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The teenaged sobber meets the motorman's ire

A young woman in her late teens came running through the car, crying, sobbing, blubbering loudly. It looked like a boy cry. You know -- guy troubles.

She went to the next emergency exit, went through the door and just stayed there between cars, sobbing loudly.

An older guy sitting in the Hobo Corner buzzed for the motorman. At the next stop -- Argyle -- the motorman stopped and walked about halfway down the platform. He found her and asked from the platform what she was doing.

She sobbed: "I'm fine! Leave me alone!

He answered, unsympathetically: "What you should be crying about is that your head is gonna get knocked off between these here trains."

She looked embarrassed, and finally took a seat in the train car, still sobbing softly.


I don't understand why this is allowed anyway. Someone is going to get killed. And usually the only people who use them are either up to no good or beggars. Keep them closed except in case of an emergency.

I agree with chris above. Since those doors cannot be locked, they need to be alarmed so that the motorman can stop the train and investigate when they are opened. People opening those doors for anything other than a true emergency should be fined. Most people coming through those doors are up to no good.

What lines do you people ride? The Hi I'm Some Suburban Yokel! Mug Me! lines? Almost all of the people *I've* seen, on the Red Line, are people moving from crowded cars into emptier cars. Moving between cars was allowed until very recently and there's no reason for that to have been changed.

What "no good" was this teenaged girl up to, chris and ebob?

As a kid, we used to pass through the cars all the time. I said PASS THROUGH, not stop in the middle and just hang out (or cry). And in fact people used to open them to cool the car off in the summer when the air conditioning wasn't working. That being said, all it takes is one person falling to their deaths and under the wheels of the train while it's moving on a shakey Sheriday-to-Wilson turn to make everyone suddenly change their mind. Why wait for that? Just find a way to keep them closed until an emergency. If you have to suffer from a crowded el car you have two options: suck it up and take it or learn to spot the empty car and run to it when the train stops and you get on.

The teenaged girl might not have been "up to no good", but her actions endangered herself and possibly others. Normally, the only people I see passing between cars are beggars coming around to harass people. Other than an emergency, there is no reason to pass between cars because all the cars on the train are going to the same place.

Bob S,

I mainly ride the El line and that is where I mostly see it. I don't see it as much on the blue line or brown when I ride that. I'm not a subarbanite and have lived in Chicago (without a car) for some time now. I've NEVER seen anyone use these doors to escape a crowded car to get to a less crowded car. Besides, if that is the case, learn how to board a less crowded car before boarding (ie. The cars at the front and back are usually less crowded). As far as I know, no rules have changed and if they have, they are not enforced.

In this case, the girl was not "up to no good", just simply not thinking straight since she was in a distressed state.

I stand by my comments. I wonder if you'll stand by yours when someone gets run over on the tracks and there is public outcry?

I saw someone, last summer, late at night, vomit out that door (I think he was way drunk). I was glad it was there, instead of on the train!

There's a guy here at work who has been ticketed twice recently for using the emergency doors between the cars. He was trying to get away from gangbangers, so IMO, he was using the doors correctly, but that's not what the police thought.

Haha, good for the motorman.
Oh, teenage drama.

I think the motorman handled that well. Something like "Get back in the car!" might have escalated into something nasty with her in that state.

Teenage drama? How easily we dismiss teens. For all anyone knows, her mom just died, or some such horrible thing.

I walked between cars once, to escape the overwhelming smell of feces.

"It looked like a boy cry. You know -- guy troubles."

I mean, please. You have no idea why she was crying. This is why I dislike the "seen on the train" stories - they're full of editorializing and creative ideas about what's being seen.

yes sara that's why it said "It looked like a boy cry." instead of it WAS a boy cry.

First, it sounds like the motorman handled the situation well enough. He's not there to be a social worker.

Anyway, if someone falls between cars and gets injured or dies, so be it. The CTA should not be held legally responsible as they have PLENTY of posted warnings.

There is NO WAY that i can think of that the CTA could keep these doors locked until an emergency happened. An electrically-controlled lock could fail in an accident/loss of power scenario, and the motorman can hardly walk the length of the train to manually unlock each door during an emergency.

As far as everyone being "up to no good", i agree with the Bob S.—≠"What lines do you people ride?"
I've crossed cars dozens of times over my 20 years of riding for plenty of reasons...stink, crowds, gang fights, etc...never to run off with some lady's snatched purse. Maybe i just look like a low-life?

