Hail to Thee, Geneva Metra Commuter

Once a year on the train is more than enough!

I don’t know how y’all do it!

Just one brief jaunt into the city of Chicago and the remaining vestiges of my slipping sanity were summarily stripped away. Silly me! I was under the apparently false impression that taking the train would be a soothing alternative to the oxymoron known as the Eisenhower Expressway.

It wasn’t!

My first mistake in undertaking this rare endeavor was to opt for the Geneva Metra station instead of heading west to LaFox. Trust me, that won’t happen again.

You see, before I came up with my carefully calculated timetable, I thoroughly checked the various metropolitan venues for any event that might induce a mad eastbound rush. But the Cubs were playing at night, the White Sox were in Boston, the Taste was finis, and there were no special events worth noting.

Just to be on the safe side, I managed to make it to the Geneva Metra station 15 minutes early for the 10:37 train. Sure, the ticket line was to the door, but most ticket takers make mincemeat out of that measly queue.

Not this one! Had she moved any slower, she would’ve gone backward in time. I’m sure the cash-strapped folks at Metra headquarters are pushing a new strategy to rake in as many $3 in-train-ticket-purchase surcharges as possible.

Armed with the annoying automated voice knowledge that we’d be departing from the southern track, realizing I wasn’t going to make the cut, I bailed out of the barely moving line and dashed across the tracks.

Of course, the frantic and physical jockeying for the perfect entry position would lead one to believe there’s some sort of prize for getting on the train first. And then it hit me! A wall of numbing cold that made me beg the Lord for more triple-digit temperatures.

Even though the car was virtually at full capacity by Winfield, by the time we hit the Ogilvie Transportation Center I felt like a side of flash frozen USDA prime beef. The answer to global warming may well lie within the Metra cooling system. Simply deploy that technology on a slightly grander scale, and it’ll launch us directly into the next Ice Age.

Though it’s par for the course, I still can’t get used to being subjected to so many single sided cell phone conversations. All I can say is, considering the content, some of y’all lead incredibly boring lives.

Then, for no apparent reason, we arrived in Chicago 15 minutes late. There were no unscheduled stops, we never seemed to slow down, there were no interrupting freight trains, and the train was no more packed than your average midday-ish Metra summer endeavor.

Perhaps they just like to keep us guessing.

As I leapt off the polar express, grateful that sensation was finally returning to my extremities, it utterly baffled me as to how, in the midst of this mass exodus of moving humanity, some folks stopped dead, somehow thinking they could stem the surging tide. This strange sight gave a whole new meaning to the term “oblivious.”

Now it was time to attack those Second City streets, where I was forced to employ all my best Evanston Township High School passing period moves to make it down to Dearborn in time to meet my friend for lunch.

Much like a pack of hapless cattle bereft of their trusty herding dog, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the foot traffic patterns. It reminded me of feeding time at the Shedd Aquarium. By the time I arrived at my destination, I was ready to give any NFL fullback a run for their money.

Then there was all that sitting. Even if you manage to catch an “express,” you’re still in for at least two round trip hours of resting on your numb posterior. It’s not natural. You can only read a book for so long before you want to start running up and down the aisles.

Apparently, all the miniature miscreants on board felt the same way.

What really frosts my cookies is they expect you to pay 14 bucks for enduring this unique privilege. This is why I go into the city only once a year. It takes exactly 364 days to forget just how miserable the trip really is.

But rather than complain any further, I’m raising my proverbial pint glass to each and every reader out there who manages to survive this ordeal on a daily basis. You’re either completely insane or a far better person than I’ll ever be.

Lou Pierce July 23, 2012 at 08:39 PM
(Continuing....) Yes, once in a while an accident or tragedy would cause major delays, but they were far less frequent than those caused by the fender-benders and the resultant gapers' blocks and the atrocious roadway and exit designs through Oak Park that make it impossible to drive the Eisenhower/I-88 route without encountering a mind-numbing delay (fortunately, we have WCPR to keep us sane). Next time you feel the need to find out what the real commuter experiences, ride when they ride. You'll see a version of natural selection at work at all stages of the commute. At the very least you'll see that it isn't as painful as your mid-morning version has miss-led you to believe, and certainly better than the drive. Either that or I lost my sanity so long ago that I don't recognize that my condition has been too far gone from reality for nearly 40 years. But my usual reality check (seeing whether I've fallen for the right-wing's snake oil yet) tells me I'm OK.
Jeff Ward July 23, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Lou, It's a humorous piece that most Metra Riders understand. It's not meant to be taken seriously. Jeff
Justin Eggar July 24, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Katlyn and I were recently in NYC... And after a dozen trips on the subway I realized how sweet it is to ride on our metra. Granted, we need some ticket machines (this is the 50s, right?)... But the overall experience isn't bad. I actually enjoy train rides and if we didn't keep quite so busy I would head into the city a few more times a year. All of that said, a pint to our local commuters!
lablover July 24, 2012 at 02:55 PM
As I said, I ride every weekday and I found it funny.....it's exactly what happens on a daily basis. I applaud the article and understood it was meant to be funny. All these other needs to lighten up !!!
Dennis C. Ryan July 27, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Jeff, I never could see any advantage in traveling to Chicago for a job. An hour on the train in each direction? It's like working for free two additional hours a day, and PAYING for the "privilege" of doing so ! That is why in my 45 years of the working life, I never was a commuter.


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