Monday, April 19, 2010

Breaking Out of the Comfort Zone

I'm forty. I'm divorced (well, almost). And lately, I've been forced to step out of my comfort zone and try new things, like taking out the garbage, unclogging toilets, and shopping for cups (and I don't mean the kind you drink out of.)

So, I needed to go downtown the other day. When I go downtown, I usually take the train. Metra, that is. I know how it works. I know where to park, where to pay for parking, where to get my tickets, how much parking and tickets cost, where to get off once I'm downtown (there's only one stop so it's not brain surgery), and if I have to go farther than a few blocks from the station once downtown, I know I can walk out of the train station and find a line of cabs all waiting for passengers. Easy peasy.

But this time, my friend suggested I take the L because it stops exactly where I needed to go. "But I've never taken the L!" I said in a panic. Just thinking about the logistics put me in a cold sweat. Where do I catch it? Where do I park? How much is parking? How do I get a ticket for the L? Or do they use tokens? There are a million stops downtown, how do I know where I'm supposed to get off? Blue line, brown line, pink line, how do I know which line to take? What if I get mugged and someone steals my camera? Then I won't have any proof that I actually took the L and if I can't blog about it, then why bother? Thankfully, my friends are used to my insanity, so they just roll their eyes and tell me to get a grip.

So I decided to step out of the box and give it a try. I'm in a new phase of my life; it's fitting I try new things, right? I mean, you'll never get ahead, or learn anything new, or experience anything exhilarating if you do the same ole, same ole and stick to the comfortable and mundane, right? Oh, don't worry, I'm not about to do anything too crazy like going skydiving, getting a sex change, or eating Vegemite. But I've lived in Chicago my entire life, and after forty years, I think I can handle taking the L.

In case there are any readers living in the farthest edge of the city who haven't ever taken the L, I'm here to give you a tutorial.

You need to get a ticket here. Cool thing is - you put your money in a vending machine and get a ticket for that amount. Then, every time you use it, money is subtracted. You can recharge the same card. I'm like a total authority on the CTA now! Aren't you impressed? (By the way, the attendant thought I was nuts for taking a picture of this. He asked me, "Is it really that interesting?" I was afraid he'd think I was even more insane if I told him I was going to blog about it.)


You have to put your ticket in the slot and walk through the turnstile. No one minds if you put your ticket in backwards and try shoving it a few times until it's a crumpled mess. People won't laugh at you if you need help figuring out how to turn the ticket around. And no one will comment at all if you're a dork and can't walk through the turnstile without the bar hitting you in the butt. Not that I know any of these things firsthand...


This is a helpful sign. You don't want to jump from the platform and walk on the tracks. If you're not hit by a train first, you could be electrocuted. It's a good thing they have a fence to keep you from falling onto the tracks...


There's no fence? No wall? No barrier of any sort? (commence hyperventilating and backing slowly away from tracks) Thank God I don't have my kids with me! I just know one of them would end up flying off the platform!


The train is here!


I didn't pull my camera out on the train for fear of being shot. Maybe next time I'll get brave and take pictures of the other riders. I did get a picture of a pigeon, however. He wasn't on the train. I found him when I got off. That's gotta count for something though.


Daley Center


Time to go back home. Down to the L...

Next time, I'm going to get pictures and video of the performers on the platform even if I have to wait for eight hours to catch someone with a guitar.


The best part of my little adventure was that I did not, in fact, get mugged so I have photographic evidence of my trip. Join me next week when I step out of the box and sing karaoke in front of strangers while totally sober. Kidding, just kidding. Put the ear plugs down.

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35 comments:

Michelle said...

What, you aren't even going to brag and mention that you rode the el not once but TWICE? :) Next time: buses!

Suburban Correspondent said...