If i get crushed one day, tough sh*t for me. I just hope i never get ticketed for it. And if i do...tough sh*t for me.

Most of us are nimbble enough that we could walk between the cars without a problem. A nature trail in a national park presents more danger.

However, the idea of standing between the cars, and riding there bothers me. There are too many moving parts. Her leg could have slipped into an opening that was big enough at that moment, but one bounce later, and it would be crushed.

The safety factor, combined with how often those doors are used by solicitors working the whole train add up to a good reason why it should be against the rules to use them. And given how many years they went unregulated, changing that culture of use requires a fair amount of education and enforcement.

I don't have a problem with someone using them to get away from precieved or real danger. I'm okay with the guy vomitting out the door versus the alternative of vomitting in the car. I cringe at the idea of opening the door on a crowded train for ventilation. And I'm downright petrified to think that someone stood between cars, especially in a state where they weren't alert to the dangers around them.

But people do stupid things all the time.

We all know that it's unsafe to stop a car while crossing train tracks, but it still happens a lot. Most of us are alert enough that we could escape if a train was coming, but I still think it's a good thing to have a law that says you can't stop on the tracks, and to ticket people who do, even if there isn't a train within 50 miles.

So the Train Operator used sarcasm to get his point across. Yes, normally sarcasm isn't considered good customer service, but it sounds to me like it actually was a pretty effective move here, whether that's how he planned it, or not. Good for him.

Actually I'd forgotten about people who'd open the doors for ventilation. That wasn't that uncommon (unfortunately; I think we all would have preferred working AC) and it sure didn't bother me.

I'm not sure which line "the El line" is since they're all "the El line."

But it's moot. People today are scared of risk, no matter how small. Their cowardice drives society. We have to cater to a lowest common denominator. Passage between cars was allowed, even routine, for decades; but once those door handle covers with the stop signs went up just a few years ago, it was like it had never been otherwise. Metra trains going far faster, often on more ragged track, allow passage between cars, but the cowards will take that away from us soon too, I'm sure.

I love the seen on the train stories. That's what this is blog is about....things "seen and heard on the CTA." Keep it up the "reporting", Kevin. ;)

Bob S.--

I ride the Red Line at least twice a day, sometimes more, and I have NEVER EVER seen someone use those doors who wasn't doing something wrong. I've seen beggars go from car to car (Hi, Darryl. AGAIN. I'm sorry you're blind, but NO.) I've seen the gangs of roving teenagers chasing each other from car to car, sometimes threatening each other in a scary way, sometimes just being really loud and obnoxious. I've seen the guys peddling their "revolutionary" rap CDs from car to car.

There are very few legitimate reasons to walk from car to car and I have yet to see someone use the doors for those.

Bob S.--

One more question. What do you mean when you say,"Moving between cars was allowed until very recently and there's no reason for that to have been changed"? I've been riding the Red Line for four years and moving between cars has always been prohibited during this time.

Bob S,

Sorry, I mean to write Red Line, not "El Line". That's what I get for typing on a blog while trying to work! :) In my experience, this seems mostly limited to the Red Line for whatever reason.

As for your comments about the Metra, the doors between Metra cars is not open-air like the ones between CTA. Apples and oranges.

Like I said, I'm not saying there are not legitimate reason to use the doors, but I've never seen anyone use them for such. It's always beggars or large groups of teenagers.

Several years ago,upwards of 10 maybe, you used to be able to walk between cars. I can't remember when they put in the signs that you shouldn't do it anymore, but you used to be able to, and I did it. I think most of us that used to do it (to get to a less crowded train or away from people) stopped doing it when the CTA said to stop. We're weird like that and follow the rules. So the majority of the people who still do it are the types who don't generally follow the rules.

Changing cars is commonplace in New York.

Kimberli, I apologize; I've never had a good chronological memory, and can't really say when those coverings went on those door handles. I've lived in Chicago since late '97 and I know it was some years after that when the coverings went on. I'd often cross from car to car just to be a little closer to the platform exit when I reached my stop, for example. I never felt like there was any danger at all; it was that routine, that taken for granted. I wouldn't encourage kids to do it, maybe, but grown, mature people who can make these reasonable judgments themselves, there's no reason not to.

But if you've only been riding the Red Line since after those coverings went up, I can see where it's a lot more likely that the only people you'd see still using the doors are people who are "doing something wrong." We've been trained not to think about why something that was OK yesterday isn't OK today.

" I cringe at the idea of opening the door on a crowded train for ventilation."

