Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Fire at Fullerton

I had another post planned for today, a sciency one. But that one will have to wait. Last night was just too interesting not to record. What I was trying to do was meet Andy (I hope you doesn't mind being mentioned, Andy) downtown for the outdoor movie in Grant Park. It was "Roman Holiday." Here is what happened on the way.

I'm waiting to cross the street by my El stop, and someone says to me, "They were on their way to deliver the bridge, but they ran out of gas."

I say, "They what what?"

He points. "The truck ran into the bridge there. So I said, you know, they tried to deliver the bridge..." Sure enough, a semi is wedged under not-quite-elevated-enough El tracks. The cab went under, but the top of the trailer is crumpled backwards, and a cop has closed down the lane. I laugh even though I know I shouldn't, and go up. Just in time to miss my train, but never mind, there'll be another in a minute.

I discover an insect in my shirt. We'll elide that bit.

I make conversation with a couple of women, who did not see me trying to get the bug out of my blouse. (The one who did went to the other end of the platform.) They're trying to figure out whether they need to change trains later. The answer is "yes."

We get on the train. It passes over the stuck truck. A few stops later, they change trains -- I stay put. Except neither train goes anywhere. For a long time. We get a couple of apologetic announcements from the conductor. And then: "This train is gonna be out of service." We all transfer to the other line. I say hi to the women from the platform, and borrow a phone from one of them, make a call about the change of plans, receive a call (she was surprised!) and then the plans change again. This train will be turning back half way, the PA system says unintelligibly. There will be a shuttle bus. The passengers are all talking to one another now, trying to figure out what he said, what they'll have to do. I wonder if that train I missed made it through.

We all get off a few stops later. It is now pouring, so I have my doubts about the movie. But I wait for the bus with everyone else, under the shelter of the tracks. I'm kind of enjoying myself, actually. This train load of people is really starting to bond, now. Everyone's speculating. An old black lady is furious.
Most people seem to think someone has fallen or thrown themselves on the tracks again. They have no patience for anyone whose suicide interrupts their commute. Someone says, "Fire on the Brown Line." The bus comes, destination unmarked, the driver as clueless as we are.

It's the most crowded bus I've ever been on. I get a seat, but most people have to stand in the aisle. The old black lady tells off a young man. He triest to defend himself, but she won't let him get a word in. He stands. She sits. Still scolding.

Off we go. Three high school girls in halter tops are getting a lecture from a dorky white man abot the importance of going to college. They are laughing at him. I'm on his side. I make the cover of my Electromagnetics book more visible. I think they've just finished some kind of summer program, and he must have been one of the instructors. Later he gets off and I think they're trying to read the street name, out the window next to me, so I tell them. But no, they're trying to see a purse in a shop window. Now I feel dorky. I hide the E&M book a little.

There's a leak in the roof above me. As the rain starts coming down for real, the older man (Korean?) next to me and the younger guy sitting behind me both try to block it somehow, but it's futile. All I can do is laugh helplessly. I think I'm going to get a lot wetter tonight. The older man asks me where I'm getting off, tells me he doesn't know how this works and will take his cue from me. That's even funnier.

We don't have much choice in the end. Everyone gets off at the same place, and gets on the Red Line. We're dispersed, though. On this train, I see a familiar face -- I think. I smile. I went on a date with him in October. But he looks blank. Maybe it's not him?

A few minutes later he says my name (slight mispronunciation, which I don't correct.) I answer to it. He apologizes for not getting back to me. I really don't mind. More interestingly, he saw the fire on the brown line. It was at Fullerton, he says. The flames were "pretty high."

He thinks I should walk instead of trying to get the train back to my stop. Since the train back to my stop never comes, I end up taking his advice. It is not raining anymore, but I have to wade some puddles in my sandals.

I can't find Andy at the stop we agreed to, but then I can't get up onto the platform without paying again either. There's some looking for pay phones and begging for mercy from the CTA person so that I can check the platform, but I can't find him. I hadn't had great hopes anyway. He'd been planning to come in on the Brown Line.

It is 9:00 when I get to the park -- an hour an forty-six minutes later than originally planned. The movie was scheduled to start at 8:20, but there seems to have been a rain delay. Audry Hepburn is still asleep in Gregory Peck's bed. I borrow a cell phone from a nice guy at the chair rental place and this time Andy answers. He's in cab, on his way home. But after all that, no way I'm not going watch rest of the movie. I sit on a plastic bag and pull out a piece of graph paper, and while I watch I write down most of the details I've described above. Afterward the people who run the projector are talking about how small the audience was. They assume it was because of the rain, but I tell them about the fire at Fullerton. They ask me what I was writing, and I tell them that too, including the URL for "this little website I've got."

I try to catch a bus home, and the driver tells me to take the El. "Yeah, that line's running. I just took it, didn't I?" He's right.

I can't see any fire damage at Fullerton, although I do see workmen standing around on the tracks. The truck is gone at my stop, too. The ride home is uninteresting, except for a girl sitting next to me, sketching the people on the train.


Anonymous said...

quite a ride -- more than hysterically funny, in fact.

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