Back in Love Again (September 23, 2009)

Ever since the start of the Brown Line reconstruction project a few years back, I have turned into a Metra snob. I live equidistant, more or less, between the Damen Ravenswood Line stop on the CTA, and the Ravenswood Metra platform of the Union Pacific North Line. I deemed the el necessary for some destinations, but wherever the Metra/Chicago Water Taxi option was available, I was doing it, particularly during rush hour. The Metra offerred a cleaner, smoother, less riff raff filled journey downtown, and I was in no mood for anything else.

But recently a funny thing has happened. My August trip to London, where I fell in love with the Tube (Underground), left me with a new appetite for the el upon my return home. This, and the awareness of a waning summer that will quickly turn into cold weather, renewed my desire to stand in the open air of the elevated train platforms and absorb the wind, re-embrace the local color and activities aboard the CTA, rediscover my roots. Time was, in the 90s, when I knew my way around the whole of Chicago on every single line. Now they have new entitites, like the Pink Line, and my former autopilot ability to change trains to get where I needed to be has gone rusty.

So in the last few weeks, I have taken the Brown, Red or both lines to Pilates class, theater performances for the Edge, job interviews, bikini waxes, and happy hours with Little C. My old Metra 10-ride pass is crinkling in my wallet with unuse, but for the moment I can’t see myself going back. I will admit my rediscovered adoration of the public train has been buoyed by the fact that I have not had to take it during rush hour. I am suspicious that the standing room only crowd, the B.O. of some of my less than fresh commuters, and the constant stops, jerks and delays might break the spell.

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