It’s the new year, and off I went to see my sister in Chicago.
I thought things were off to an auspicious start. I was PRE-TSA checked. But still, they unpacked my carry-on, waded through my underwear, and looked at me with a slatted eye. People watched and snickered as I repacked the bright blue and hot pink panties knocking one to the ground. Ugh – won’t be wearing those.
Then I had to wrestle the carry-on, kind of lumpy, listing to one side, into the overhead compartment of the plane. A man watched me. Didn’t help, just watched. Hoping my arm muscles wouldn’t give out, I jammed it in. He said, “I didn’t think you could do that.”
Cranky and smothering in three layers with the cabin’s dry, hot air blasting my face, I said, “Why didn’t you help me?”
“It was a good laugh,” he said sitting in front of me.
I kicked his seat throughout the plane ride.
At my sister’s suggestion, I bought a card for the trains and buses in Chicago. After spending five minutes futzing with the crazy machine, swearing, breaking out in a sweat (in the 10-degree weather of slush and gale force winds), I heard a harrumph from the machine next to me.
“Try turning your credit card the other way,” said a voice from under a parka.
Oops, that worked, and I had a green plastic card good for seven days of mass transit.
Then I tried to use the card to enter a nice wide turnstile. The woman in the cage yelled, “Hey. You there. Don’t use the handicapped stile.”
Feeling stupid, I moved my enormous carry-on, furry coat (a lot of synthetics died for that outerwear), and re-slung my laptop case over my shoulder. Making it through the narrowest possible turnstile, I made my way to the steps for the train platform. A man in front of me danced from one side of the stairway to another with each tread. More swearing. Is this a Chicago craze? When I misjudged his sway, and bumped into his back, knocking us both down, he slurred, “Sorry, my feet are cold.”
We missed the train. And both of us were very cold by the time the next one came.
Sitting in the car of the Orange line, I noticed the amount of junk around my feet. Food wrappers, single gloves, and assorted garbage littered the floor. Moving as fast as I could in my arctic apparel, my feet found a ledge, and I promised no touching the bottom of my bags. Yick.
Transferring to a bus, I thought, “I’m getting this down.” I managed to place my card wrong-side up on the card-reader three-times gathering a groan from the passengers behind me growing icicles. Sitting in an empty seat up front, my neighbor poked me in the ribs and pointed to the sign, ‘Priority Seating.’ I shuffled into a seat in the back of the bus where the floor resembled a food court.
Finally, I got to my hotel. The person behind the desk took one look at me, upgraded my reservation to a larger room, and told me about the nice bar around the corner where I could get an Irish coffee. Sounded good.
Unpacked, warm, and boots off, I thought about my trip. Humbling, my trip was humbling. In Dallas, I am nicely insulated in my car from other people and the travails of mass transit.
Sitting in the Irish bar, sipping the warming Irish Coffee, I thought about all the trash on the floor of the trains and buses triggering a funny memory of riding the buses in DC as a young woman.
I was riding the bus in the business district in DC during my 20s. I stood up at my stop. A sudden breeze ruffled my skirt, and suddenly, I was cool all under. Looking down, I saw that my underwear had dropped to the floor. Just dropped. Plonk. Pretending nothing had happened, I calmly stepped out of the undies and stepped off the bus. No way I was picking those up. At lunch, I bought undies at Garfinkels. What happened to the aplomb of my 20s?
Is mass transit designed to be humbling? Why do the hanging straps of the trains and buses resemble nooses?
(Image courtesy of morguefile.com.)