Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Post-Storm Commute

Chicago had an eleven minute storm on Monday. I wasn’t actually timing it, but the time between the moment that the brightness in my 7:30am apartment slipped from baby shower to gay bar like someone leaned on the sliding track lighting switch after too many cocktails, to the time I was standing soaking wet on the train platform, watching the sun peak out from behind the receding clouds, wasn’t long enough to defrost a chicken breast.

The rain shot sideways like a compressed garden hose in a summer backyard. Its trajectory rendered umbrellas useless and spurred joggers and commuters alike to hit full speed on their run for cover. It was messy.

This storm not only soaked the space inside my open apartment windows and my already sloppy clothes, it also wreaked some serious havoc on Chicago public transportation (and left 852,000 without power).

I made a mad dash from my front door to the train station one block away: pants rolled up, golf umbrella held in front of my body like a shield. (I later heard from the internetz that my sister and her little ones got caught it the nastiness as well.) I climbed the stairs to the train platform, and was notified by our state-of-the-art, and often inaccurate, Scrolling Time Arrival Notification Marquee that the next train to my destination apparently didn’t exist. There were other trains in 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, and 14 minutes, but, alas, my train had disappeared into the abyss.

Thankful that the 11 minute storm was over, I stood on the platform reading Charlotte’s Web, recognizing my total lack of control over the situation. My only possible plan of action was to stand on the platform and wait for the train. It would not help to pace, or glance at my watch, or post all over Facebook how annoying this was. Just wait.

And I did.

And after a few minutes, the marquee announced that my train would arrive in 17 minutes. Wow. 17 minutes. In commuter time, that’s like saying, “You’re train will arrive right after Harry Potter 9 hits theatres.”

This delay would certainly cause me to be a few minutes late to work, but no big deal. I read until it arrived, standing patiently with countless other soaked individuals. It eventually arrived. On the train I noticed the extent of this short storm's damage – trees fallen everywhere, backed up traffic, and an extremely slow train pace. I don’t know how many horsepower an L train has, but this one was for certain being pulled by a single donkey.

After about 40 minutes, my train arrived at its first scheduled stop, approximately 5 stops and 10 minutes from my office, and the conductor politely let us know that this train would go no further. And, it wasn’t just this train whose travel was arrested – it was all trains. A hidden, metallic voice intercom’d to us to exit the platform and catch the buses to our various destinations.

In the crowd of tardy, dripping wet commuters, I shuffled along looking for this mythical bus that would take me to work. I glanced at my watch and noted that I was already about 20 minutes late and not quite near it yet.

I eventually located the correct bus, lucky to watch people push and shove their way beyond its maximum capacity from a safe distance. I waited. Another bus arrived with similar results.

The third bus had space for me, although the space was a sliver standing between a couple of heavy breathers. We inadvertently spooned. Er, at least, I can say the spooning on my part was not a choice. The bus navigated the fallen trees, traffic and stop signs, and after a while came to a full stop, swung its mighty doors open, and allowed us cattle to escape our transport and scatter off into the free world.

By the time I arrived at work, close to 10 am, my clothes were actually dry and I was in a decent mood.

In a city like Chicago, sometimes an 11 minute storm means a 2 hour commute.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth

There is really nothing better than quoting the Bible when writing about dinosaurs. I adopted this little darling yesterday from Chicago's Field museum of natural history. I had a bit of a rough week and made a gloriously selfish decision - to take a vacation day and spend some time in a place, to crib from the brilliant Sarah Vowel, that is the closest thing that I have to a church.

I had no real intention of buying anything from the store of a museum I had visited so many times, but his absolute minuteness struck a chord in me. Not just the part of me that coos and whimpers over tiny things, but the part of me that loves dinosaurs for their extreme existence.  Their larger than life sizes and abilities.  For their 160 million year reign of this planet.  Sue, the largest and most complete TRex skeleton ever found, lives at the Field.  Her fossilized remains tell us that, in life, she was over 40 feet long and weighed more than 7 tons. She was huge (and, possibly, a he).

This tiny guy,  in his diametric opposition to the real TRex, just reminds us: in a world where dinosaurs once ruled, anything is possible.