Then you would have really cringed during the days of the subway cars with working windows near each seat that you could open and close. and it wasn't THAT long ago. So opening a door for ventilation is nothing.

"I've been riding the Red Line for four years and moving between cars has always been prohibited during this time."

Four years isn't long enough. Back when I was in high school (ahem, MORE than four years ago), the only sign regarding crossing cars was along the lines of "be careful". seriously, we did it all the time.

When I was a teenager, back in the Jurassic Age, we used to play a game called 'L surfing.' You got between the cars and took up the classic surfer position--one foot in front of the other, arms outstretched for balance. It was against the rules to hold onto anything. In fact, if you touched the train with your hands your turn was up.

So yeah, maybe those signs are a good idea.

I feel bad for the girl. I would report the CTA motor-man. CTA emplyoees are some of the laziest, cold-hearted, bums out there. I report them and there "badge number" frequently.

Sean - Why would you report the CTA motor-man?

Yeah, Sean...why?

The motorman isn't there to give everybody with personal problems Oprah hugs...he's there to operate the train and enforce the rules.

It sounds as though he did so in a reasonable manner.

It's not like he had her ticketed and removed from the train...which he could have done.

THAT would have been kinda "cold-hearted".

I'm with the others above; I ride the Red Line and I've seen the doors used pretty much exclusively by beggars, groups of teens, and occasionally people who simply seem to be wondering about with no purpose.

I also once saw a couple sit by the doors for awhile, debating whether or not they should do it, before getting up the nerve and changing cars in the manner that a young child might steal a cookie. No, the train was not crowded that day.

Anyway, I don't really see the need to allow changing cars. But I'm also realistic about these things - it's not allowed now, and people still do it. So what can you do.

[If i get crushed one day, tough sh*t for me.]

Well, I for one don't look forward to the terrible transit snarl that will inevitably result from your untimely crushing. These things do have some public-interest element independent of your risk-averseness.

[I report them and there "badge number" frequently.]

Hey look! Wolves!

"It takes a lot to laugh. It takes a train to cry," Bob Dylan wrote. But seriously, the train operator did what he was supposed to do, that is to ensure the safe and timely operation of the train. As someone who works with blubbering teenagers, I would have said something similar to the girl in that situation. I don't think the space between two moving el cars constitutes a good therapeutic environment and, unfortunately, sometimes kids need to be shocked out of their narcissistic reverie so they don't hurt themselves or someone else. That said, I hope the young lady is feeling better and realizes that the guy's probably not worth her tears.

I have to agree...I think there should be some kind of fine or something. Last year I witnessed a kid around 18 or so, ghetto youth, stand between the two cars with the door open, taking a piss. we even pulled into the Belmont stop and no one said a word.

I agree...most people who are movign between cars are up to no good. Most are ghetto gangbanger types, homeless beggers or just low lifes. I cant figure out why they just cant sit down and wait till the next stop to change over.

Again...it goes back to how we are raised.

The reason for switching cars can be oppressive heat and/or loudspeaker volume. I get off the car and run down the platform to the next car. Some days I have to do that at three or four stops in a row until finally getting a car that's tolerable....... At very minimal expense the CTA could have employees walk through the cars-in-motion periodically and check for volume and extreme temperatures. The noise level is particularly ironic when they're saying, at above-rock-concert volume, to be considerate of our neighbors w/r use of phones and headphone devices...... Some of the announcements are superfluous, such as the "standing passengers" message on non-rush-hour trains, or the "this is a ____ Line train" in places where there's no other line running anyway...... The toot-toot-toot is obnoxious, as they keep apologizing for a little five or fifteen second "delay"....... Most importantly, the assault on hearing, on too many of the cars, is inexcusable.

I have been riding the trains for 37 years (we didn't have a car when I was a kid, so it started from day one), and while Bob S. and Dude are right that (a) the signs used to warn you to be careful, and (b) the windows used to open (God was that loud).

All that being said, 1978 is not 2008 and I rarely see people moving through those doors now for other than nefarious reasons. Beggars, thugs, etc. etc. Prohibiting their use in non-emergencies, and somehow enforcing that is a good idea now, even if it wasn't in 1978. I would NOT have an alarm go off in the motorman's area, or anything like that. Sheesh, the trains are late enough as it is.

Not that i'm against ticketing anyone caught walking between cars, has anyone actually seen or heard (from a reliable source) of anyone being injured or killed between cars?

Just curious.

