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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.

ann holt-harris July 23, 2012 at 11:14 AM
Next time take an earlier train.
R G July 23, 2012 at 01:06 PM
La Fox is the place to go.
James July 23, 2012 at 01:43 PM
How is this Verbal diharrea on the front page of the patch? Jeff get better stories, Rick get better writers.
lablover July 23, 2012 at 02:15 PM
James, you are abviously not a daiy Metra rider as I am. I found this article to be a humorous poke at what we endure on a daily basis. It made me laugh......you kow the old saying, if you don't laugh, you cry? Next time James perhaps if you read something you don't like, you'll keep your verbal diharrea comments to yourself and spare others !!
robert poznanski July 23, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Don't know Jeff, I don't take the train much, but we did, to go see Conan O'Brien last month, and it wasn't all that bad! Grew up in the city, and you really don't know the reality of "taking the train!" The CTA "El", is a real study of deprivation, as trains go! Metra riders, have it "easy!" Once in the city, it was just that, being in "the big city!" What exactly, did you expect???Its not the same, walking up Third St, vs. Michigan Ave. Duh!!!
NOYB July 23, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Wow...must have been SOME friend to get you to do "all" that to come into the "big city." Good Lord...what a pansy you are! I'd hate to hear of any travel adventures you may have overseas, say in an un-air conditioned Metro in Paris. You must be a lot of fun. Just sit in your air conditioned office in little ol' Geneva out here in the prairie. Would you feel any differently about your big train ride to the big city if Geneva were, say, nearer to Oak Park than Iowa?
Jeff Ward July 23, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Actually, I loved the Paris Metro and prefer the El. At least you know exactly what you're getting into there. Jeff
Elaine Lane July 23, 2012 at 08:20 PM
As a non-experienced Metra rider, I'll now have more appreciation for my son's trip when he travels over to Geneva by train to see me!
Lou Pierce July 23, 2012 at 08:39 PM
If you're going to complain, keep your comparisons straight. Except for a very few people, daily commuters are traveling during the rush hour. I was one of them for all but a few years here and there between 1969 and 2006. Once we have our hard-to-obtain parking permits, we are tied to one station. Of course, La Fox wasn't open until January of the year I retired, so its affect on me was de minimus. Rush hour commuters are quieter for the most part--a gradual sifting process is at work as you try out various cars until you find one that tends to be filled with your kind of people. A few people never do anything except talk, and those people almost always sit with the same seatmates journey after journey. Loud cellphone talkers are discouraged enough that they eventually give up and shut up or move to another car. As to your complaint about the round-trip fare, commuters pay far less than $14. Of course, we still gripe about the fare, but it isn't as bad as in your little story Finally, most commuters have jobs that involve sitting at desks enough of the time that the 55 minutes spent on express trips each way (half an hour less than you spent on your late-morning trip) is not that long. Perhaps you suffer from ADDHD(LAS) -- that last little bit stands for "Look! A Squirrel!" I always had a newspaper and a book to keep me occupied. Quite a few spent the time working of the "homework" they brought with them. Amazing how fast the time flew. (continued below)
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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