Sunday, July 15, 2007

CTA Stories: Division Bus Extravaganza

I recently placed an ad in craigslist for people to share their best CTA stories. For the uninformed, that's the Chicago Transit Authority. I received a couple of good entries, but most were pretty lame. Yeah, and your buddies mooned some girls from the Addison bus. Yawn. I moved to Chicago in 1984, and had the pleasure of taking public transportation when the city was still pretty rough around the edges. I have about a dozen stories, and keep thinking of more every time I have a chance to reflect. But, the #70 Division bus holds a special place in my heart.

For a period in the early to mid 90s, I lived in East Village, and took the Division bus to and from work. This took me from the swanky Rush Street/Gold Coast area, through the projects at Cabrini Green, and into my neighborhood, at that time still full of addicts, hookers and gang-bangers. The first week after I moved into my place, a gang headquartered across the street set our garbage cans on fire and pushed them against the back door of the building. Fortunately, the back door was steel, which (newsflash, morons) does not burn. Unfortunately, we had no garbage cans for three weeks.

As I mentioned, the route has provided me with endless anecdotes, like the time a woman stood on the sidewalk at Clark and Division, shouting to a man who had just gotten on the bus. "Turn yourself In! Darnell!!! TURN. YOURSELF. IN." Darnell opened the window, and said that he couldn't turn himself in until he bought Christmas presents for all the shorties. She countered by saying that he could get all his
charges dropped if he just turned himself in now. Who told her that, he asked. "Some guy."

Then, there was the man who, seeing me at the bus stop, across from his room in the Mark Twain Hotel ("Radio in every room"), was so enamored that he shouted at me out the window, ran downstairs, and crossed Division--all to touch my long hair, which I was wearing in two braided pigtails. Ewww. This was a comfortable style for hot weather, but a pervert magnet, as I soon discovered. I started wearing my hair in a bun, and my troubles vanished.

Another night, while waiting for the west-bound bus, a man took out a wicked-looking butcher knife and carefully sharpened it on a whetstone. The rest of us all gave him wide berth when we got on the bus. In retrospect, he was probably a worker at one of the small slaughterhouses on the west side, and was just getting his tools in order for the evening. But, hell.


cg said...

i wonder what happened to Darnell and his shorties. those had better have been some good presents.

nobody has stories like you! you are the queen of stories. these were awesome.

the one that comes to my mind at the moment:

i once got on a bus which had newspaper all over the place, fairly unremarkable, but the driver was standing at the front saying something unintelligible to each person who got on the bus, 'therzyerenonnabuzz, last stop [i don't remember]' which i realized, quite soon, translated to 'there's urine on the bus.' like, enough that there needed to be all that newspaper. it was summer, but the wind was sort of blowing south, we were heading north, you just didn't know until it was too late ... some fancy stepping ensued.

yours are way better.

The Fifty Foot Blogger said...

Now, that's a LOT of urine! One can only imagine the mishap preceding it. I was on a red line once where a NW football player, so drunk he could barely stand up, lost his cookies right in front of the door. He exited, leaving quite a large zone of destruction. At the next stop, hilarity ensued, with people boarding the train and then jumping a foot in the air when they realized they were standing in vomit. Good times.