Wednesday, June 20, 2007


It was a strange morning. Nothing quite fit. Although the train was arriving just as I reached the platform, which is usually a good sign, it didn’t quite pull all the way into the station and the doors remained shut. People began to pile up behind the doors, jockeying for position to get on first. I stood back in my normal position, expecting the train to pull up and match my stance. That never happened. Inside the train, I could see the conductor walking back and forth, back and forth, opening doors, pulling handles, and not letting anyone on. It was excruciating. Finally, the door to my left opened, although the one directly in front of me remained closed. I slipped into the car and made it down to the end past where the door was still shut, past he people I had been waiting behind. I sat in the single person seat, my favorite, and waited.

The conductor came and manually opened the closed door. I wondered why more people hadn’t moved to the open door like I did. I always wonder why it is that groups of people will only make a change if many people in the group all decide to change at the same time. Individuals have much more freedom to alter the norm. The people who had been waiting outside gave me an odd look. They appeared confused that I had managed to enter the train and make it to a seat before them as they were standing closer to the door than I. It really wasn’t that hard to do, I had the freedom of one. Plus, it was hot outside and the train had air conditioning. I wasn’t about to wait for a door that had to be manually opened, what was that about? Even once the conductor opened the door the train wouldn’t move. I don’t think the door wanted to close. People continued to file in, creating a standing room only situation. This is not a good development at the fourth stop from the start of the line. It was going to be a rough morning for some but not for me. I had my little corner of the train, I had my space, and I was ok.

After two more stops the train was officially packed. I politely sat in my seat, reading my paper, listening to The Bends, and smiling because I was glad that I chose to live so far north. I don’t mind standing on the way home from work but, on the way in, I need my peace. I need to come into the day alone. The conductor came on the loudspeaker and said our train was going to run express from Thorndale to Addison, which is a long way, people seemed relieved. They thought that skipping many stops would ease their commute. They contemplated a little more peace. They were wrong. Hoards of people swarmed onto the train at Addison, people were packed in like it was a 5pm train headed north to an evening Cubs game; poor people. I was ok.

As the train pulled into the Lake Street station, people jockeyed for position so that they could either get off or stay on with as little movement as possible. The one drawback to the single person seat is that you have a long way to go to the door on a crowded train. I sometimes fear that I won’t make it in time. I fear that the train will kidnap me and drag me unwillingly to Monroe. Now that Washington station is closed it is a bigger deal to miss my stop. Luckily, I made it out. I always make it out; I just fear that I won’t. It’s one of those unfounded fears that really has no consequences. Even if my fear is realized I will be fine. Regardless, it causes me a slight twinge of stress every morning.

As I got off the train, my album came to a close. Street Spirit (Fade Out) seeped into my ears. I approached the escalator and saw that it was not working. The person in front of me was walking slower than my natural speed making me feel like I was plodding along at a snails pace embedded in the herd and unable to break free. Why is it that walking up an escalator that isn’t moving is more difficult than walking up one that is moving? When the escalator is stopped, it feels as if the steps are placed at just the right intervals to make you uncomfortable. Yet, when moving, they feel just right. I felt trapped. In leaving my personal seat on the train I had given up my freedom, I became part of the herd. I focused on the shoes of the woman in front of me. I willed her to move faster. I hoped that I could break free. I couldn’t. I was stuck. In my ears the words came through loud and clear:

This machine will, will not communicate
These thoughts and the strain I am under
Be a world child, form a circle
Before we all go under
And fade out again and fade out again
We get a bunch of new, and relatively easy, songs today. Yeah!

1. Well my name is Young MC and I’m cold rockin’ the house/ I came up into the place and now I’m turning it out.

2. My baby’s always dancing/ And it wouldn't be a bad thing/ But I don't get no loving/ And that's no lie.

3. The creator of what’s now cliché/ Had some funny words to say/ all you little things are incomplete/ Why did he speak of us that way.

4. Nothing you could say would tear me away from my guy/ Nothing you could do cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy. My Guy, Mary Wells. Identified by Katrina

5. I would say I‘m sorry if I thought that it would change your mind/ But I know that this time I have said too much/ been too unkind. Boys Don't Cry, The Cure. Identified by Monica


Katrina said...

There are times I wish there were a train that came out to my work. But most of the time I'm very happy I'm in my own vehicle.

#4 is My Guy but can't remember who it's by...hmmm...oh yeah Mary Wells.

Monica said...

