Tuesday, August 02, 2005

that damn CTA story

I never updated my blog to point out that my story, "Cooler," was the center panel story on thisisgrand.org for a couple weeks in July. And now it isn't anymore. But it's still on there, and you should check that site out regardless. The following story is too angry and rambling to turn into a polished anecdote for that site, I'm sure.

[I was frustrated, as you'll see, about not knowing why I was on an incredibly delayed CTA train, so I Googled for the story and found it on the CTA Tattler blog. The following is the post I wrote the morning after...a little agitated, still. Additional details in brackets, obviously.]

This is the first I've heard about what happened. I watched all 5 9/10 pm news broadcasts and saw nothing, although it seemed CBS-2 did a tease right before 10, but I didn't see the actual story. I can't believe how fast these stories disappear! This is probably the WORST delay I've faced in 10 years of almost-daily CTA travel.

I was around 35th St. [visiting 4 different branch libraries!] and thought it'd be faster to take the Red Line to North instead of the Halsted bus. (Of course it normally would be.) I got to the station at 4:52. A northbound train had just passed. They made an announcement about the subway being closed and the Red Line running on the el tracks. No explanation why. I boarded the next train around 4:55.

I got off at Fullerton at 6:25. In that hour and a half...The train went onto the elevated tracks and stopped at Roosevelt--same announcement on the platform, but NOT the train. I figured it'd be stopping at any corresponding Red/Brown Line stops--i.e. , Roosevelt, Van Buren, Chicago--and of course, wouldn't be able to stop at Harrison or Division. (Were Red Line passengers there told anything?)

And that's what happened through downtown. It stopped at the Brown Line stations, we heard the announcement again, but we weren't told anything. Of course people on the platform looked confused. I wondered if people were being redirected from the subway stations to the Brown Line. (Apparently they weren't?) [Nope. And if there really was a security threat, why have people stand around in the stations?!]

Everything was very slow--I saw a clock downtown reading 5:27. We got past Chicago, past Division...and stopped.

There was NEVER one of those canned messages about sitting on the tracks, train ahead, whatever. And still no announcement to passengers!

I don't know when we stopped just before North, but I checked my watch and it was 6:15. So, we were easily there 20 minutes or more.

The part that REALLY amazed me, is that aside from a few quiet murmurs on cell phones, NO ONE said anything! No one pressed the service button (I didn't want to give up my seat to find it, and I was too angry to formulate a polite question anyway). No one seemed to even care they were having to stand in a packed train for a half hour for no stated reason! [I wrote this after I'd cooled down considerably. It was the angriest I'd been, probably, in 10 years of taking the CTA.]

At the risk of stereotyping, I know there are neighborhoods and/or times of day when a motionless, unexplained half-hour CTA delay would pretty much incite rioting. And in this case, I would have preferred it to the bizarre apathy! I hadn't come from work, I wasn't starving, I didn't have kids to get home to, I wasn't in a hurry to get to an event--but a lot of those people must have been. [Nor did I have a transfer card or pass about to run out.] And they didn't do anything!

So we spent about a half-hour stalled less than a block from my stop (North/Sedgwick). I seriously considered asking if the windows opened so I could crawl out.

When the train started again, I eagerly leapt up--and the train DIDN'T STOP AT NORTH! (See above about corresponding Red/Brown Line stops.) [It's a good thing I didn't yell out what I really thought of my fellow passengers...only to get stuck with them for another 10 minutes.]

Again, we never got any announcement about 1) what happened with the subway tracks, 2) why everything was so slow, 3) what stops we'd stop at.. Of course it didn't stop at Armitage either.

So we finally got to Fullerton. And after a 90-min ride that should have been 25 minutes, I had to take an extra bus. I was too angry about everything to want to ask CTA employees what happened.

Ironically, the only way this fiasco really inconvenienced me was that I missed the afternoon news...which would have reported what it was we were going through! And then, as if the inept/arrogrant CTA and meek/apathetic passengers weren't bad enough, the news media doesn't care enough to report it.

Okay, I know that was long. But I'm just so glad to finally learn what happened! [Actually, CTA Tattler reported it was a suspicious package left in a station, and there was plenty of anger at whoever left it. Theoretically, I knew I should be mad at them, but all my anger was already aimed at the non-communicating CTA, and apathetic riders and news media. I honestly felt nothing towards anyone for leaving a package. I should also add, someone said that the media doesn't report these much because they don't want copycat security scares. Which is also the logic for not reporting much about suicide attempts on the tracks. But it seems like we heard plenty about bomb threats that were called in here just after the fatal London bombing. And that's what I later heard this was, in the newspaper--a bomb threat, NOT a package.] How do I make a formal complaint about this? [Yeah, right, like I do stuff like that.]

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