Straphanger Joe Ponders Train Delays While Stuck at O’Hare

O-Hairy  

O’Hare Airport is not a happy place right now. Because of thunderstorms, all flights heading eastward have been cancelled. There were over 400 people on line at the American Airlines counter waiting to find out why they had been put on flights scheduled to leave Chicago the following evening.  

I’m one of them.  

I called my travel agent and got onto a Jet Blue flight this evening that’s running four hours late. But at least I’ll be home tonight, even if it means crawling in around 3 am. I’m grateful.  

I got to thinking: How is subway travel similar to airplane travel when it comes to these kinds of delays? Do subway lines get shut down due to weather? Sure. There’s flooding, there’s snow on the elevated lines. If I’m stuck in a train station, usually having paid my fare and gone through the turnstile, when the cancellation announcement comes on over the practically unintelligible loudspeaker, I don’t lose anything because I have an unlimited monthly Metrocard. It doesn’t matter how many times I got in and out of stations in a day, how many turnstiles I push through. It’s all covered. 

Do I have to go to another airline and knock other passengers out of the way in order to get to the ticket line before they do so I can get the last seat on another airline’s upcoming flight? Not really. We can pack people onto the subway as tight as we want–as long as the doors can close. And if they can’t because someone’s bag is stuck? Just push the perpetrator off and let them wait for the next train. A well-placed shove works wonders. Usually it occurs after the third or fourth attempt at closing the door and repeated yells by other passengers to “either get in or get off, you stupid motherfucker.”  

When trains are canceled, do people get angry and irritable, mill around the gate, eat a lot of junk food, work on their computers, use their cell phones, read, poke around the sit-down restaurants while they wait half-an-hour for a table, complain about being searched at security, drink too much Starbucks coffee, go to the bathroom, buy the Starbucks Story book because it’s there, or buy snow-globes for their children because they couldn’t find anything else that at least looked like it came from Chicago and knew would make them smile – on the subway?  

I have some time to kill, so let’s take these one at a time, shall we? 

* Angry and irritable are trademarks for New Yorkers on the subway so we’ve got that one down.

* Milling around, leaning over the tracks and looking to see if a train is coming, and checking your watch repeatedly, is every subway rider’s right.

* Junk food is usually only available on the street, though some newspaper vendors underground may have a five-year old Three Musketeers for you to eat.

* You can work on your computer underground but you can’t get wifi and there’s only a few places to sit so it’s probably not going to happen.

* There are no sit-down restaurants on the platform except for those used by the rats, and their restaurants require reservations.

* As for security, I’ve seen the police at plenty of platforms but I’ve never seen them stop anyone to search them. And I’ve never seen them chase anyone. I have, though seen a mounted officer’s horse take a dump in front of a Duane Reade up on the surface in my neighborhood. It seemed like an appropriate statement at the time.

* See the above about sit-down restaurants with regards to drinking too much Starbucks coffee.

* What bathrooms?

* You might find the Starbucks Story in the garbage but do you really want to take it out of that overflowing pile of refuse?

* As for the snow-globe I can get much more interesting things on the subway to take home for my son, like batteries, a CD by an unknown ranchero singer at the 23rd Street station, or the Peruvian flute players at Roosevelt.

Come to think of it, maybe he’d like the snow-globe better.

–Joe Lunievicz

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