the period of riding the CTA represents in my day.

My time spent on the train is a period where I’m left alone with my thoughts. This is really one of the only period of time during the day that I can experience this. I don’t want to give off the misconception that I am completely entailed in work and activity the entire day, but as I’m sure you can agree with there aren’t many moments during the day when you can just sit back and think. Reading the Einstein book is definitely intellectually stimulating and I find myself setting the book down at times to try and comprehend what his thought process is like (disclaimer: this is often a useless tactic as trying to understand Einstein’s thought process let alone is physics is seemingly a full time occupation). Point being though that Einstein’s theories and lifestyle often inspires my own thoughts and perceptions regarding different facets of life and the life that he lived.

Even if I spend the train ride listening to music or staring out into the city as we pass through different neighborhoods, I find myself encompassed in thoughts of reflection of the days work, a current issue, philosophy, or why the lady in the black pea coat sitting across from me looks so grumpy. Maybe it’s just her natural facial expression and I am being completely misguided, but that’s the beauty of the CTA. It really stimulates your imagination looking at other passengers on the train and trying to figure out what’s going on with them. Like I said earlier, whether just or unjust it is fun to imagine why someone looks grumpy while the person next to them has a jubilant smile on their face.

While there are many times I get frustrated at the CTA (again read this post to find out why) but I do have to give it credit. It is one of the only times during the day where you can tune the outside world out. I think that’s a healthy thing. It gives you time to recuperate and digest your thoughts. In this world we live in where everything is instant and can be published without much review, it’s good to be able to sit back and take life in. Call it a throwback, but it seems we as a society don’t take much time to sit back and digest information or what’s going on around us. Maybe that’s why some people on the Purple Line Express in the morning look so rushed and frazzled.

Train Blogging: Riding Public Transit

I think it’s safe to say that living in a busy urban environment exposes you to people outside of your usual social circle. It really is quite the phenomenon and I’ve had the pleasure (or misfortune depending on how you view it) of being a frequent participant in the public transit system.

I’m not going to spend the time bashing the CTA, there are already plenty of blogs dedicated to that. Instead I want to highlight a few characteristics of public transit newbies that make them stick out like a sore thumb. Trust me, nothing is worse than the cynical sigh or eye roll that you’ll get from a public transit regular than being identified as the guy on the train that has no idea what the hell is going on.

Rule # 1: Know where you’re going.

I don’t care if the bus or train has a map on it, never look at it for more than a period of 5 seconds and definitely do not ask the person you’re riding with what stop you get off at. The snarl you’ll get from fellow passengers will be immediate and everyone will associate you as the dude that has no idea what’s going on.  Don’t even try and defend yourself, the hole is already too  deep.

Given the technology we have, you can figure out your route before hand. You can even pretend like you’re texting and look up directions to your destination.  For the love of God, do not look at the map though.

Rule # 2: Use your Inside Voice

This rule is amplified by 200% if you are riding public transit intoxicated. Nobody around you cares if your boyfriend got jealous that your ex-boyfriend asked you out to dinner.  I can’t believe how big of a dump you took either bro, my train ride just got that much more stimulating now that I know you had problems letting the chipotke burrito leave your system before hopping on the brown line (pun somewhat intended).

As your first grade teacher used to tell you, “when we are inside, we use our inside voices!” Such a marvel to see that in a cramped enclosed environment the concept of an “inside voice” is lost. 

The golden rule if you are drunk is for every funny thing you say, you say five things that should never have been said. Chances are people around you will understand why that brunette at the bar didn’t  come home with you tonight.

Rule # 3: Be Engaged

Nothing pisses me off more than people who aren’t aware of their surroundings. If you have your cool chrome bag and listening to vintage Thurston Moore on your iPod on the way to your  hip bike messaging job, do not be standing in the middle of the train when people are trying to exit. Same goes for listening to music.  Keep it in your headphones, that Young Jeezy track sounds a lot better through your iPod headphones.

Be aware of they people around you. For Christ’s sake if there is an old lady standing up on a crowded train let her have your seat. Same goes for your bag, it’s not a human, it doesn’t need a seat. If you packed something so precious that isn’t a baby or an elderly person, then it doesnt need a seat.

Public Transit can be a beautiful thing. Gaining the ire of your fellow  riders never works out for any party involved.  And for the record I’m writing this while on the purple line. Ironic? Hypocritical?  I’ll let you be the judge of that.