The train system in Chicago is more commonly referred to as the “El”, which stands for “Elevated”. With the exception of a certain lines downtown, the train is all above ground, mostly up above the traffic flow and even with the tops of trees. The exception to this is a line of track out west on the Brown Line. It sits even with the street, causing traffic in that area to be halted regularly for the rattling old machines. The beautiful part about these stops is that in addition to the main entrance/exit, they have multiple unmanned entrances and exits that span a few blocks, allowing you to get on the train closer to wherever you are. This is unlike other stops where there is only one entrance, causing you to have to go out of your way sometimes to access the turnstiles. Not fun in 2 feet of snow.
I have a few friends that live over there and today they were having a BBQ. It was a rockin’ good time that lasted well into the evening. It was the kind of all day party that ends with a counter-top covered in beer bottles and a found frozen pizza being consumed immediately out of the oven while leaning up against said counter. You get the idea.
A group of us, the last to leave, decided to take the train back rather than cabbing it. But when we reached one of those random turnstiles, we found it out of order, a common occurrence in our charming city. These entrances are always equipped with an emergency exit door in the case of turnstile malfunctions and I happened to know that this one was regularly used and no alarm would be sounded. So my lovely friend had the idea, which was also running through my head, to run down the tracks, hop onto the platform and open the door for us. None of us really felt like walking the few blocks to the main entrances, so we supported her in this decision and waited.
As my friend fled down the tracks, I commented about how I had the same idea, but knew I was too short to actually pull it off, which was only partly true. It scared the crap out of me. I think anyone who ever saw Stand By Me as a kid is a little freaked out about walking on train tracks. But a part of me always envied their daring and secretly wished I had the courage.
Once the door was open, our group began to make our way up to the platform, to which I thrust my bag into my friend’s hands, saying “Hold this” and ran down the tracks myself. Now, because my mother reads this, I feel the need to point out we had looked up the train on Train Tracker and knew there wasn’t one coming for about 10 minutes. I was also sober. I knew I was safe.
The best part about all of this was, again, the Little Factor. My height is a common annoyance when trying to get things done and this was no different. I got past the gate and went to hop up, only to discover that the platform came up to my chin. I shrieked, to which the gentlemen with me hoisted me up, banging me against the wood.
I have a bruise on my knee and stomach, but it was worth it for the exhilaration. Even though it wasn’t necessary and I won’t ever feel the need to do it again, I’m so happy I’ve got that in the memory bank. It may have been a stupid decision, but it was a risky one as well.