The Returning of Sydney’s Car, Part I

by Berck

This is a rather old draft which I always meant to finish, but now I can’t remember the rest. So rather than deleting it, or letting it float in the wasteland of “draft” status forever, I might as well just post it.

January 16, 2005 @ 14:01

I got to Chicago on Friday night at about 9pm. Sydney had me park her car on the street outside of a friend’s house. There’s actually relatively “cheap” parking in the parking garage attached to Noell’s apartment where Sydney’s been living. Residents can buy a book of 10 parking tickets, each good for one day, for a total of $100. Without this resident discount, parking in the Garage is $25/day. Which is why Sydney had me park quite a ways away, for free, on the street.

After parking the car, I loaded my backpack and set off for the apartment. The nearest L stop was about 3 blocks away. This isn’t very far, but the late warming trend in Chicago had only pushed temperature up to a nice 12F. I called Sydney, and she’d already eaten, so I stopped at a Taqueria just outside the L station and ate a Torta de Milenesa de Res.

After buying a fare pass, I started toward the train, then realized I wasn’t sure about which direction to go. I started walking back to look at the map on the wall. As I did so, a guy who walked in at the same time I did, noticed my indecision and my backpack and asked where I was going. “Chicago,” I said.

“Huh? Uh… The airport?” I laughed as I realized how silly my answer must have sounded. But Chicago is a weird place, and Chicago was indeed my destination.

“No, the Chicago Avenue station.”

“Oh! This way!” and he indicated the Forest Park direction.

I took the train to the Chicago station where it’s actually a subway rather than an elevated train. So I had to stop and figure out which side of Chicago avenue I wanted to be on. I finally decided that I needed to exit on the south side of Chicago Ave in order to catch a bus headed East.

The bus took nearly half an hour to show up, which was entirely too long. I called Sydney and complained, who assured me that I have the worst “bus luck” of anyone she knows.

When the bus finally arrived, I first tried to insert my fare card into the change slot. I did the same thing last time I was in Chicago, and you’d think I’d learn. This time I managed to figure it out without a snide comment from the bus driver.

That may have something to do with the fact that the bus driver was exceedingly nice. He greeted everyone, and offered assistance to three different people who were even more clueless than I was. Things were not assisted by the fact that the little text screen that lights up to tell you which stop is next wasn’t working. At least the audio was functional.

One young woman got on, paid her fare, and then chatted with the driver for awhile before sitting down. A few minutes later she returned to the front of the bus and asked the bus driver which stop to get off at, reading an address in her wallet. He sighed and informed her she’d gotten on the bus going the wrong way. Right at this moment another bus was stopped across the street going in the direction she wanted to go. The bus driver stopped to let the girl out and started honking in an unsuccessful effort to attract the attention of the driver of the other bus. The girl did that hesitating stumbling walk indicative of someone not used to crossing a street in an urban environment and convinced that she could be flattened by a wayward taxi at any moment. After some time in the city, people no longer seem concerned about this rather likely possibility. As a result, she failed to cross the street in time to catch the bus going the other direction. Our bus driver, being exceedingly kind, convinced the girl to get back on his bus, and told her that we were nearing the end of the line and this was likely the next bus to be heading the other direction, so she might as well get back on board and stay warm.

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