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The compulsively clean guy protects himself

I've been using the 151 Sheridan lately to visit a relative in the hospital at St. Joseph Hospital. I'm usually an El rider. But I've ridden the bus enough to know that it is a different experience.

I've neally ever seen the compulsively clean guy on a train. But there he was on the 151.

He was wearing a long sleeve, blue oxford shirt. His shirt sleeves were unbuttoned. That's so he could pull his sleeve down and cover his palm with it while grasping a bus pole while standing in the aisle. And I watched as he carefully avoiding touching any surface with a bare hand.

After all, he's the compulsively clean guy.

Have you ever seen a guy or gal like him on your travels?


Yes, on the BLue line there is a fellow who always has a dark blue scarf that he holds over his face and nose in the station and on the train. Even on the hottest days and when the air is actually somewhat fresh on the Blue Line. I guess he just doesn't want to breathe CTA air.

It's not a bad idea to exercise some caution and at least wash your hands when you get home or to work or wherever you're going... Who hasn't touched a pole that was a little slimy?
It's been a couple of months, isn't the RedEye overdue to tell us how many germs and microbacteria are on the escalator stairs at the Monroe station?

Yeah, it's hell having a mental illness like OCD. I know because I have it. I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish with this story but it comes off very "hey, check out the weirdo! Have you seen one?"

Also, that fellow who has a scarf on his face? Have you considered he may have a compromised immune system?

I never touch a pole unless I have to (SRO, abrupt stop, etc.) Also, I don't see how people can touch elevator buttons with their fingers. All knuckles for me.

Geez, can't write anything without someone getting sensitive these days..

This morning, a lady was throwing up into a plastic bag on the Brown line....I felt awful for her, as I had no napkins or tissues to offer her, and there was nothing else she could have done. But it sure makes you want to wash your hands more often!

Oh, God yes. The woman on the 136 every weekday morning at about 8:30: tallish, thin, African American, about 50ish. She catches it at the stop just before the one at Foster on Sheridan (in front of the Wing Hoe Chinese Restaurant) and she has a whole ritual. She actually crries a small bag that has her cleaning supplies in it! A spray bottle of some concoction I suspect she created herself and some paper towels. Sprays the seat down with her sprayer, then wipes the seat down. THEN she not only puts paper towels down to created a protective barrier between her butt and the seat but she also puts a paper towel down on the seat next to her to protect her bag!!! She will also walk through the bus to close any open windows, even those all the way in the back of the bus, even though she usually sits near the front of the bus. This has caused fights on a hot summer day as people who have opened the window two seconds before watch in astonishment as she marches back and closes them. And she doesn't want anyone to sit near. Remember we're talking about rush hour. If someone askes her to move her bag of cleaning supplies to she will do so but very grudgingly, as if providing a seat on a crowded rush hour bus is a major inconvenience for her (which, I guess it is in her germophobic mind).

She used to catch the 136 at 8 a.m. but I think she switched to a later bus because A) they're less crowded and B) she HAS to have the same seat every day (the second forward facing seat on the left side) or very close to it. I've actually seen her look inside the bus first before getting on to ensure that she can have an entire two-seat set to herself.

I'm pretty sure she has an actual job downtown, like I said, she goes to work on the bus every day.

And Sara, sorry, but this is strange to me. If she has a condition such as OCD, she has my sympathy. But her habit of protecting the seat next and only relinquinshing it as a final resort and closing windowns that others want open has erased a lot of that sympathy from me.

BTW, I just realized that my detailed description of her compulsive ritual make me sound compulsive about watching her. But I can't help it! It's been about four years since I started riding the 136 and I see this almost every day!

I'm sensitive about it for a very good reason - that people are extremely INsensitive about mental illness, and OCD in particular. And while this post was nicer by far than most of what I encounter online, it still reads to me like check out the weirdo. Which we all do on occaison, but seriously. This isn't someone being unusual - this is someone with a mental disorder.

"And Sara, sorry, but this is strange to me. If she has a condition such as OCD, she has my sympathy. But her habit of protecting the seat next and only relinquinshing it as a final resort and closing windowns that others want open has erased a lot of that sympathy from me."

Wow. So you lose all pity for someone when their disorder reaches even more bizarre heights? So only people with a small level of their disorder deserve your sympathy. Interesting.

I'm not saying that what she's doing is normal or not annoying - but you might want to activate that pity center again instead of just thinking she's a jerk. She clearly cannot help her actions if she's that sick. She also likely knows it makes no sense and is unfair to others - but she cannot stop herself from doing it anyway. If that doesn't engender sympathy, I don't know what would.

And calling her a "germaphobe" isn't accurate either. This is full-blown mental illness, likely untreated.

Look, I'm not trying to be snotty or rude so I hope I'm not coming off that way, honestly, I'm not. But most normal brained people don't think about these things in terms of mental illness. It's more about look at that weird guy or how selfish is this woman without realizing the motivations behind what's happening with them. I just want to point that out - that woman on the bus? She doesn't want to be that way, I guarantee you money. But she is compelled to behave that way and can't stop herself. Which is very sad.

