I'm about one month away from moving to Chicago. While this is an exciting thought, I'm also super scared at the same time. I'm originally from Wyoming which has a population of about 533,000--total. I'm moving to a city of 2.8 million with millions more in the surrounding areas--yikes! I've found the key to success: looking like you belong. Chicagoans are like sharks, they smell blood from a mile away. And they are like dogs that sense fear.
If the key is looking like I belong, I clearly failed yesterday. You wouldn't think getting on the el train would be that difficult, but for me it was clearly challenging. I mean c'mon, there are people who ride the train who's native language is NOT English, so why do I have such a hard time?
It actually started off well. I thought I was so clever with my ridiculously large bag by taking the elevator to the stop below ground at State Street and Chicago Avenue. But when I got to the bottom I began to panic a little bit. There was a single entrance with a handicap symbol on it. Should I use it or shouldn't I? Will I get yelled at by a cranky CTA worker? I thought about all the times I'd gone into a public restroom and the only stall left was for handicapped people. Do you go in and chance that someone in a wheelchair is cursing you outside the stall? Or do you leave it open and chance the people behind you in line with ridicule and yell at you for not moving up in line? I opted not to use it, instead going to the insanely small public entrances. If overweight people use it, I can fit, right? WRONG!
So I put the pre-paid card in (yes, the right way!), but then I quickly realize I cannot fit my body and my ridiculously large bag at the same time. And with the pressure of people lining up behind me, I'm frozen in fear. That's when my white knight in the dark underground appeared. He yelled, "I'll help ya, I'll help ya!" He ran over to me and lifted my bag over the counter. I told him, "Thank you, you're awesome!" To that gentleman who helped me on 8/27/09 around 3:25 p.m., you're a godsend.
Now that the bag debacle is behind me, I get ready to board the train. I only had to wait a few minutes until it arrived. Phew! Of course, when I get on dirty looks run rampant because of my ridiculously large bag. I finally get to Roosevelt. Good, I clearly remember my fiance telling me to get off at Roosevelt and then get on the Orange line to Midway. I climb an enourmous flight of stairs (because let's face it, do the escalators ever work?) hoping I don't pass out mid-flight and have my ridiculously large bag fall on top of me. I get on the train and think, "hmm, that's weird that no one else has a bag." But I let the thought pass and keep going. I later realize NOTHING looks familiar so I look up above the door. Crap, I'm on the Green line. I call my fiance Mike, but he doesn't answer. Oh yeah, he had a 3:00 p.m. meeting. He texts me though and asks if everything is okay. "No!" I reply, "I'm on the Green." He tells me to backtrack and be careful because that train is sketchy.
So I backtrack to the station thinking I'll find that I made a stupid mistake. Oh no, I got on at the track that has an orange sign and says "Midway." But oh, now I see..it also has green. I guess these tracks lead to more than one destination.
I always thought living in a city would be so glamourous. There's nothing glamourous about my sweaty armpits. When I finally get on the train I see businessmen with their tan colored Samsonite suitcases. Awe, I sigh and take a deep breath of the polluted air.