Chuck (charlesofcamden) wrote,

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Going Straight to L

I’d like to shine the spotlight on a certain urban creature I’ve seen many times over the years, though today was the first time in a while. Here’s the scenario: I’m walking towards the L in the general vicinity of a few other people. While we’re still a block away from the platform, we see a train pulling into the station. At the moment of that sighting, one or more of the people near me begin running towards the station, aiming to catch that train.

If you live in Chicago or any other city with an urban rail system, you know that those trains do not generally tarry for long in the station. The act of running for the train when one is still a block away is an act of either desperation or extreme optimism. Or maybe it’s some sort of Pavlovian response akin to salivating when one hears a bell.

I learned my lesson about running for trains, or at least running for the morning train, shortly after I moved to Chicago. On this occasion, I was somewhat closer to the platform than in the scenario described above. I was already in the station when I heard the train pulling in overhead, so I sprinted up the 40 or so steps to the platform and barely snuck on board before the doors closed behind me. Yay me! Unfortunately, it was still early morning and my body wasn’t entirely awake or warmed up yet. There was nowhere to sit so I was sandwiched between several other commuting bodies. Within moments, I began to feel nauseous and faint. In fact, my vision began to cloud over and I realized I might be about to pass out. I got off the train at the next stop and literally sat down on the platform and put my head down, feeling real lousy. After a few minutes, I felt better and got on the next train. I was a few minutes late for work that day, but it was a small price to pay in exchange for not fainting on the train. I won’t say that I’ve never run after a train since then, but I’ve learned to quickly consider whether it’s really worth the trouble.

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