This is the seventh in a series of stories by Kimmel, who's given up her car and is relying primarily on public transit.
On the way up Chicago last week, my friend Amber rode the MegaBus with me from Indianapolis. It was my first time taking it and I’m pretty sure I will never drive up to Chicago again.
Once we arrived, we began taking the Red Line from the Loop to Loyola—about a 45-minute trip that we made a couple of times a day. We were staying with a friend while in town for a conference and enjoying every second of the city’s transit.
Not having much time to chat lately, we were deep in conversation on the train our first day in the city. Just as our conversation was moving to more personal things, I began to notice that every person on the train was awkwardly staring at us and listening. That’s when I realized that we were the only people talking and, though we were talking normally, it felt like we were yelling.
Realizing this, we adjusted our volume and finished our conversation, but the other riders sat in silence, with headphones in, reading the paper or staring out the window. It was a real contrast from the trip I wrote about last week and from the feeling that Indianapolis has a bus community that enjoys chatting with one another.
On one trip, there was a couple who had individual sets of headphones in their ears and sat with their backs to each other without saying a word — or even looking at one another — for the entire 45-minute ride. He sat staring into space and she was busy munching on her candy bar. I only assume they were a couple because they were sitting on a bench together while the rest of the train was empty.
This culture of keeping to yourself is sort of insidious. We took one trip with our friend and as soon as we all sat down, he turned around, put his headphones in and didn’t say another word to us for that 45-minute ride. I should mention he is from Indiana and it seems it hasn’t taken him long to adjust to the Chicago lifestyle.
I noticed on another ride that the whole back section of the train car was full of people with newspapers and I couldn’t see a single face, not even the person’s closest to me.
Amber and I only needed to ride the bus one time while we were there and even on that trip every person sat in silence. To make sure we were on the right path, Amber had to call to the person across the aisle several times, and he didn’t even have headphones in!
With this sort of private environment expected on the Chicago public transit system, I can’t help but feel thankful to be riding the bus in Indianapolis and spending time conversing with fellow riders. I have a new appreciation for our transit system, though if only for my own social benefits.