Friday, June 22, 2007

The People's Transportation Revisited

My journeys on the Broadway and Clark Street CTA busses to and from my volunteer job yesterday were even more interesting than usual.

Shortly after 8 a.m., six, count 'em, six Clark Street busses, some full, some not, passed in rapid succession. How frustrating! I could have taken one of them, but I prefer the Broadway bus in the morning to get two blocks closer to my destinantion (my knees needed all the help they could get yesterday morning).

Twenty or twenty-five minutes later, along came a Broadway bus, fairly full but not overflowing. Again,, a kind young woman gave me her front seat. Soon, a well-dressed businessman got on. He was blind, and he was accompanied by his service dog. I was fascinated. The dog was beautiful and well-trained. I would have yielded my seat, but a young man seated next to me did so.

The dog, apparently tired, eventually lay down in the aisle, but passengers cheerfully stepped over or around him. We all cooperated. How courageous the blind man was to take the bus, especially during rush hour. How efficient the dog was in helping him off the bus after his stop was announced. I've always admired service and therapy dogs. This was a good start for my day; my knee problems seemed insignificant.

The trip home was less uplifting, but at least equally interesting. The wait was long. Listening to waiting fellow passengers talking about their problems getting to work on time by bus didn't help, and the first bus that passed bore one sign reading "Clark Street" and one that read, "Not in Service." It wasn't. Finally, along came another Clark Street bus (no Broadways, but either is fine for my homeward trip).

A seat was available. A wheelchair-bound young man got on with the usual admirable cooperation. But then, along came a disheveled woman carrying a large, non-folding plastic outdoor chair! It barely fit in the aisle, but she pushed her way toward the rear, hitting other passengers all the way. Another woman soon entered, hoisting a giant suitcase aboard. It was even larger than the bag I take on long overseas vacations. There were other, smaller bags aboard, too. Where was everybody coming from or going to, and why didn't they take taxis?

I thought about stories I've read of transportation in third-world countries, where everything, including kitchen sinks and live poultry, is toted on rickety busses. This was one of my "What's the world coming to?" moments.

Eventually, the chair woman announced in a loud voice, "Wait! I can't get out the back door." Her chair wouldn't fit. She pushed her way to the front entrance, past complaining fellow passengers.

The bus driver had finally had enough. She said, "Don't you ever get on a bus with that chair again! Take a cab." The passengers muttered, either aloud or silently, "Amen." I wondered if the suitcase-toters felt guilty.

I really have no right to complain; I seldom take a bus more than once a week, and I have alternatives, expensive though they are. But you can't beat a CTA bus ride for entertainment and insights into human behavior.

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne
Photo from the CTA web site.


Shawna Renee said...

I have a friend who rides the Brown Line everyday. She calls it CTA Theatre. And you're absolutely right about the entertainment value.

seniorwriter said...

I like the term "CTA Theatre." My bus trips are interesting, but I don't think I could endure more than one round trip per week!