...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…