The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Paul Vs. Train, Part 954

Due to circumstances beyond my control, my commute has recently taken me to the Chicago Susburbs, which extend from the Western end of Indianapolis, Indiana, West through Kansas City, Missouri, South to Atlanta, Georgia, and up into the Northwest Territories. I'm commuting to the latter.

This involves two buses and a train. The following story is true, and takes place about one week ago on Chicago's Blue Line, which runs from O'Hare to downtown.

All trains are currently undergoing construction in Chicago. The Red Line, for example, generally runs underground, but last night they decided to run it above ground without telling anyone about it. This resulted in me going to my volleyball game on North and Clybourn, from Addison via the Merchandise Mart. For those of you more familiar with Milwaukee geography, this was the equivalent of heading to Miller Park from Downtown via Germantown.

Anyway, the Blue Line is currently monitored by computerized governors, meaning that if the conductor drives too fast on certain parts of the system, a computer shuts off the train. Me and 4000 people were waiting for the Blue Line at the Rosemont stop. This was after a particularly arduous Bus ride, which is not the CTA's fault, but is irritating nonetheless. We had been waiting for about 45 minutes. They are supposed to show up every 6 minutes.

Suddenly, a CTA employee appeared on the platform. She was ranting and raving at someone on the other end of a Walkee-Talkee. Every few seconds you could hear a high-pitched whine on the other end.

As we would soon discover, this was the noise of the governor repeatedly shutting off the train. The conductor was repeatedly breaking the speed limit. This occurred every 30 seconds.

After another 15 minutes or so (1 hour total) the train pulled into the station, at which point the following occurred:

1. The CTA worker (who was female, by the way), forcibly removed the conductor (who was male).

2. The conductor was clearly either drunk or high. He could barely walk.

3. He also threw up in a trash can.

4. She handed him over to the proper authorities and took over the train.

When there is a backup like this it is standard practice to run a train "express," that is, skip a few stops and get some space between the backed up trains so that they are not running on top of each other. They decided to run this train express from Rosemont to Jefferson Park (about 3 stops). Funny thing though. When a computerized governor is limiting your train's speed, you can't really run express.

Twice, at Harlem and at Cumberland, this express train was forced to stop in the station, where a bunch of angry commuters had also been waiting for a train, but even though the train stopped it did not open its doors, because, you know, it was express.

When we finally reached Jefferson Park, they decided to run express from JP to Logan Square. (About 5 more stops, I think.)

That's great, except that I had to get off before that, which means I had to get off of the "express" train and wait for the slow train behind it. Getting on the express train in the first place proved pointless.

Fortunately, as it was impossible to run an express train, the non-express train was right behind it.

All in all, it was a 2.5 hour trip home on the drunken Blue Line of doom, but at least no one died.

You'll never get me, CTA. Never.

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