Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The CTA, Bringing People Together

Standing at the L platform the other day, I heard the familiar voice of the operator whose train I've been riding regularly for the past couple years. Unlike most operators who prefer to let the official canned voice of the CTA make the announcements, this operator went to extremes to make sure his passengers knew who was in charge of his train.

The train I usually take in the morning runs express for part of its run, and it was during this ten minute gap between stations where he usually took the opportunity to speak to his captive audience. "Good morning riders..." he'd say after pulling out of the station where I board the train, "...welcome to run number (such and such). I am CTA senior operator number (such and such), and welcome aboard CTA's love connection." Then he'd go on to describe details of that day's run, including possible delays or anything else out of the ordinary we could expect to encounter on the run. If there was nothing out of the ordinary, the exception, not the rule, he'd just shoot the breeze for about half the time between Howard and Wilson.

But the other day when I heard the voice over his train's external speakers, it was not my train. As he reminded us every day for the past month, the CTA in its infinite wisdom, was changing his runs. In one of his laments about about how sad he was to leave this particular group of riders and how it has been his pleasure over the years to serve us, he told a story. It turns out that one day, a couple came up and told him that they got together because of him. Day after day it turns out, this couple who were strangers, noticed each other but as is often the case on public transportation, respected each other's personal space too much to do anything about it. Eventually the ice between them was broken during one of the operator's trademark banters. when one of the two, (not sure which one), made a comment about him. Now the operator didn't mention whether the couple's first conversation ever was about how funny, or how aggravating he was, (he could indeed be both), but without question it was he who brought the couple together. Presumably this was the inspiration for calling his run the "love connection."

This week the morning train ride has been remarkably silent and ho hum. The general good feeling and even camaraderie that once existed between the riders is broken. Couples who are attracted to one another on the train are going to have to find some other way to break the ice. Or like me they can start riding the local, where operator number (such and such) can still be found, no doubt engaging, enraging, and bringing people together.

In the climate of division this country is currently experiencing, that can only be a good thing.

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