I broke a bus once. I had to take a bus downtown with all the regular commuters, only I hadn't been on one in years - not since, it turns out, they replaced the old-style fareboxes with the ones that you carefully slide your money into so it can be electronically counted. I crammed 2 dollar bills in at once, the way I had years before; and I'll never forget the look the bus driver gave me as she said, "I can't believe you did that." I also won't forget the looks on the other passengers' faces as we all filed off that bus and waited in the cold for a new bus, a bus whose electronic farebox hadn't been vandalized by an idiot.

I'm lucky to be alive.

Bailey's Leaf said...

Okay, my sister-in-law lives in the city (Lincoln Parkish area) and I'VE BEEN ON THE L! I don't even live there! I've also been on the "Dan Ryan." Those were the insane times that she ran the marathon and we went to watch. (I was water girl.) Now she has expanded her running horizons and has taken us to Boston (lovely transit system, not great cabbies, though) and will be taking us to NYC. She claims that we'll be able to skip public transport, but I'm good with it. Bring on the NYC subway. Let me see what things I can do with that one!

Congratulations on not being mugged!

Stephanie said...

You won't get mugged on the blue line. You need to try the green line for that.

Jen@Scrapingirl said...

I love the fact that you took your camera for proof. You crack me up!!!

Dawn said...

LOL, Suburban!
Note to self: don't take the green line. Oh and learn to speak Polish so I can hold a conversation with fellow passengers.

Dawn said...

That's right, Michelle! And thank you so much for driving me home so I didn't have to try to lug all that stuff home on the L!

Sandy in Illinois said...

I took the L once when I was 18 years old and visiting from Milwaukee and going to visit my boyfriend at IIT and attending the military ball. That was almost 50 years ago. Have lived in Chicago area for 42 years and haven't taken the L again. I've been on city buses though and Metra trains. You are very brave.

Mamita said...

Congratulations! Your next stop (no pun intended) is buying a house. That's what I did when I got divorced! It's worse that mass transit!

Kelly L said...

Way to Go... Getting out of our comfort zone - can be good....

Love to you and your new adventures.

Kelly
http://www.ivebecomemymother.com

WarsawMommy said...

Woo-hoo!

As someone who lives in Poland, I'd like to offer my language services to you, so you can converse with your fellow passengers.

First lesson: "Ale bomba!" which means, loosely, "Wow!" Used in a sentence: "You broke out of your comfort zone? Ale bomba!"

Tracey Jane said...

brave brave Dawn. congrat's for taking a chance to ride the L and to live to write about it!

TJ

bubblebutt1975 said...

Why is it call an L?

Laura said...

I frequently find myself taking pictures of odd or ordinary things just so I can blog about them or post them on Facebook. I bet if you told people that's why you were doing it, they might think you're less weird.

Brian Hermans said...

Very Cool! The Metro's in DC and Subways in New York work on the same principles. Now you have a skill for life! Go You!

Carolarlington said...

Thanks for the tips. I used to take the el occasionally, but not since they got the new ticket machine. Now I know what to do.

Anonymous said...

The fare card machines are very similar to those on the DC Metro subway system--same colors even. I have braved the red, blue, yellow, red and orange lines on our subway; haven't needed to go where the green line goes!

Pat

Ellobie said...

Dawn, NOW you are a real Chicagoan! :D I take the L every morning and every night (Brown), it's really not even a little bit scary.

The best part about the L is that if you get on a train going the wrong way - no biggie! Just get off at the next stop and in a few minutes, there will be another train heading the right way! Not like the time I got on the wrong Metra and ended up in Northbrook instead of Bartlett. I had to wait for THREE HOURS to get back home and by then it was too late to head back toward Bartlett, I'd missed the party.

And yeah, I'd avoid the Green line.

Wendy in Idaho said...

I have to say that I am very proud of you. I have followed your blog since the beginning and I check it every day. I am not one to post too often. It is sad to read about your marriage ending and that your husband has removed himself from the kids' lives. I suppose he is thinking the kids would be better off without him in their lives but your kids must be hurting because he isn't fighting for them. But a fight wouldn't be fun either. All this to say, that I am so proud of you. I can't imagine being in your shoes (especially because I have only 2 kids!). When you get married, you don't see yourself being divorced and raising your kids without their dad. I appreciate my husband even more and am praying for you. Thank you for all that you do from being a woman, daughter, sister, friend, mother, bread winner, repairman, maid, driver, organizer, calendar planner, and church attender. Okay, I will shut up now...have a great day! Wendy (mom2nandm@gmail.com)

Pam L. in Maryland said...

