Wednesdays and public transportation
Trip Start Aug 07, 2008
9Trip End Aug 12, 2009
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The coolest part of my Wednesdays though, or rather when I feel the coolest, is after chapel when we convert the gym into the cafeteria. This involves pulling down the tables from the wall, ushering the students to get in line for hot lunch, and putting away the bleachers
On Wednesdays I also do my regular duties of helping in the cafeteria, holding detention for K-3 (there's not too many of them at that age), gathering up the kids who ride the bus, and helping the kindergartners with Homework Hour during the after school program. Except their homework usually consists of writing the letter of the day for a couple of lines, and then we go out to the playground to get their energy out.
My other favorite part of Wednesdays is getting to spend an hour in the library. So far I've been cataloguing boxes of books. This is the first year Holy Family has had a library (since this is a new building for them, there's actually room for one), and its librarian is retired from the Chicago Public Schools and now volunteers her time and experience at Holy Family
Speaking of books, this past week was Banned Books Week, to spread awareness of books that people have tried to ban over the years and generally celebrate the fact that we live in a country that supports free speech. Last Saturday I went to a read-aloud downtown on the Chicago Tribune plaza, sponsored by that newspaper and the ALA. They had a couple dozen authors lined up to read throughout the afternoon, but I went to see three of my favorites from childhood: Judy Blume, Lois Lowry, and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Each read selections from their books that have caused controversy as well as letters or emails from concerned parents, mostly. I was just thrilled to see these incredible women in person, and a big surprise was that they were not only signing books, but also giving them away. So I now have a copy of The Giver signed by Lois Lowry, which I really need to reread since I first read it in 5th grade.
The Tribune Plaza is on Michigan Avenue, in the middle of what's known as the Magnificent Mile. This is definitely the more touristy spot in town, as well as more high end, with every store imaginable begging you to shop til you drop. Which is something that's easy to resist when your monthly budget is less than a pair of jeans at some of those places! It's fun to be among the crowds though, and the sidewalks are wide and the buildings are beautiful. The weekend before last I also had my first experience on Navy Pier, another tourist hot spot, when I met up with another LVCer for a concert at the end of the pier. This is the place with Chicago's famous Ferris wheel, and plenty of arcade games and places to get food and good people watching.
Last Sunday I took part in a Where's Waldo photo scavenger hunt around the Loop and general vicinity. This event was the brilliant idea of Helen, the kindergarten teacher at my school, who went to the Minnesota equivalent of PLU, and her husband Matt. Their inspiration was their 10 month old son Matias, who they dressed up as Waldo (Helen painted red stripes on a white onesie) and were wheeling around Millennium Park (we found this out later) in his stroller. I didn't know anybody, but I fit in because I met Helen's sisters, whose names are Heather and Hannah, so we bonded over the "H" sisters things
Speaking of public transportation, it's kind of been a love/hate relationship lately. This is because they are doing construction on our Brown El line each weekend for three months. I found this out because two weekends ago it took me nearly double the time it usually does to get downtown into the Loop, and the same thing happened this past weekend, so I asked a friendly CTA worker in a fluorescent vest and he told me very cheerfully that I should expect these kind of delays every weekend until Christmas. I was doing ok with the "we're down to one track so we're waiting for another train to pass" situation, since that's for safety, and even backing up on the same track we just traversed was an interesting experience, but if it averts running into an oncoming train, that's fine too. But when they make everyone get off at Belmont, a station about halfway to downtown, and make you get on another train? That is a little annoying
I don't mean to dis the El too much, because it's still super fun to ride and really a much better option than walking or even bussing most times. And as much as I love the El, there's nothing like an unpredictable bus ride in Chicagoland for a little entertainment. Who needs Six Flags out in the suburbs when you can take a ride on the craziness that is Route 82 Kimball/Homan?! Oh and the way the bus deals with stop signs. You've heard of a California Stop? Where you kind of just roll through? Well let me introduce you to the Chicago Stop, which is to say, non-existent. I've seen more people blow through stop signs in the past month than in the rest of my life! And maybe I have a small sample, and it's just this one corridor of the city, but it's so prevalent. And we're talking not just quiet little neighborhood intersections, but the main arterial my bus goes on. Cars do it, buses do it, I've even seen police cars do it. Buses think they adhere to a separate, parallel set of traffic laws to the ordinary ones. For example, even though it's technically a two-lane road, buses drive on the shoulder, pull up to traffic signals, etc, all while creating their own right lane
You also have to be careful which bus driver you get. Some of them drive like they're trying to beat their own personal best times between stops. Which wouldn't be so bad if the stops weren't every other block! I mean, these very bouncy, jerky bus rides provide my neck with quite a workout, especially when I'm reading, or napping. Depending on the driver, my commute has taken anywhere from 43 minutes to an hour and 3 minutes. Each bus stop is actually a street name, and I have the big ones almost memorized between my apartment and school. The next stop is flashed on a reader board at the front of the bus above the windshield, and a recorded voice announces it each time. This comes in handy because all I have to do is listen or glance up and I can instantly tell how far I have to go.
And the people I meet on the bus are just characters! I could write a book conjecturing on each one's life--the teens, the young parents with their strollers, the different cultures. There was the lady who showed me her rosary, the man who told me about his car detailing business (sorry, I won't be using that), the students who are on their way to school in uniform, which I always use as a conversation starter
In other news, I am posting this entry from school because our wireless internet has been out for nearly two weeks at home. To make a long, long story short, AT&T is not on my list of favorite companies right now. If we were paid a nickel for every minute me or one of my housemates spends on the phone with them, we'd probably exceed our joint food budget. This whole saga has made for some interesting dinner conversations though, as we try to remember what life was like before the internet was such an integral part of it. If you ever want to try an experiment of No Internet for a Long Time, just have one of your housemates accidentally push the reset button on the modem. Just sayin'. And it's not like we're totally attached (ok maybe a little), but we just want to read and respond to emails, check the bus schedules (which they don't have paper copies of, by the way), and maybe get an update on news on the days we don't get a newspaper. We all have internet at work, but at least for me I definitely don't have time to use it during the day, so I've taken to staying longer after school. The most recent time we talked to AT&T, they mentioned October 8 as a possible day that service might be restored, so we'll see.
Tomorrow I'm taking the MegaBus (similar to Greyhound, but Midwest-centric) to Milwaukee with my co-LVCer Emily for a conference. It will be nice to have a change of pace, not just being a different city but also having a couple days off of school. I'm hoping to look out the window the whole time and see some changing colors on the leaves.
I will post more photos once we ever get our home internet back or I feel inspired to track down some free Wi-Fi. Happy October!