5 Boys Dont Cry - The Cure

dude, i love street spirit(fade out) i love singing it loudly and putting it on repeat. then bends is such a perfect album. my bus this morning was also crowded to beyond capacity and skipped many stops.

Danielle said...

I really liked this post and those lyrics really suit the situation. Maybe karma was balancing things out. You were soooo lucky with the single seat on the train while so many others were packed in like swine. Have a great lunch date with Monica!

#4 My Guy Diana Ross. I can't help to think of Sister Act now when hearing that song.

As always...

kim said...

Trains are like elevators. Only smaller. When trying to enter the elevator today, the little 12 year old girl (who is probably really 22 - but looks 12 as all of the creative-kids do in my building) had the entire elevator to herself, and yet she insisted on cramming next to the buttons so I couldn't push to the button for my floor. I was hoping when I got out the elevator who do a free-fall with her in it.

I'm mean, but I hate bad elevator etiquette.

Mrs. Loquacious said...

I miss taking the HK MTR trains. They were also air-conditioned, and though they weren't comfortable when crowded, they sure were convenient!

My only dread was when the train would be super-full; I oft wondered if I would be able to "excuse me" my way to the door before it closed on me and drove away from my stop. Of course, this never happened in the 4 years I was there, but the "what if" remained in my head.

Kiyotoe said...

i used to HATE commuting on the train, ESPECIALLY since it seemed like i was always giving up my seat to some old lady or pregnant woman or CUTIE (hey, my momma raised me right)...

And now that i'm spending crazy bucks for gas, I'm missing that crowded train just a little bit.

Jeff Roberts said...

Sounds like a pretty good morning routine. I wouldn't mind letting someone else drive.

notfearingchange said...

Alright I was listening to Finley Quaye & Will "Dice" while reading your went well with your post. It is on the OC soundtrack MIX 1 see my post i give you the link! ;-P

Michael C said...

It kinda sounds like one of those times that you should just go back home, doesn't it??

Blondie said...

Oof. I just had flashbacks to riding the train every day. After 4 years of a bus and 2 trains, I couldn't do it anymore. I hate being crowded, so it always freaked me out on game days when EVERYONE would take the purple to addison from howard. YUCK. I totally agree about the single person seat. You have to nudge in there and sit and ignore everyone as much as possible.

RastaManErn said...

This brings me back. I lived and worked at either ends of the brown line and always got my preferred seat, and relished those packed express trains. Hated that it took me almost an hour to get to and from work, though.

People get stupid when they form herds. Can't move without the leader, don't want to move because the door will hopefully open, or too stubborn to try a different door. That's why I try to avoid large groups at all costs. It's also a good way to ensure that you're the person on the news explaining how "everyone paniced and began trampling each other trying to escape the flames".

Natalie said...

Katrina- I don’t know what it would be like to drive to work. I think that driving there would be ok but parking would be so incredibly horrible that I would run back to the train in a heartbeat.

Monica- I don’t know if I could sing that one. I would maybe like to in an empty house but I think it would be painful to anyone but me.

Danielle- We had a wonderful lunch date thank you very much. Monica fed a disgusting bird for some reason. Gross.

Kim- That makes total sense. If you are going to stand by the buttons it is your responsibility to ask the other people in the elevator what floor they are going to and push their button for them. If you can’t do that, get out of the way.

Mrs. L- Exactly! While missing a top isn’t the end of the world it sure would bring down your day. I think I have had some close calls but haven’t been taken from my stop yet.

Natalie said...

Kiyotoe- I will definitely give up my seat but I generally wait and see if someone else will do it first. I couldn’t imagine the money for gas and car insurance and parking. I’d never go out again.

Jeff- It really is quite nice. The few times I have driven to work have made me want to pull my hair out. I prefer the sit and slowly wake up option.

Not Fearing- The OC mix? Interesting.

Michael- Can’t say that it didn’t cross my mind. I’m really looking for a time when I can not come in to work. I need a few days.

Blondie- Cubs games are the absolute worst. I HATE them. The single person seat is a lifesaver. I am always a little sad when someone else is in the single person seat. At least I’ll get to sit down somewhere.

Ern- For some reason I don’t mind the almost an hour commute. It gives me time to listen to a good record or do a crossword puzzle and, most importantly, wake up. Large groups scare me a lot. Good philosophy.

CSG said...

this reminds me of a quote from Men in Black:

"A person is smart; people are dumb panicky dangerous animals and you know it"