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Burning smell prompts mass exodus

At the far south end of the northbound Grand Avenue subway platform, 20 feet past the platform itself, I watch as an incoming train spits up huge sparks, causing a flare-up of smoke, but no fire.

The trains' wheels carry the smoldering embers of paper litter into the station. A smoky, burning odor permeates the entire station, causing the motorman to leave his cabin to investigate.

Meanwhile passengers wait with a sense of unease and dread. People start to show real concern when the lights go out on about half the cars. Passengers are getting more restless by the second.

Then one bails out and leaves the car. And another. Two more. In less than 15 seconds a mass exodus occurs of passengers fleeing what they think is a burning train car -- though no one has told us to leave. It's like lemmings to the sea.

But I know better, and make my opportunity to stake out the best seat in the house -- the single seat adjacent to the door between cars.

Meanwhile, people are mingling outside the car, while I get comfy with my book. I'm the only one on the train.

Within a minute, the motorman kicks off the familiar "doors closing" announcement, and passengers come swarming back on, almost as quickly as they left.

We pull out and continue on our route as if nothing happened.


Like lemmings to the sea, or people not interested in being injured or killed in a fire or victims of smoke inhalation (or even something as non-life-threatening as smoky-smelling clothes). Leaving seems like a rational decision to me.

You sound so glum and proud of your decision to endanger yourself.

I don't trust CTA officials to alert me to danger any farther than I can throw them. You call the other riders who left the train "lemmings" - but you're the one who is blindly putting your faith in the CTA.

Burning smell? Check. Smoke? Check. For me it'd be time to get off the train - if only to get away from the smell.

But hey, it's great that you got the bum-seat on the train. Way to go!


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