Things I just don't get...

OK, admittedly I don't "get" a lot of things (announcers who get excited about ice dancing, the attraction of soccer, Paris Hilton, "lite" beer), but these are the things right now I just don't "get":

1. The Whole Big Sunglasses Thing
I guess it’s been the style for a while now (sorry, I lost my most recent issue of Vogue), but I don’t know what’s up with whole big sunglasses thing. All of these tiny girls with tiny heads and big sunglasses that look like TV screens. I’m used to it on short, blue-haired old women who have owned this look for decades, but on the apparently-hip chick (and occasional guy)…? Did Edie Sedgewick make a comeback I wasn’t aware of? I can’t look at any of them without thinking of Fearless Fly.

2. Fancy Rims on Crappy Cars
Is it more sad than pathetic or more pathetic than sad? Not sure which, but I’m just trying to figure out who these guys think they’re fooling. You’ve seen them, tooling slowing down the street, wrist resting on the top of the steering wheel in a devil-may-care attitude, head invariably nodding to the beat of a bass line eminating from their car’s speakers that threatens to dislodge the rust and Bondo holding their 1978 Ford Impala together. Yet the thing that draws your attention is the wheels, as shiny and glistening as the rest of the car is dull and dented. They sometimes spin at stoplights in a mesmerizing display while the car’s engine sputters like an old man being forced to walk up five flights of stairs. Hey guys…GUYS! TURN THE STEREO DOWN… IT’S NOT WORKING!! THE RIMS!!!… THEY’RE NOT WORKING!! YOU LOOK STUPID!!! ... OKAY, NO PROBLEM!!!

3. Terrell Owens.
Immensely talented. Great speed, great hands, great sense of the field. And a complete asshole. More than half the men in the country would give at least 75 percent of their testicles to be TO for a year: the money, the fame, the talent, the money, the women, the money… you get the drift. But for Owens, wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, it’s not enough. He wants to be loved. He wants to be respected. So how does he plan to achieve this? By calling his quarterback, the guy who’s supposed to get the ball to him, a pussy, as he did with the Philadelphia Eagles last year. By sitting out practices he’s paid to attend. By drawing attention to himself in every way possible (pulling a pen out of his sock and autographing a football after a touchdown and throwing it in the stands or joining the cheerleaders for a sideline cheer after another TD). By claiming he’s been slighted, maligned, demeaned, all while making close to eleventy-bazillion dollars a year. Run, catch, run some more: that is all that is required of him out of his professional life. And he can’t seem to do that without becoming a jerk. I don’t get it. He is the asshole that assholes call an asshole.

4. Nudity in Vermont.
You may have read about it: Teens walking around nude in Brattleboro, Vermont for no apparent reason other than they have an unstated permission to do it. Um… OK. I understand the whole freedom thing, letting it all hang out (both figuratively and literally) as they used to say, we shouldn’t be ashamed of our bodies and blah blah blah… But, c’mon… I’ve read a few stories on this and it’s been mostly men/boys who are being quoted on this subject, defending the practice and avidly participating in it. But if there’s anyone who should NOT be naked on a city street, it’s probably a teenage boy. Unless they have complete control of their… um…response reflex, it could be an embarrassing situation for them and anyone who comes within eight… seven? ….six inches of them. If you’re a teenager in Vermont who want to be embarrassed, get caught in the car with booze or with a girl in your bedroom. Not standing on the street naked in the middle of the day with a hard-on that just won’t go away.


Oh, baby, baby, it's a wild world...

Apropos of nothing, these are just some headlines that appeared in my local newspaper (Chicago Sun-Times) all on one day. You don't really need the stories behind them. Make of them what you will...

• Californian accused in death of ficus

• 79-year-old allegedly tried to rob bank

• He’s been a college senior for 24 years

• Gunmen throw 5 heads on dance floor in Mexico

• Fish that are both male and female discovered in Potomac

• Trio accused of robbing Wis. grave in hope of sex

• Colleges kick out suicidal students

• Militant waited 24 years to shoot Westerners


...and thank you for riding the CTA...

