Like The Good Old Days Just Different

For almost 8 years I drove one mile to the train station, took the commuter train to downtown Chicago, got off the train and walked the 1.5 blocks to my office. For over 3 years now instead of the train I drive 21 miles to one of the most sterile suburbs in the area. I rarely go downtown and the few times I do typically I drive. Yesterday was a reenactment of the old days. Sort of.

Got to the train station. Early. In the old days I knew just when to leave so that the train was pulling in moments after I arrived at the platform but yesterday I was conservative, leaving the house with plenty of room for error. The train schedule rarely changes but now the 7:21 had become the 7:17. I hang out on the platform. I can see the train in the distance. Wait, it is not slowing down. It breezes by without stopping. Ah, now I remember. The Breeze. Named for the wind that blows as it whips by our small station. Not the 7:17. I had forgotten.

As my train pulls in I realize that I am in no man’s land, the space between the doors of back to back cars. In my days as a regular I had known exactly where to stand.  I watched for the people who would have been like me if I had not switched employers. Only two people were even vaguely recognizable. Strange since most people take the same train every morning.

It is a short 22 minute ride to downtown. I found myself in a seat toward the back of the car. In the old days I would have been near the front. Quicker getting off that way. My 10 ride ticket that I have had since before I changed jobs slides under the metal clasp where tickets go so you won’t have to move or look up at the conductor when he comes by to collect them. My ticket is old and looks older. The conductor eyes it suspiciously. He squints. Finally he caves and pulls out his reading glasses. He squints again as he looks at the back of the ticket. “You bought this ticket in 2004. They expire after a year.”  I shrug. I knew i had been on borrowed time.  Seven times I had ridden the train long after the expiration date. Finally they caught me. He ripped up the ticket and I handed him $3.05.

As the train pulled into the station a man was leaving with his young daughter. She had bumped into something and had began to cry not quietly. He spoke to her softly, quietly. His voice was comforting, never waiving from that nurturing, caring tone. Not acting embarrased in front of strangers as some adults do when their child cries. I wondered at what age I stopped talking to my son in that calming, supportive way.

Riding the train beats driving hands down. Less stress. You can meet people and talk or ignore the world and doze. The only thing I hate is the feeling of being cattle as you get off the train with dozens of others, merge with even more people coming off other trains and walk through the station as one of the herd. For some reason every day that made me feel less like an individual. I do not like being one of a faceless crowd. I had forgotten that feeling. 

Once out of the crowd I enjoy walking around downtown. There is an energy, a life force in Chicago. I had several meetings and walked many blocks that day. Its funny. Chicago is so different than being in NYC. The story that says it all began as it started to rain after lunch. I decided to walk instead of hailing a cab. At one point I was holding an umbrella which started to turn inside out in the wind, I was talking on my cell–no bluetooth thing in my ear, I hate those which is another story–and I drop my leather folder. Its not going anywhere and I do not want to interrupt my call or put down the umbrella in order to pick it up. So I stand there with the folder at my feet. A young woman passing by stops, picks it up, hands it to me and smiles. I thank her and she continues on her way. That is Chicago.

The day ended with the trains being indefinitely delayed due to signal problems on the tracks. I stayed for twenty minutes before walking over to the L, the elevated trains that are part of the public transportation system. It took an extra hour to get home but surprisingly I was not steamed. Look, I had spent a day in downtown Chicago. All-in-all it had been a good day.

 No surprise this song was in my head much of the day.

About 48facets
What you read is what you get.

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