The Other Half

Last week, I was recounting my recent experiences riding the El to some friends over dinner. They’re all hardened city-dwellers and public transportation patrons, so I was surprised to actually get a little sympathy when I shared my disgust at sitting in urine-scented seats.

“Jen, what line do you take?”

“Red Line”

All three of them groaned in unison.

“Oh, god. I’m so sorry to hear that. Really.”

“No kidding. I did my time on the Red. Paid my dues. Thank god I get to take the Brown with all the beautiful people now.”

“But really, you should count your blessings that all you smelled was pee on the Red Line. One time? I got on the Red and it smelled like shit.”

“You think that’s bad? One time I got on the Red Line, and there WAS shit. Big pile of it in the aisle.”

“Oh man, that’s sick. But not as bad as when-“

I had to stop the conversation there, because I could easily imagine the next 20 minutes devolving into a competition to determine who saw/smelled/sat in the most repulsive combination of bodily fluids on the Red Line, and my BLT had just arrived.

And so the public transportation experiment continues, my daily routine alternating between the El and the Metra. Sometimes braving the gritty Red Line all the way to the Loop, other times hopping off at the midway point to change trains to the Brown Line so I can see how the other half lives.

So far, I’m really familiar with the half that pees its pants.

10 Responses to “The Other Half”

  1. Dave2 Says:

    Most of my time with the CTA is spent on the Blue Line to and from O’Hare, and it’s a lovely ride. At least it is WHEN IT’S RUNNING AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO HOP OFF AND TAKE A BUS BETWEEN STOPS!! I could handle a little urine smell from time to time, but TAKING THE BUS?!?

  2. claire Says:

    Wow, well, you’ve earned your city cred in my book.

    @Dave2: that was my problem when I lived in SF. Not driving typically meant a transpo buffet of BART, buses &/or cable car. And walking, of course.

  3. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    For some reason, I guess I’d have expected the Brown Line to be the home of a lot of bodily fluids, but maybe that’s just me assuming that people willing to take dumps on public transport would work irony into their decision-making process.

  4. Fiorello La Guardia Says:

    Ahhh, nothing cracks me up like a good discussion of bodily functions. Eighth grade humor works for me every time.

  5. churlita Says:

    I saw, smelled and experienced the most horrible things when I took the bus in Los Angeles. Just be glad you live in Chicago.

  6. shari Says:

    Out here, we have the Link. It’s all buses. Some of the buses are tricked out to look like trolley cars, but they’re not trolley cars, they’re buses. All bus, all the time. And if you’re lucky, one of them might make it to a stop near you or where you want to go once or twice a day maybe. It’s swell.

    In the Link’s defense however, I’ve never smelled urine on it. (Although to be fair, I should mention that I only rode it the one time I took my then-three-year-old son on a joyride because he wanted to ride a bus.)

  7. Cheryl Says:

    Churlita is right, L.A. buses aren’t known for their pleasing odor. In fact, the Metro bus system’s official motto is (seriously), “It’s getting better on the bus.”

    As far as trains go, it sounds like your Brown Line is to our Gold Line as your Red Line is to our Blue Line. If the SAT had had more questions about public transportation, I would have aced it.

  8. Sarah Says:

    Oh, Chicago, how I love thee.

    I spent a lot of time on the glorious red line while living, and later just working in Evanston. The purple line express seems to run exactly 45 seconds every other leap year.

    Long ago I wrote a compilation of my red line (or enroute to the red line) experiences…believe it or not, the post was actually published in some textbook by a professor at the University of Maryland about black feminine archetypes. Go red line!

  9. jenny Says:

    dave: yeah, that was really something special when they had the train>bus>train route for a while.

    claire: thank you! now can i go back to riding the metra…?

    sir: you would think so, wouldn’t you? and surprisingly, the yellow line does not reek of urine.

    fiorello: poop.

    churlita: well, now, if you’re going to throw the bus into the mix, that takes us into a whole different category of stank.

    shari: i’m telling you, come visit me in chicago and we’ll do all sorts of fun things like walking through revolving doors and playing “what’s that smell?” on the El. it’ll be so much fun!

    cheryl: i actually appreciate the truth in advertising – it’s admirable!

    sarah: yeah, what’s up with that mythical purple line express? and congrats on making the red line famous!

  10. delmer Says:

    Somebody found something worse than a pile of shit?

    Many years ago it wasn’t uncommon for my mini-van to smell like poop. However, at the time I was driving two or three poop makers around in child seats and a little bit of poop was to be expected. Unexpected poop in an aisle would be a bit harder to tolerate.

Leave a Reply