I’ve been riding public transportation for a long time. A VERY long time. Since third grade, actually, when my family moved out of walking distance from the Catholic grammar school my brothers and sisters and I were attending, on through high school and up until the downtown college I attended. I’ve ridden them to get to jobs, parties, friends’ houses, etc. Not sure exactly how many years that adds up to, but suffice to say I consider myself a pretty public transportation savvy.

Back then, riders only had to obey a couple of rules: No littering and no radio playing. That’s it. You could still smoke on the bus back then because the surgeon general hadn’t gotten all anal retentive about it. But when they finally broke down and added it, it was no big deal.

So for years it was just those three simple rules. Of course, people still littered on the bus and train: newspapers, fast food wrappers, etc. But they hired people to clean it up so it must have been expected. And sometimes late at night, when boom boxes were still en vogue, kids would get on fill the train car with the sounds of Kool Moe Dee until a cop or CTA agent showed up. And, sure, people ate on the train. If you’re zooming between jobs or running to school, you’re going to grab a chance to eat whenever you can. (Though the strangest instance of eating on the CTA I’ve ever seen involved a woman balancing a tray of sushi on her knees and trying to add wasabi and soy sauce on a crowded bus.)

After a while they added a few more: No gambling, because the practitioners of the Three Card Monte couldn’t resist the semi-captive audience; and no soliciting, which put a big dent in the tube socks industry. And so no one could claim ignorance of the rules, they turned it into a taped message played almost constantly on the bus and train and spoken in crisp, clear tones by some game-show announcer guy.

I hadn’t really paid attention to it in the past few years; it was like background noise. But the other day I heard an addition to the litany of public transportation no-nos that even made me, the hard-bitten, unflappable, the-Chicago-Fire-was-just-a-big-weenie-roast urbanite stop in my tracks:

“Please do not put your feet on the seats.”

Huh? Put your feet on the seats? Seriously?

I guess occasionally I had seen people, mostly snotty teens and a few twentysomethings, rest their high-priced Nikes on a train seat or bus seat, ignoring the growing rush hour crowd until some fed-up, lunch-pail blue collar guy would tell them to move their dogs off the seat, and they’d do so but with just enough attitude to suggest, “I’m only doing this because I want to…”.

But I hadn’t known it had grown to epidemic proportions, enough to force the CTA to give it its own special announcement on the trains AND buses. Not as part of the smoking/littering/gambling/radio playing four-play, but as a stand-alone CTA commandment. When I first heard it, I half expected to see Moses descend from Mount Prospect, view the debauchery of feet on seats, smash his stone tablet bus card in anger and part the Red Line. I mean, you have to TELL people not to put their feet on the seat? I thought it was a given, like not walking onto the train nude or defecating on the escalator. Feet on a seat? (which, by the way, is a new movie starting Samuel L. Jackson).

But I got me to thinking how many other rules the CTA could add to make the ride easier, rules to curtail activities that are just as prevalent as people putting their feet on the seats. So from now on:

Please bath before boarding the train.

Please speak a little louder on your cell phone. The people sitting at the far end of the car couldn’t hear where you’re going to dinner.

Please allow out-of-town St. Louis Cardinal fans to exit promptly. Finding themselves on any stop north of Addison or South of Adams and Wabash will result in their disappearance from the face of the earth.

Please have your money or transit card ready before boarding the bus or train. Fumbling through your purse or pocket once you finally get ON the bus will only confirm to the rest of the world that you are cholesterol in the artery of life. You’ve been at the bus stop for 20 minutes. A bus was bound to show up sooner or later. You know you had to pay. Do the math.

Please do not sit right next to the only other person on the train car. It’s just, you know, creepy. Unless you’re a criminal. Then we know what time it is.

Please allow other passengers to get off before you try to squeeze your elephantine body into a door that can barely accommodate you by yourself, let alone you and the 50 other people trying to get off.

And thank you for riding the CTA…