Good job!! It seems like it's very similar to the Metro system here in DC, which I think is very easy to use. However, the subway in New York City..... oh, my, a whole new world......and one in which I got extremely lost!

Erin T. said...

Good Job! I've never riden on the L by myself before. I always have someone with me, well, because the only time I've ever had to ride the L is when we've gone downtown to Wrigley! However I do have to make a correction for the caption of one of your photos - the Pigeon is what my kids and I lovingly refer to as "City Chickens"!!

Steph said...

I'm surprised they let you take pictures. When I tried to take pictures of the Field Museum from an L platform the security guard nearly tackled me. For "national security reasons."

mandyb said...

wahooooooooooooooooo gold star for you!!!!

and the next girl scout badge you are going for is....!!!!!

strawberrymama said...

Someone has to ask, so it may as well be me: What kind of cups are you buying that you don't drink out of? The only thing I can think of are Diva or Luna cups...LOL if this is what you mean then the closet greenie in me rejoices ;).

Mum-me said...

Wow I'm impressed. The doctors and nurses from ER catch the L and now you have too. But they go up the steps to get to the L. Why is it called an L?

Mimicutelips said...

Here is a helpful tip in case you come to the DC metro area. Our trains are by colors but you pay, get a card, and enter the exact same way.

Frau Mahlzahn said...

*lol* -- maybe you should get more sleep.

@mimcutelips: yes, made me kind of homesick for D.C., it's been 14 years since I've been there.

So long,
Corinna

Paula said...

I think it's called the L because the trains are elevated. Is that right?

And the "cup" Dawn was talking about is (I'm guessing) an athletic cup. I always think about that line in Grease - "If you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter"! haha

Sara said...

Wow, that's exactly like the DC Metro! Now you know how to ride the metro if you come here!

Also, I hope Joe is paying a crap-load of alimony and child support for what he's put you all though. You seem to be handling it well, though. Much better than I could!

Jennifer said...

I am recently divorced, and also in the trying new things phase. I did go skydiving though, it is fun you should try it!

Leslie from TN said...

You crack me up. We flew to Chicago for a weeks vacation a couple of years ago and did not rent a car! My husband thought I was insane, but I kept saying we can take the trains "it will be fun". It was! The kids loved it, but I will say I freaked on the first platform when the kids were trying to get a closer look at the tracks. Helloooo, ever hear of a barrier CTA?! All of the Chicagoans (sp?) were very helpful - and the music was great too.

kim @ mommyknows said...

Almost divorced? Really? I guess it's been awhile, or I missed that post.

I felt exactly the same way about the subway in NYC last fall. It all turned out fine. Some tourists even asked me for directions :)

Lisa said...

Congrats! You are now ready to ride BART in the San Francisco Bay Area. Same trains, same system! Also bears a resemblance to the Metro system in DC.

Original Vegemite Girl said...

GO DAWN!!!! That's the new adventure for the letter "L". And the next letter will be?

Darla said...

Oh, this was fun to read and see the pictures! The one and only time I've ever been in Chicago was a couple years ago with my hubby for a few days. We just got right off the plane, went over and got tickets from the machine like the ones in your pic, and rode the system all weekend. Luckily we didn't know anything about the lines specifically, we just took whichever one we needed to get around...and did we get around! :) That attendant that was astounded at your taking a pic of that machine sounds like the same one we conversed with...he was flabergasted at our ignorance about something...which just made us laugh!

Oh, and that sign about the risk of electrocution...I remember thinking the same exact thing! Lucky we don't have the kids with! I just know one of them would end up on the tracks and dead!!! :)

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