Yesterday was Friday the 13th, and it definitely lived up to its expectations. All I envisioned was a nice stop in Chicago for lunch, but life always gives you more.
1. At the Howard L station, I ran into a friend who I had rode the L with four times in the past week, so it was funny to get in the same car with him again, even though this time we were going different places.
2. I went to lunch with a guy who I met through this crazy person, and we had a fun time. I found out that he ran track & field, which was awesome because I ran track & field for eight years, even though I didn’t get a chance to run in college. I also found out that we shared a twisted NFL history because I am a Green Bay Packers fan, and he hates the Packers because they beat his beloved Patriots in the Super Bowl haha. While we were basically strangers before this meeting, we found a lot of commonalities that I bet we didn’t expect.
3. The only thing I had planned today was lunch, so this is where the weirdness started to kick in. After lunch, I had a lot of options. I didn’t want to head right back to Evanston because it takes so long to get down to Chicago, I wanted to at least stay for another hour or so before I made the trek back up there. At the same time, I didn’t want to spend money that I desperately needed to save. So I begrudgingly decided to head back up to Evanston.
4. But thanks to Foursquare, my adventure in Chicago was not over. Since I checked-in to two places downtown, my good ol’ roommate from PARC texted me to see if I wanted to hangout downtown. Unfortunately I got this text while I was on the L, but that didn’t stop me from getting off the Red Line to Howard and turning back around to the Loop. I met up with him and we just walked around Chicago for the next few hours. While I usually would have spent this time doing a number of tasks I felt I needed to get done, it was nice to spend some quality time with a friend that I don’t get to hangout with that much anymore.
5. Even though I had initially resisted to go to the Apple Store after lunch, I ended up going there with my friend. However, I didn’t buy anything which I chalked up to a great victory. At this time it was around 3:45pm, so I wanted to head up to the NU law school to catch the Intercampus Shuttle. So we walked up there and had a fun conversation about LeBron James.
Side note on this subject: Love the decision he made, but absolutely hated ‘The Decision.’
6. The Intercampus Shuttle is something that I have used ever since freshman year. It’s an amazing service because it’s quick, it’s always on time, and I get to ride on Lake Shore Drive which is one of my highlights the greatest city in the world. But this time my experience was controversial.
Since I an now an alum of Northwestern, my undergraduate Wildcard aka ID is expired. However, there are certain services you can use with an expired Wildcard – granted only for a short period of time – so I thought I might be able to use the shuttle. This was not the case. This bus driver was strict in checking Wildcards, so I knew this would be trouble. Once he got to me he looked at my Wildcard and promptly took it away from me and put the card in his shirt pocket. He did it with such joy on his face that I thought he was joking. I was shocked at this action that I just asked him, “Why did you take my Wildcard?” He proudly hand me the Intercampus Shuttle brochure and said that drivers will confiscate expired Wildcards. Once I learned this, I kindly asked the driver if I could have my Wildcard back and just not ride the shuttle. I had money to get on the L, and even though it would take longer to get back up to Chicago, I was ok with that. He didn’t budge, he just pointed to the video camera as to indicate that if he gave me my Wildcard back he would get in trouble. Wow, I didn’t know Northwestern was such a tough employer!
6a. Since the driver was so kind to tell me about the number to call if I had an issue with his decision, I decided to call the number and talk with someone about this problem. The representative I talked to was extremely nice, in direct contrast with this unfortunate bus driver. I explained to her that I understand the policy of the intercampus shuttle, but I would appreciate if I could get my Wildcard back because I still use it for other services. I have no issue of getting off this bus and not using this service, but I thought that the decision to take my Wildcard from me was unfair. She then told me that the driver was supposed to give me the option of not riding the shuttle instead of just taking my Wildcard. Once I heard this good news, I thought this unfortunate situation was over.
6b. Not! I went up to the bus driver and told him that the woman said he should have given me the option to ride or not ride the bus, and he responded with, “They didn’t tell me that.” So first he tells me to call this number if I have any problems, and then once I call this number and tell him what the representative says he decides not to listen. So he just refuses to look at me and respond to my questions for thirty seconds. When he finally decides to open his mouth, it’s only to tell me to move because other people are getting on. With him not responding, I have to tell the woman on the phone that he is not answering my questions and that all I want is to get my Wildcard back and get off the shuttle. To my delight, she tells me to tell him to give me my Wildcard back so I could get off the shuttle. Once I tell him this, he still refuses to answer me!
6c. So I have now just entered the Twilight Zone. I couldn’t believe that he was just going to stare into the window without answering me. Is this real life? I told the woman again that he was refusing to give me my Wildcard back and she told me to give his name to her, so I gladly walked up to him again and read his name out loud right in front of his face. Finally after 30 seconds or so – which felt like an eternity – he gave me my Wildcard back. After this ugly experience, I ended up hanging out with my friend again for another two hours, and that turned out to be a lot of fun. Around 6pm we parted ways and I headed to the Red Line to finally make it back up to Evanston five hours after I had originally planned to.
7. The L ride I had going up to Evanston was in direct contrast to my experience on the intercampus shuttle. Even though it was hot as hell down there – you know like the hot they show in movies before some crazy person like John Travolta decides to hijack your train – the L conductor was one of the nicest people ever. At every stop along the Red Line, he said something nice to people leaving the train or gave a tip to help them get home. I mean seriously stop after stop, he would say, “have a great weekend” or “there is a bus transfer downstairs, you have a few minutes to catch it.” I just smiled the whole trip back. As we approached the Howard stop, I wondered if he had one more nice thing to say to his final customers. So right when I got off the Red Line he told all the exiting customers to “live long and prosper” and that “he was just trying to cheer us up, have a great night.” Absolutely epic.
For the time in two months, I didn’t have a very routine schedule, and in return, I didn’t get a very routine day. Once I got to Chicago, I just made decisions of the fly. Most of those decisions turned about to be good ones, and one decision turned into an ugly experience. But even with the good and ugly moments yesterday, I’m glad all of them happened. For one, it showed me the spectrum of how people in public service treat their customers. While I technically broke a rule on the shuttle, the driver chose to handle the situation in a way that motivated to get my Wildcard back even more. On the other hand, the L conductor didn’t have to be that nice on my ride back to Evanston. I’m pretty sure there was no directive from his boss telling him to do that, because that’s the first time in my numerous rides on the L that I heard a CTA employee be so nice. He chose to be nice.
This day made such an impact on me that I decided to email the head of University Services at NU to discuss the inconsistent policy of Wildcard usage after graduation. Since most seniors’ leases don’t until September, I believe the least Northwestern could do would be to grant seniors transitioning out of Evanston an extension to use SPAC AND ride the intercampus shuttle. Doesn’t seem like a hard thing to me.
But I also decided to email the CTA to tell them about the great time I had on the Red Line. If I wouldn’t have been in the middle of the train when I got off at Howard, I would have went up to the L conductor and told him personally. Hopefully my message gets to him or someone who works with him.
What an interesting day.