Not exactly midnight and not exactly Georgia, but hey. We play the hand we’re dealt.
I got brave and decided to take a route to Union Station that involved both buses and the El. The Chicago Transit Authority has a Trip Planner on their site where you can put in the time you want to leave, where you are starting and ending, choose how far you are willing to walk, and whether you want the route that is quickest, has the lease number of transfers, or has the least amount of walking. They give you three or four different route possibilities, and I managed to find one that involved the train. So Andrew wrote down the bus stops and where we were headed on the train. We got on the first bus, got transfers and got off at exactly the right place. We got on the train, found out the transfers work there too. We walked up the wrong set of stairs, and ended up on the wrong side of the platform, but the lady there told us to take the train down one stop, cross over the tracks there to the other side and board the correct train there. And we did, everything worked great. So we’re on the train, going going, it’s wobbling, starting, stopping etc etc. Then at some point Andrew starts to get a slightly perplexed look on his face, and finally says, “I don’t think we were supposed to go this far.” We look at each other for a minute. And he says, “Union Station is at the base of the Sears Tower, and that’s way back there.” So I take the directions he wrote down, and I realise that all he wrote down was what it said about the train line as a whole, ie. “The Green Line to Cottage Grove,” which is in fact, the end of the line, not where we needed to go. I pointed out that the bus we were supposed to get on was at Adam’s and something, and there’s a stop on the train at Adam’s and something. So… We got off the train, and waited for another train to come back the other way. Now it’s been something like 20 minutes or something, and we were actually starting to wonder if I was going to miss my train. We were also wondering if the train we just got off was actually going to be the same train, and that we would have to wait until it went all the way to the end of the line and came back. The train finally came the other way (and it wasn’t the same train, heh) and we got on and went to the right stop. We ended up getting on a different bus than the route suggested, but it was the same bus we rode from Union Station when we got to Chicago in the first place, so we knew where it went. We got into the station and found my train.
I showed the lady my ticket, and she said, “Make sure you tell them you’re business class.” So, I followed the other people, and they got on the train at the first open door. Down the way, though, there were conductors waving their arms. So, I went down to them. “I have business class.” “You’re all the way down to the last car before the engine.” So, I got on the train to walk through it, since that’s what we did when we came to Chicago. I walked through two cars, and there was a little metal barrier in the door to the next car. So I got off and got back on and walked through that car. I got to the end of it, and the door was locked. So I had to get off again. The close door in the business car was closed, so I had to walk all the way to the other end of it. I got on, and there were no seats.
I said something to a conductor looking guy standing around, and he pointed me to another guy, who told me to have a seat in the dining car, and that they would get everything figured out. He was the guy working the food counter. He sat down to eat some McDonalds before we left, and was talking to me about how everything was probably fine. “Usually someone thinks they have business class, and they don’t. They get their tickets through a travel agent and they say, ‘Oh, we’ll get you first class everything,’ when really they end up with coach and don’t bother to notice.” Then he said that they hadn’t overbooked anything in years. I was still pretty worried. Finally, this getting-things-done, black-woman-attitude conductor came through the car, and said, “What’s wrong.” “No seats.” “Come up here, then, we’ll get it figured out.” She walks to the front of the car and says, “Everyone get out your tickets. I’m checking the tickets.” Normally when they take the tickets, you need ID, so people were grabbing those too, and she says, “I don’t need IDs, I just need tickets.” The dining car guy comes in to tell everyone what they have to drink and eat, and he says something about coming on back, things were ready, and she says, “Hold on, now, I’m checking tickets first.” The second row that she got to, she says, “These are for the 25th. This is the 24th. These are for tomorrow.” “What?” There was some back and forth, and she was saying something about having people with correct tickets waiting for these seats, and she says loudly to me, “Come up here. This is your seat.” And the ladies said, “So what do we do?” And she says quite bluntly, “You’re sitting in coach.” So I headed up there and they said, “Well it’s going to take a few minutes…” The conductor just stared at them, and called me forward, and they ended up moving pretty quickly. I set my bag down in one seat, and I sat in the other. She told me to move my bag because she was going to seat a gentleman there. And that was that.
