Writer’s Workshop: The Green Limousine

A CTA bus. Source: Pinterest

Chicago has some of the best public transit in the United States. My grandmother, who rode the buses all the time, said that she could get anywhere in the city on a single fare. Things have changed since she (and I, for that matter) rode the buses. For one thing, it’s a whole lot more expensive than it used to be; for another, they’ve adopted a zone system for fares, where if you’re traveling to one of the more remote outposts of the city, you pay more; and the buses and trains no longer can be counted on to run at all hours of the day and night. Nevertheless, if you don’t have a car (and many Chicagoans don’t), it’s a pretty reliable method of transportation, especially if you live in the city itself. There are a few of the Rapid Transit (train) lines that go to some of the suburbs, and there are suburban buses there that can get you where you need to go, or at least close to it.

I didn’t drive until I was 28. I had a bad experience in Driver’s Ed in high school, after which I decided that I would see how long I could go without having a car or being able to drive before taking driving lessons and buying a car. Since most of that time I was working close to bus routes, it wasn’t much a problem, at least when the weather was decent. When we would get bad weather, it was iffy, especially if the bad weather involved snow. I talked about one particular misadventure here, in case you’re interested.

There are times I miss it, because it reminds me of a much simpler time in my life when I was young and slim and the world was bursting with possibilities for me. Then I remember the bad experiences: standing in the rain, waiting for a bus for seemingly hours, only to have two or three show up at the same time; having the bus break down and having to wait for one to come along and rescue me and the other passengers; having ten inches of blowing and drifting snow wreak havoc on my plans to get home; watching the bus I had to catch to get to work on time drive past when I was half a block away from the stop.

And yet, I still miss it.

16 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: The Green Limousine

  1. I recall visiting Chicago with my family as a kid. My Dad’s brother & his wife lived there and they took us downtown to ride the Elevated Train. It was neat. That was in the late 60’s.

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    1. So you rode around the Loop (which got its nickname because of the train tracks encircling it)? Did you get a chance to check out the subway as well? Chicago definitely has its act together on public transit.

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  2. I can’t imagine not needing a car. I grew up in such a small town that you couldn’t go anywhere without a car. Most people outside of the town would have to drive 5-20 miles to go to a store. I think I would have really liked being able to take a train or a bus to where ever… but dates must have been less personal.

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  3. I enjoyed this, John. Took me back to waiting for the Yellow Bus when I was in school but, those rides were taken only on a rainy day. When the weather was favorable, the very long walk to and from high school was time spent with friends.

    When I share this with my grandkids now, I always laugh at their response…”you walked to school?”. I always respond, “Yup…uphill both ways and barefoot, in the snow”.

    At times, humor is definitely wasted on the young.

    Stay safe!

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    1. I never took a school bus to school. CTA trains and buses, yes, but not a yellow bus, unless they rented one to take us on a field trip. I always lived close enough to walk it. Grammar school was two blocks away, a 5-10 minute walk; high school was a little over a mile, so it took 15-20 minutes.

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  4. I rode buses until I was old enough to get a driver’s license. Back in the day when Orlando, Fl was not as populated as it is now, buses were a great way to get around. However, at that time the city wasn’t large enough to need a mass transit system and the bus routes were sparse. So, having a car was was ideal. I was in my teens when I started driving.

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    1. That was like when I moved to the suburbs. I went from “the world is my oyster!” to zilch. I was in college before we had any public transportation where I lived…

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  5. NYC has great public transportation too, you can get almost anywhere in the city with your Metrocard. Out here in the ‘burbs, though … I learned to drive at 17 because I didn’t have a choice.

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  6. Transit is so needed in cities and I recall my ex almost at the bus stop and the bus takes off. My ex ran after the bus but he did not stop. Toronto has a great transit system but I live in the Niagara region and there are cities plus small towns and out transit system truly sucks! We need connections to the towns/cities more than just 2 times per day. It’s really quite horrible

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