Takin' the El to Hell

When I last wrote about being glad to leave the city, I don't think I adequately conveyed my distaste for the El. There are so many bad things to say about the el, I don't think that one post would be enough to cover them all. But I'll do my best.

I ride the Brown line during both "peak periods" of the day. In the morning I have a good chance of getting a seat, because I live further north on the line. When I first started riding on the El, I was shy about taking seats. It felt weird sitting so close to strangers, especially if the the car was relatively empty. I've gotten over that. Standing on the El seems kind of romantic if you've seen people do it in movies, but having to stand around ass-to-ass with the general public while the train sits idle on the track for fifteen minutes without explanation is about as romantic as visiting a slaughterhouse in July.

I head straight for a seat when I see one; I prefer the single seats, if there are any, and if not, I try to get an outside seat in the middle of the car. If I have to stand, I go right to the middle-most part of the car. When I used to think standing was cool, I would park myself right near the doors. This seems to make sense at first, because there appears to be the most standing room near the doors. However, whatever space there is near the doors quickly disappears once more people get on, and the space near the doors starts to look like a can of human sardines. If you stand in the middle of the car, you'll still be standing close to people, but you won't be embracing them. I've often been in El cars where the people standing in the middle have a reasonable amount of elbow room--enough to read a paper or book while standing--while the people standing near the doors are entangled in a cheek-to-jowl death-embrace. One time back in my door-standing days I had to ride between stops with some dude literally embracing me: I had my back to the plexiglass divider, and he was stuck without a pole to grasp, so he resorted to grabbing the top of the plexiglass with both hands. So I spent the time with dude's arms wrapped around my head and dude's chest flush with mine. Some people might find that romantic, but I didn't at the time.

One thing I don't understand at all is when people won't take a seat when the train is full. People will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder, and someone will leave a seat, and no one standing around it will take the seat. It could be because the men standing near it feel especially chivalrous, but the women towards whom those noble impulses are directed find it insulting. I don't know, maybe they just happen to be people who really like standing--like I said, I don't understand it at all. All I know is that it is one of the most awkward situations one can encounter on the El. It simply should not happen.

When a seat opens on a train that is packed with people, for goodness sakes, somebody take the damned seat. If you don't have especially strong feelings about sitting, go ahead and make furtive half-gestures toward others if you feel like offering it to someone nearby, but if your half-gesture is rebuked, just sit down in the seat. The reason this is necessary is an elemental reason: just as nature abhors a vacuum, the el abhors empty space. When I ride the El, the unlucky people who live between the Diversey and Merchandise Mart stops have to pummel their way through the glut of people packed in the spaces near the doors, and some of them have to wait until the next train comes. If you are standing near the middle of the train car and you can see this life-or-death struggle taking place whilst a perfectly good seat is open next to you, you must be some kind of sadist, or an agoraphobe, or claustrophobe, or your knees don't bend or something. People, please, do your fellow Chicagaoans a favor, and fill that gap.


Reference Question of the Day

Today's fun reference question came not fifteen minutes after the library opened. A gentleman called and asked, "Can you use the internet?"

"Yes," I said, "I can use the internet...are you asking whether we have the internet available here?"

"No," he said, "I wanted to find out whether Mayor Daley had 50% of the popular vote in the primary election."

I thought about it for a minute. "Has the primary happened yet?" I asked.

"No, it's February 24th."

"Well, it would be kind of hard to find out if he has 50% of the public vote, because the primary election hasn't happened yet."

"Oh," he said, "oh, OK."

"So you'll want to call us back after the primary election, and then we'll know whether he has 50% of the vote," I said.

"Ok, I will." Then he hung up.


Actually, there are quite a few bloggable things happening to me...

My esteemed former colleague the Repressed Librarian wanted to know if my minty new layout meant that I would begin posting again. Well, yes, and frankly, I've wanted to put up a lot more than I have, which would be nothing, but it seems that I've got the most inspiration to blog when I'm furthest away from a computer. When I actually do sit down and think about blogging, the inspiration usually evaporates.

Oddly enough, there are quite a few blog-worthy things happening to me these days. The first you already know about: my being hired by the New Deal University Library. The spring semester started this week, so we are busy acting like librarians again.

The second thing is something that RL already knows, but the rest of my imaginary readers likely don't: Mrs. Bedheaded (who would hate being called "Mrs.", but I haven't come up with a clever handle for her yet, and she hasn't provided me with one, despite the fact that she's registered with Blogger...oops, did I just tell the world that?) is pregnant, and we found out that it's a boy. He is due May 22. We haven't come up with a name yet, but we're close.

The third thing happened just the other day. We made an offer on a townhouse in the suburbs, and the offer was accepted--no counter-offer. So I can check off another item on the list of stressful life-changing events that I've had in the past half-year. We're leaving the city, and I for one am glad to go. I've had it with crowded El trains, lugging laundry up and down four flights of stairs, parking a block away from home...it's just not charming any more. Obviously I'll still be coming into town to work at NDUL, but instead I'll be coming in and out on the super-smooth Metra. We're looking to close around my birthday, March 26.

So I've got a lot of things on my plate about which I should be providing regular updates. In the meantime, I've got the Bedheaded Mixtape operational on the sidebar. I tried a bunch of different Flash radio players, but couldn't get any of them to work right. I love how the people that create these cool web apps release them with the most beligerently non-existant instructions this side of a stereo manual. I stumbled upon the one that's there and was pleased to find that it works like any other widget...no coding necessary. It's a little buggy--it doesn't seem to buffer very well--but it does what I want it to do. I put a bunch of tunes in there just to get it started, but from now on I'll put them there as well as put a link to the track in a new post, with a little explanatory info. Here are a few that are particularly tasty:

The Besnard Lakes - "Disaster"
From The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse [Jagjaguwar, 2007]

Loney, Dear - "Saturday Waits"
From Loney, Noir [Sub Pop, 2007]

Enjoy them. I promise I'll let you know what's happening.

Buy music: The Besnard Lakes / Loney, Dear