Ever been stuck in someone’s armpit while jammed between a giant baby stroller and a year’s worth of two-ply that somehow makes the bumpy packed bus route along Chicago Avenue soothing? If so, my dear neighbor, you must be the fool carting the toilet paper or the baby stroller onto a packed rush-hour bus, all aboard Chicago’s Westbound Route 66. ??Aboard this cutthroat commute the bus driver won’t tell you to wait for another bus because you won’t get a seat, let alone a handle or even a corner to hover. Plus, neither you nor the driver has the common sense to remember yesterday’s grueling journey. On the thrifty side, you may not even have to pay for your ride because you can’t make it to the swipe station. Free ride or not, every day along Chicago’s route 66 is your chance to answer the ultimate urban commuter’s question: Should you get on the packed bus or wait for the next one? After all, the city is not on fire and the next bus is just five minutes behind. But why waste time when more than a hundred smelly armpits await you on a mid-summer’s evening commute? ?? Unlike Highway 66, there’s just no room for kicks here. The packed grumps are so loud, you can barely hear the slight hymn of the CTA announcer carrying on with, “Remember to fold up all baby strollers and give up your seat to the elderly and expectant mothers to make everyone’s ride more comfortable.”
About the time you start to daydream about an old Dial soap commercial, you may spot a faint image of a lady’s head just before it disappears and pops up in another cramped spot. First you see her sitting, then standing, then squatting before hovering and practically hanging out the bus window gasping for air. I am this tiny hot-potato bus rider, who seat-swaps with any commuter in distress. You may also recognize me as the rider who motions to you to get up and make room for any child or senior who is about to take a spill.??On rougher days, you may even see the smoke left from the dirty looks I send to the bus driver by way of the rearview mirror for boarding this many riders to start with. Each devilish look is for every feeble commuter who should have been warned.
If you are like me, you swear you’ll complain to head of the CTA about the safety concerns you see every day. But once the sweet sound of Oakley finally dings to your ears, the green door light makes way for sweet success. You float off the bus step into a wide-open space so welcoming that you can’t remember anything less pleasant. (Stacie A. Boudros)