I'm lucky to have gotten my own OCD very much under control. But it is still with me, and I can see, if I hadn't received some treatment, how I could have ended up someday like the bus lady.

"Wow. So you lose all pity for someone when their disorder reaches even more bizarre heights? So only people with a small level of their disorder deserve your sympathy. Interesting."

First, I didn't say I lost all pity for her... in fact I didn't use the word "pity", you did. I said sympathy, which is a bit different.

second, when her condition impacts itself on others, yes, sorry to say, I look at differently. I am of course no doctor (and neither are you, I'm guessing), but from what i can see she is very concerned about germs and has compiled a "kit" to deal with it. Fine, I have no problem with that. Lots of people are concered about germs or there wouldn't be market for portable bottles of hand sanitizers or specially made doorknobs that can be worked with the elbow. But, yes, sorry to say that when her compulsion means she reacts angrily and selfishly when I open a freaking windown on a hot bus or try to take the remaining seat on a crowded bus that just happens to be next to her, I'm not going to sit there and play bus psychologist and chalk it all up to whatever OCD she might have and let her have her way.

i have sympathy for her if she indeed has a mental illness. but if you're saying we should all step aside and let conduct her life (and in effect conduct ours) however she wants to in public, it's not going to happen.

So why don't you tell us what we should do in that situation? Other than immediately chalk all her actions up to OCD...

I am with Dude on this

Dude's got a good point. It's one thing when one's mental illness affects one's own life. When closing windows and maintaining space create problems for other people, it's a different story.

Not to keep harping on the woman I see on the 136 bus, but there are plenty of people who don't know her or her "story", who for whatever reason don't see her on the bus every day and know her ritual, who may ride an earlier bus regularly and this one day take a later one and encounter her or maybe just switched over to riding on this route. I've seen them react to here when she huffs and puffs in frustration or anger when they ask her if she could move her bag so they can sit down or when she shuts a window they just opened. So what should they do about? It's not like she exhibits any of the traits we associate (right or wrong) with mental illness like talking to herself, etc. They just see a woman who is well dressed riding the bus. If they see her cleaning off a seat for the first time are they supposed to immediatly assume she has OCD and cut her a wide berth?

And once again, we're all playing psychologist. Neither you nor I know if she really has OCD or is just being an a-hole.

I have ridden the 136 for years, but haven't seen her before... that I know of. Perhaps I just ride a little earlier than her. The only people I see in 2 seats are the people who are too fat to fit in one.

You want to run a story about how a $200 device gives you a lifetime of magstripe rides:

She usually gets on now at about 8:30. I used to ride at 8 a.m. but found out that I can get to work at an acceptible time even if I leave at 8:30 so I do. and I started seeing her getting on at that time too. Not sure where you get on, but she doesn't cause a real disturbance or anything (unless a window is open, etc.). She just rides unassumingly.

And I'm not trying to turn this into a "Hey, show up at this time and watch the strange woman" show either by specifying the time she gets on.

and Chris, you're on your own on the size reference...

Seriously, crazy people are crazy. That's why they're called crazy people.

when her condition impacts itself on others, yes, sorry to say, I look at differently.

I have to agree.

We all should have tolerance for those different than us, especially if they're different not by choice.

However, we all need to be able to get along to some extent. If someone has a problem that prevents then from interacting without causing someone problems -- and sumarily closing the window next to them on a hot day falls into that category -- then they need to either find a way to adjust, or avoid the situation.

Overall, it sounds like this woman isn't more than a minor annoyance, and that most of the time she can be tolerated, and perhaps even endulged. But having a disorder doesn't give one carte blanche.

Open windows can always be a point of contention, but it shouldn't have to turn into a case of the most insistant person wins. If the woman who needs the windows closed ends up on the same bus as someone wtih a compulsion to have an open window, what happens?

Well, if it's hot, and people who don't have a compulsion either way are sweating like pigs, it's reasonable that the window is left open. If it's January, and the outside temperature is in the single digits, obviously the window needs to be closed. Either way, someone with a compulsion beyond their control is impacted, and we have a perfect example of where tolerance and compassion for someone hits it's limit.

There are no always or nevers. If there were, eventually an always and a never will conflict. All there can be is tolerance, and tolerance is not an unlimited concept. (And for some reason, tolerance not being an unlimited concept can really upset some people!)

And they said you had to talk about budgets, Springfield, or Ron to get lots of comments...

Which buses have windows you can open? And why aren't they open right from the start of the route? It's ridiculous for the CTA to claim it has an environmentally aware cell in its collective brain when it's running the AC on every bus during weather this nice.

Many of the buses I've ridden in the last couple of years have their windows bolted shut with hex nuts. Open 'em up, Ron! Instead of tearing out the standard seats and putting in lighter ones, you can turn off the AC and open the windows for a much simpler mileage improvement *and* keep Chicago a little more environmentally balanced. Are you scared of lawsuits from the crazies who're afraid of a little breeze?

"Which buses have windows you can open?"

Buses like this:
(you have to copy and paste the link)

See that little section at the top of the window? You open them at the top by pulling the little latch in and tilting it inward. The entire window does not open, just that section at the top. The woman I wrote about goes around closing them when she gets on the bus.