Little kids are annoying in every language.
There’s a little boy in front of me. He and his family are German. Funny how the kid seems overly smart for being able to speak fluent German, when in fact he probably can’t speak very good English. For the first hour or so, he was quiet, and he was drawing with a notebook and coloured pencils. He drew a train. And it was amusing to me that he drew an old-school coal type train. He’s only about 9 or 10. I didn’t realise they (being whoever is teaching now-a-days) were still using that type of picture for “train”. Kind of false advertising if you ask me.
Now the first hour is over and he’s suddenly realised he can tilt his chair back. I’m in business class, so chair tilting is absolutely fine, because I have so much leg room, my feet are barely on the foot rest. It’s the realising that if you sit forward and then press the release on the chair, it bangs forward, makes noise, and wiggles the chair. And it does the same thing if you do it again. And again. And again.
I bought cheese this morning. There’s a little market down Illinois from Michigan Ave called Fox and Obel. I’d seen it on one walk by, and stopped in there the next walk by. It’s the perfect type of market. All gourmet, special brand-type foods, interesting foreign stuff and so on. I went back again this morning. They have a cheese counter with a person working behind it. I went back again this morning, and come to find out, it’s the type of cheese counter that should exist everywhere… Quite european in fact. The woman working this morning asks me if I’m looking for anything special, I tell her no, and she says. “Well you can have tastes.” Tastes. So I can stand here and sample the cheeses and then buy what I want based on what I actually like. And so I did. Great cheese too.
The boy has a green folded up piece of cardboard now. Like a luggage tag or something. And he’s dropping it and catching it mid-air. Which would be fine, except he’s getting louder and more obnoxious with it by the minute. And he missed, it bounced off the chair next to me, and landed in the seat. He said sorry, but he was told to sit down anyway.
The cheese-counter woman was interesting… She evidently married a German and was moving to Germany soon. She said she’d never been much into MI and I wanted to tell her she wasn’t missing anything. I told her it has it’s nice places, and if you like the outdoors there are some fabulous places to hike and camp. She said she’d always imagined it to be a “gentle place.” If she considers “gentle” to be a euphemism for “fairly boring” then I suppose she’s right. She actually seemed, though, like the type of person who would consider a place like this to be “gentle.”
I don’t feel so well.
Now he’s being a train whistle.
I saw llamas, cows, horses, deer, sandhill cranes.
In Dearborn, there was a couple with their two children, probably one and two years old or so, and they walked by the window towards the engine, and then walked back, and the boy, the older of the two, was sobbing and screaming, loud enough that I actually heard him from in the train coach. His mom, who was holding him, was saying what appeared to be “Wave goodbye to the train!” given that she turned him towards it and waved like parents of tiny children do when trying to teach them “goodbye”… She gave up pretty quick. His little sister was just looking around.
The family was sitting in one of the double seats, and then two of the single seats. The boy and his mother were in the pair, and his father and sister were sitting in the single seats. Through out the ride, he’s switched his mother with his father, and then with his sister by loudly pulling them over to his pair of seats. Now he’s sitting in the front single seat, with the lounge-chair-style leg-rest pointing upward at a 45 degree angle and he’s loudly singing some song in German.
The guy working the dining car came back here before we got to Dearborn to tell us that he’d be closing after, and to come get anything else we wanted. I asked for 2 cranberry juices, which makes 5 total. In public-transportation-concession-speak, that means something like 8-10$. But, I’m in business class. So it was free. I make them work for my business class seat.
It’s pretty much time for me to go, and no one ever sat next to me. It’s fine though. Just meant my bag was in the overhead compartment and I still had another seat to myself.