Sunday, January 22, 2012

5 Minutes to Freedom

Of all the technological advancements of my lifetime- nothing had been quite so amazing and game-changing as Bus Tracker.

Since I haven't had a car to call my own in over 10 years, I have been a dedicated parishioner of public transit - dutifully paying my monthly dues to ensure that no matter what (as long as I bring my CTA card) I'll get to where I am going.

I may get to where I am going, but chances are - it won't happen in a timely or very lady like fashion.

I have made a promise that, now that I am 27, that I will not run for public transportation.  No matter how late I am running, no matter how cold it is, unless I am already inside the station I will not run.  I break this promise on a very regular basis.  You could probably set a clock to how often I find myself hustling down the street trying to look as relaxed and calm as possible.

Also? Sometimes I will pretend that I hear the train coming and start running, just because if someone sees you running they will start running too and there is a small amount of satisfaction I get on having that kind of impact on some one's day.

And with the advent of bus & train tracker, my life has been made considerably warmer, for sure (I now know exactly how long it will take me to get to the bus stop & will not walk out of my house until my phone tells me the bus is 3 minutes away) but in some ways, it has been made insanely more stressful.

Back before the internet controlled my entire life, I would get to a bus/train stop and I would wait. I had a book or a disc man (lies. I was never cool enough to carry a disc man) and I always gave myself enough time to ensure that even if the transit gods were against me, I would get to where I was going in a timely manner.

Now however I Know how long its going to be - and while in theory, this is ideal, in practice it means that sometimes it means I KNOW the next bus is 28 minutes away and there isn't really anything I can do about it (refreshing the bus tracker feed in a frustrating manner doesn't help like you think it would). Normally when this happens I figure out another route that doesn't require me to stand, exposed to the chicago elements for as long as an episode of Whitney (you decide which is worse) - but occasionally I am simply just forced to stand there and think about the old days where if a bus didn't show up in 10 minutes I Just.Walked.

And since I have figured that with bus tracker, everything will just magically appear (which it doesn't) - I tend to be late to everything when traveling by bus alone (CTA trains while smelly, terrible and full of people who don't know how trains at rush hour are supposed to work, tend to run fairly punctually)

My new least favorite thing is the bus-to-bus transfer (which, when executed correctly is called the "Perfect T") because I can now track when both buses will be arriving at my transfer intersection. If I am ever running late, or need to pee or whatever - the chances are extremely likely that the buses are slated to be at the intersection at the Exact Same Time. 

This means that my fate is in one person's hands.  And not just any person, a person who drives a Chicago City Bus. This means that all bets are totally and completely off. Sometimes bus drivers stop in the middle of the street to let random people on. Sometimes they run red lights. Sometimes they refuse to let you off at a red light because "its against the rules." Occasionally they are awesome and will do some sort of morse-code honk to let the other bus driver know you're gonna make a run for it.  And then? Your life, timeliness and commute is in the hands of yet another single person who may hate people who wear pink don't know. That's the chance you take. Although, most of the time they will wait for you because in general, bus drivers are pretty reasonable people.

Though, once you are on the bus, you are then at the whim of all the other people on the bus, the bus driver's inability to shift higher than 2nd gear, and all the drivers of cars on the roads who really cannot fathom that their terrible right lane driving is, in effect, making everyone in the bus behind them late to where they're going.

Really - my studies in public transit have taught me that, when in doubt, you should probably just stay home.

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She's pint-sized and amazing.