To those of you that have NEVER seen anyone crossing between cars other than street skanks that appear to be "up to no good" ...trust me...there are other people that do it.

Hell, i'm almost respectable.

BTW strannix, if my untimely crushing ever makes you late for work, you have my deepest apologies...but i'm still gonna risk it when i see fit.

It doesn't matter. No matter what the CTA did someone would complain about it. If this country keeps heading down its current path there going to be a lot more to complain about. Like, the 'I wonder if I'll be able to eat today?' kind of complaining. You'll be happy to have ANY transportation when that day comes.

Oh...I forgot. Bong! Bong! Bong! It's the End of the World!(tm) Bong! Bong! Bong! Dangit! Where my trumpet? How can you have a good 'end of the world' moment without a trumpet!

It's the same sad mindset that assumes anyone who walks in the suburbs must be up to no good. Every good American has a car... especially in those suburbs that don't even have sidewalks, because why would anyone use them unless they were up to no good? We stay safe by making sure no one walks here, so why don't you just follow the rules, even if you say people used to walk a few years ago?

People cowed by mindless authority get what they deserve. It just sucks that they're dragging the rest of us down with them.

Bob S.--

I appreciate your lumping all us "cows" together, but, I promise, I do have thoughts of my own and I do analyze those thoughts. I'm sure that there are people who use the doors for legitimate purposes. What I'm saying is clear-- I've never seen one of these people. The usual thing I see is a bum making his/her way from the front of the train to the back, over and over, begging for change, sometimes whapping people who are sitting or standing by the doors without giving a damn.

Not all of us are zombies, without cognitive thought processes, Bob S. Give us some credit.

all very interesting. i can't help myself, i'm going to jump in the fray. lived here 11 years ... those coverings over the handles have been up a little while, but not forever.

yeah, most people who cross cars are doing something against social mores, but if you are all horrified by someone selling shit on the el, why not buzz the motorman then? because we're all playing by el code, that's why. don't ask, don't tell. so don't take away my right to cross cars when i REALLY NEED TO (i think i've crossed cars 4 times in 11 years) because other people do.

and let's face it. in an average month .. how many times do you see people cross cars? maybe i ride some special lines, but i don't see it ALL that often. and i certainly don't trust the CTA to have fancy emergency doors when they don't even have emergency communication down.

i think the girl was ridiculous to think she could STAND inbetween the trains, though. c'mon!

"Against social mores"

Illegal is more than "against social mores." Rude is "against social mores." Illegal is illegal. I expect more Smussy.

All things considered based on the news this morning (which has happened pretty regularly all summer and frequently before then), it looks like it's time to shut the platforms down, because people keep falling on the tracks. The platforms are far more dangerous than the doors from car to car. (I'm glad she's OK, though.)

here's the thing. there's shades of illegal. murder is illegal. smoking on the platform is also illegal. but smoking on the platform is more of the breaking a social standard. if you stand way down on the end of the platform, you're really not hurting anyone. no one is getting your second-hand smoke (and i don't smoke, btw). but you're going outside of acceptable social behavior.

crossing cars is like that. it's not really hurting anyone. and sometimes, it has its place. the illegality is to prevent a lot of people from doing it a lot of the time.

It is also illegal to drink coffee on the El. Whenever I see someone with a cup of coffee, I know that they're up to no good.

Anyone breaking any rule ever at any time should be fined and placed in a stockade.

God Bless America.

No, no, no. Crossing between cars is the equivalent of smoking at the end of the platform assuming you don't bash someone's knee etc. in the process (that would be second hand smoke).

What they are crossing between cars to do is often more burdensome illegality. In some cases, it is pretty serious, in some cases it is annoying, but THAT is the behavior I am talking about, not the crossing per se.

Also, there are not "shades of illegal" there are shades on consequences. A misdemeanor is not "less" illegal than a Class X felony, it just has much, much lower consequences, usually for the vicitm (if there is one), society, and the law breaker.

And E, don't be an ass.

A couple of weeks ago I got on the Red Line at Wilson to go to Old Town to see a show. Between Wilson and Sheridan, I started smelling cigarette smoke. I looked up, and there was a bum standing in between the cars smoking with the door open. He stood there, with the door open (thanks dude, all your smoke is coming in the car!) while the train navigated the curve between Wilson-Sheridan-Addison. And then he got off the train at Addison. Could he not wait 5 minutes to smoke?

