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.
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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