When you live in a city that has a great public transit system as Chicago does, you learn how to get just about anywhere on the buses and trains. Grandma Holton used to drag her sister Florence around Chicago all the time on the buses, and said she could go nearly anywhere she wanted for a quarter. The price of a bus ride has gone up dramatically since Grandma was truckin’ around Chicago, but still, it’s a relatively inexpensive method of travel, and everyone uses it if they’re going downtown, because it costs an arm and a leg to park there.
I worked downtown when I was younger. My office was at Monroe and Franklin, a block away from the Sears Tower. (They renamed it the Willis Center a few years ago, but to someone who grew up in Chicago, it’ll always be the Sears Tower, just as the store at State and Randolph with a big clock will always be Marshall Field’s. I don’t care how much Macy’s paid to put their name on the door.)
Marshall Field’s actually has two clocks, one at Randolph and State, the other at Washington and State. This is the latter. (Source: Wikipedia)
Where was I? Oh yeah.
My normal route to work was to take the #47 bus to what was then called the Lake-Dan Ryan Rapid Transit station at 47th Street (now it’s the Red Line Rapid Transit), ride the train to Adams and Wabash, and hike across the Loop to Monroe and Franklin, about half a mile in whatever weather was going on, whether it was 95° and 95% humidity or -10° and the wind blowing at 15 mph (that’s a wind chill of -32°) or anything in between.
On good days, I’d take a walk at lunchtime, sometimes through the Loop, sometimes away from the Loop. One day, while walking away from the Loop, I discovered that Greek Town was within relatively easy walking distance of the office. Greek Town was on Halsted Street, one of those very long streets that stretches practically through the entire city. I knew it crossed over 47th Street, and that the #8 bus ran down it.
Now, this isn’t really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but to me, this was a revelation. I was starting to get bored with my usual route to the office, and was tired of having to stand most of the way on the train, especially after a hard day when it was hot. I decided to try taking the Halsted bus home that evening. If it really sucked, I’d go back to my usual route, but at least I’d have another way to the office if one was needed.
That afternoon, I hiked over to Halsted and caught the southbound #8 bus. I got a seat right away; the bus was never more than half-full on the entire trip. It was a quiet ride, and I was able to finish the crossword puzzle in the Sun-Times well before I had to transfer. Best of all, I got home about fifteen minutes earlier. The commute the next morning was just as stress-free. I didn’t have to battle the crowds in the Loop, I was able to have some quiet time after spending the day at work, I was getting good exercise with all the walking (I was about 200 lb. lighter then), and occasionally I’d meet some interesting people. A win-win all around.