"And why aren't they open right from the start of the route?"

As for why they don't open them at the start of the run, my guess is because the driver is sitting in the front and has his own window and doesn't know if it's hot at the rear. But it's a simple solution: the passenger can open it if they are too warm and the majority of the time, the majority of the passengers are in agreement that a window should be open. Hardly anyone ever complains. Well, HARDLY anyone...

Wow, didn't realize that links were automatically connected and stuff...

The bus windows have been a BIG point of frustration for me lately. The brand new busses now on the 8 Halsted have had their windows bolted shut with those hex nuts. I can understand not wanting to have the windows open when the air/heat really should be on, but I'm sure it will surprise nobody that neither of these systems functions 100% of the time.

Besides, it's a bus/train, the door is constantly opening/closing anyway. Not exactly a closed or efficient system regardless. Why not let the windows be open (by customers, not just CTA personel) during nice weather/when the A/C is broken/when the heat won't turn off in the winter and it's 90 degrees on the bus and you're in your winter coat?

It's no wonder people are always sick: we're avoiding the germs that help keep our immune systems on their toes. And we're trying so hard to fight germs by other means, that *they* are becoming immune to *us*.

Certainly, I wash my hands before I eat, and when I've been out and about I wash when I get home – usually simply because I'm about to dig into the ice bucket to make myself a refreshing beverage. But I'm certainly not going to avoid touching door handles or stair rails. And if I rub my eye before I wash...oh, well – guess my immune system will have to do the rest.

Windows being open on the older style buses is a potential hazard. Too many people stick hands arms and even their entire head out windows. Not to mention we dont all want to breathe in the exhaust of the trucks next to us.

There are plenty of reasons NOT to open windows on a bus.

As to the OCD discussion, wether you are or you are not, chances are very good you are not diagnosed to begin with. Do I think I am OCD? Sure. I count my steps every where I go, I know the exact amount of stairs in every staircase I walk up or down. I follow the same path through the store wether I need somthing from that aisle or not. Are those signs of being OCD? Yes they are. Does it matter? No. Being OCD is fine until it interferes in another persons life. At that point, you MUST seek treatment.

We have a regular on the #77 bus that has one of the more annoying OCD routines I've ever seen. Every time someone pulls the cord he has to get up, walk to the front of the bus(and he always sits in the rear and gets very agitated if he cant) to tell the driver "Someone wants to get off , Thank you" and then walks back to his seat. He lost it one day on a bus where it would just keep dinging no matter if someone had already pulled the cord and a bunch of high school kids just kept pulling the cord over and over and over before he finally plopped himself down next to the driver and started crying and making a scene. He's not usually a problem unless the bus is packed and he cant get to and from his seat to make his little speech.

I have ridden the 136 for years, but haven't seen her before... that I know of. Perhaps I just ride a little earlier than her. The only people I see in 2 seats are the people who are too fat to fit in one.


And to you good sir, may every fat person in Chicago sit next to you. Preferably on a bus with no AC and no windows open on the hottest day of the year.

Seriously, people complain if we sit, complain if we stand, complain that we exist. Get off it, we dont want to be fat. Losing weight after it gets seriously out of control is one of the hardest things I've ever tried to do(20 lbs in 4 months of eating right with light excersize because my body just cant handle heavy excersize.)

well said, Charles! I feel exactly the same way. All this hand sanitizing and anti-bacterial stuff will leave us vulnerable to the next mutation. No resistance left.
Exceptions for working in the medical field, of course. Shouldn't bring in things that might harm recovering patients.

Sure, there are plenty of reasons not to open windows on a bus. None of them are reasons why it shouldn't be an option - close them if it bothers you.

Someone who I know worked in public works in another city. Each year they did studies on what departments used the most sick leave, and ironically, the sewer department was always one of the smallest users per capita of the 60 or so different units broken-out.

And when they broke-down the figures by job type rather than department, clerical workers (the kind that weren't staffing public desks) were one of the highest users.

I'm not saying we'd all be healthier if we cleaned sanitary sewers for a living. (Sanitary sewer -- the ultimate oxymoron.) I'm sure that there were plenty of rookies who never returned for a second season because they couldn't build-up the immunity, and they very well could have gotten office jobs. So the populations involved in this simple observation are not likely to be scientifically valid.

Arborists know that a tree that spends more than a year supported by stakes is more likely to break and fall when it gets older than a tree that has to learn to sway wth the wind. Again, it may be that the trees that break easily might not have made it longer than those first few years in the first place.

So either we're not letting natural selection do it's job of weeding the poor stock from our lines, or we're not building the immunity that we really need. Either way, those who are worried about the over-use of antibacterials aren't crying wolf.

Expose yourself to some bacteria today. You'll thank yourself tomorrow.

I've never seen that guy, but it's because I am That Guy. I never needed Purell until I started to regularly ride transit.

Clerical workers have to endure hours every day of people coming up to their desks to ask questions, borrow pencils, ask the same questions again and generally waste time - all the while spreading their germs around. Public desks or not - that's the usual deal.

So Rusty - how about exposing yourself to some science as well as some of that curative 'bacteria' buddy.

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