Writer’s Workshop: A New Route To Work

I think I’ve done most of my good bus stories (here and here are two of them), but the “Write a post based on the word ‘bus'” prompt is calling me, mostly because the others don’t.

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.

25 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: A New Route To Work

  1. Love that clock! I didn’t even know they changed the names and I find it silly to change names that just belong to certain buildings. I’d be taking that quiet bus all the time instead of the loop. My bus rides….when I was a kid I was an hour on the school bus each time so 2 hrs of fun….not. Every winter the bus driver could be counted on to go into the ditch.

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    1. Macy’s means nothing to a person in Chicago, because Macy’s was always New York. Marshall Field himself was one of Chicago’s city fathers; besides the department store, he owned two of the newspapers and one of the television stations. (There was a BBC program about Selfridge’s Department Store in London; Selfridge worked for Field before moving to England, and the store there is like Field’s was.) Macy’s could have avoided the bad PR if they had kept the Field name in there.

      The thing I liked about taking that bus was that I walked out of the downtown area, away from all the pushing and crowded streets, and was usually the only person on the corner waiting. I’m surprised more people didn’t do that. Halsted ran north to where a lot of folks lived, too. But, it was my secret…

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  2. My mom had a charm bracelet with a tiny gold Marshall Fields clock as one of the charms. And Sears Tower, Hancock Center, Wrigley building – that’s what they’ll always be, regardless of who paid to put their name on it.

    I love Neil Peart’s labeling the venues Rush plays in things like Cellular Telephone Network Amphitheater.

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    1. Right. I didn’t first see Mary in a training class at Macy’s, my Aunt Marie didn’t work at Macy’s for years, and we didn’t go downtown to have lunch under the Christmas tree in the Walnut Room at Macy’s. I worked at the Wrigley Building; the big white building on the North side of the river at Michigan Avenue will always be the Wrigley Building. And, across the street, the big Gothic building will always be Tribune Tower. Marina City, the Hancock Building, Merchandise Mart, The Rookery Building… those will always be what they are to me. Of course, when they built New Comiskey Park, it wrecked everything for me, because they tore down the original, which was either White Sox Park or Comiskey Park depending on who owned the team. It doesn’t matter that they call the new park Guaranteed Rate Field now, and US Cellular Field before that; it sure as hell isn’t Comiskey Park…

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  3. For the most part I’ve only had to rely on the bus when I was commuting to University of Tennessee. The ride was about an hour and if there wasn’t another student to talk to I’d get a lot of reading and studying done during the ride. I didn’t love it, but it wasn’t all that bad either.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. That was always the reason I chose the train (“rapid transit”) at first, but it never occurred to me that the bus could be just as fast, depending on where it ran. I noticed there was a whole lot less stress, and that made it a much more pleasant ride. It was the same when I’d take the bus to work after moving to Atlanta. Very few people rode it, and even if I was stuck in the same traffic I normally drove in, I could read the paper and whatever.

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    1. I think they were bought by a company called BATUS in the early Eighties, then the May Company took them over. It was the Eighties; things were moving all over the place as young men and women got their MBA’s and prepared to take the business world by storm…

      I’m sure the design isn’t unique, but it was unique to Chicago.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it’s funny good that those buildings will always be what they were, because The Mister and I are the same way! Good grief, sometimes they change names every other year! The Bank One Tower is now Salesforce Tower and the Colts play at Lucas Oil Stadium and I could choke and gag on all the sponsorship of sports venues, like whoa.
    I am NO GOOD with bus and train schedules and must be chaperoned by someone who is 🙂

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    1. It’s like that in Atlanta now, with the Braves at SunTrust Stadium and the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. I guess there’s money to be made from people paying for naming rights.

      You get better at reading bus and train schedules the more you deal with buses and trains. Nowadays, people don’t deal with them like they did 40-50 years ago. When I worked in downtown Chicago, I was amazed at how people knew the train schedules, and you’d hear conversations like “If I miss the 5:34, there’s another at 6:03, but it’s not an express train…” It was like a Monty Python sketch…

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  5. We made a couple trips to Chicago during my childhood during the late 60s, early 70s. It was an impressive place for a girl from small town KS. I had almost forgotten Marshall Field’s! Thanks for jogging my memory.

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  6. I was in Chicago years ago and I thought it was a cool city. I remember Marshall Fields and loved that store. I took buses and trains while I was in college, and I love train rides. The train that goes through Blue Ridge. GA is fun.

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  7. Hi John – changing one’s route certainly improved my commuter thoughts … I used to take the bus in London easier than the tube and less full, as you say … that’s a great Monty Python clip … cheers Hilary

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  8. Smart of you to change things up. I commute to work on a bicycle, and found The Best route, even though it’s a mile longer than the shortest route.
    I’ve visited Chicago, so it was fun to read about somewhat familiar places. I didn’t know the Sears Tower has been renamed. It will always be the Sears Tower to me too.

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    1. The shortest route isn’t always the most pleasant. The quickest way to my office at one time still meant I was fighting a lot of traffic, so I started taking a route that was all side streets. It was a little longer and I had traffic lights to deal with, but I liked going that way.

      They renamed Sears Tower in 2009. Not that it matters…

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