On Drew's Day, January 05, 2009...

New year - new(ish) commute

Today was my first day back to campus for the new year. I got downtown and decided to take the Purple Line up to Evanston. I had about 10 minutes before I needed to be up on the platform, and since today is Monday, that means free McLatte at Mickey-D's. So I walked in and asked for the small latte, and they asked me for $2.22. To me, that seemed like a lot for a free latte. So, I said that I wanted the free latte, and I got a dirty look and a free latte.

Since that transaction took a little longer than I had hoped, I ran up the steps at Quincy and saw a sign on the lower landing saying that the Purple Line was going to be boarding on the inner loop side from now on. It was news to me that the whole time I've been riding the Purple Line it was actually NOT on its "normal" track. Apparently, the CTA construction projects forced the Purple Line to the outer loop tracks. The net effect is that I save about 10 minutes in the morning if I have to take the CTA to Evanston. If I have to take the CTA to the loop in the afternoon, however, I might consider changing to a Brown Line so that I don't have to go all the way around the loop to get off at Quincy. But, most likely this quarter I'm going to be taking Metra back in the afternoon to Oglivie.

Tonight I took a late train out of Evanston. I was surprised that the waiting room at the Davis Street station was open so that I didn't have to wait in the cold. (Another new twist to the commute!) The waiting room being open may have something to do with the coffee shop in the station actually being open in the evening. It didn't look like they were getting too much business at that time, but it did look like they had a carpenter in there who seemed to be taking measurements for making some updates to the shop.

I got a little confused at Union Station and hopped on local train to Aurora. I am about 80% sure that it was still my fastest option for getting home, but I didn't reach our garage until right before 8:00 tonight.

Now, bed!


On Drew's Day, December 01, 2008...

Day of Firsts

This is my first major post about commuting since I started working at Northwestern and taking the train for two hours each way every day. Today was a day of a lot of firsts for me. It was the first day of the month (obviously), and today was the first day of reading week at Northwestern. It was also the first day after the first major snowfall of the year. And this morning was the first time I slipped and fell on the Adams Street bridge by Union Station.

Chicago only got maybe 2 inches (if that) of snow that actually stuck to the ground; apparently no one bothered to clear the walkway on the bridge before the morning commuters tramped the snow down into a solid pack of ice. I was quick off the train this morning, and when I got out of Union Station the bridge was mostly clear of people. The snow had been packed down, but not evenly. It was a bumpy layer of compacted snow and my dress shoes were not equipped to handle the lack of friction. Have you seen a cartoon where the character's legs slip out from underneath the body? That was me on the bridge. I landed flat on my derriere. I was able to get up quickly, fortunately nothing was broken (on my body or in my bag), and nothing had fell out of my coat or bag. As I limped slowly down the street an older man with a cane gave me some friendly advice on icing down my back. I kept a straight face, even though I was not really in the mood for conversation at that point.

I got to the Quincy station and made sure the train pulling in was not a Purple Line train. I had just received my Chicago Plus transit card, but didn't know if it was active (long story for some other time, maybe) so I tried using the kiosk to check the balance of the card. The display said that I could not add money to this type of card. I took that to mean that the card was not active, so I hurriedly added $20 to my CTA transit card. It was at that point when I realized, I should have just tried my Plus card on the turnstiles. I did, and it worked. So today was the first day of my unlimited ride card (another first!), but now I have a $20 CTA card in my wallet that I don't really need.

The rest of the morning commute was relatively uneventful. The coffee at Linz and Vail tasted extra delicious after all my earlier excitement. The evening commute was also relatively boring. The packed snow-ice had been cleared off the bridge sometime during the day. The only interesting thing that happened tonight was that after I got back to Aurora and was walking from the train to the car, I saw a mouse (first rodent spotting?) in the parking lot of the transportation center. It was just hanging out in the ice and slush of the parking lot. It wasn't moving very fast, but it did move away when I tried to bend over to get a better look.

If this is what the winter commute is going to be like, I might have to look into gearing up with some crampons. Or at least some galoshes with traction.