I don't think I've ever even considered crossing between cars through those doors. If I've decided to change cars I've waited until we got to a stop. I know I'm going to die eventually but I don't want to die in a horrifically stupid way.

I think Bob is right in that standing on the platform can be more dangerous than crossing between cars. Sometimes. For some people. Depending on the situation. Maybe.

I think we (usually) see few accidents on the platforms because even the incredibly stupid understand that if they walk off the edge they will get hurt.

But crossing between cars is a little different. Those of us who remember the days when it was no big deal also were aware enough of our suroudings to know that if we stepped in the gap between the cars, our foot would likely be crushed. We were aware of how one bad bump could result in our foot slipping, so we stepped very clear. We were also aware that those "safety" chains probably wouldn't help us very much if we slipped. So we stepped carefully, and our careful steps were almost as instinctual as knowing enough not to step off the edge of the platform.

But these days it's probably not a good idea to let people (legally) cross between cars. We've become a society where we don't take responsiblity for our own safety, but expect everyone else to protect us. It's obvious that if you put your foot in the gap between the cars that you probably will probably be seriously injured, but where are the warning signs? (In 10 different languages?) Or some kind of protective guard? (Who cares how impractical that might be?) Where's the educational campaign to tell us we shouldn't do it? Why isn't everyone else pointing out the obvious, and protecting us from the obvious?

There's also the added benefit that making it illegal to cross between cars gives police something to ticket those vendors for without any constitutional challenges. "We didn't ticket him for what he was saying. We ticketed him for going between cars."

All that said, standing between cars is really stupid. The girl shouldn't have been doing it. Any empathy or sympathy for whatever made her cry in the first place is canceled out because she did something really, really stupid.

And the Train Operator did a good job of stopping her, and getting the train rolling again, even if it didn't sound so nice to some sensitive people who care more about feelings than basic physical safety.

I used to ride the "L"/subway all the time (twenty years ago). I remember the old trains (the ones that were green) without air conditioning and windows that opened. If you remember these, you will also remember the window would only roll up so far and there were these bars across the bottom so that you could not decapitate yourself or have an arm torn off from a passing train. I also remember crossing the train from car to car in an effort to get a seat and not have to stand through a train ride; yes, there used to be over-crowded trains where there were no seats available.

Hey, remember when there were "A" and "B" trains/stops and when the rapid transit routes actually had names that indicated where they were going before all this color coded route system happened? A Pink Line? What's next a "Dotted Line?" If you are a visitor, good luck trying to determine what a Pink Line is or where it's origin or destination is. What happened to the Congress/O'Hare or the Lake/Dan Ryan? Sorry, I digress.

"A CTA employee to walk through the train?" We used to have those; one on every train and known as the conductor. The conductor used to be the one that opened/closed the doors on the train, opened a window and stuck his/her head out to make sure all passengers exited/entered the train safely, announced the stops, answered "how do I get to..." questions, monitored the activity on the train, and collected fares (yes going from one car to the other on generally two car trains in off hours) from passengers that boarded at stations without a fare agent. Oh, and the conductor was on the train in plain sight, not concealed in a little closet like the motorman.

Why don't we just bring back the conductors? I know it's a money/budgetary thing, but you know I felt a little safer having a conductor on board; it's a little un-nerving with just a motorman operating the train from their little secured area at the front of the train. Besides, that "ding,dong, doors closing" gets on my nerves. I'm glad I don't have to take the subway everyday and listen to that. I'm glad the CTA didn't put that annoying sound and announcement on their buses. Thank goodness Metra still has their conductors.

I guess you can't go back to the old days!

This conductor could of helped the young lady out. Why not ask her, "what's going on miss?" Of course he acted like a robot and had to get back to dummy "navigating". David, how can you compare crossing between the tracks and a class X felony? What next the bums who ask for change should get the death penalty?

By that logic my masters in counseling psychology qualifies me to be a CTA train operator. Where do I sign up? Damn, I could have had a summer job.

Sean, do you have any idea how things work? There are no conductors. There haven't been for many, many years. And the train operator's job is hardly a "dummy" job.

Perhaps the reason you have such a negative attitude towards the employees is you have no idea of just how hard their jobs are. However, it's neither his job, nor any of his business to act as a psychologist, and spend time probing what the girl's problem was while a train full of people, and all the trains full of people behind his train, wait.

He hardly acted as a robot. His sarcasm, though not something you'd find in any customer service manual, was highly effective.

And just as you don't understand how the CTA operates, you totally misunderstood David's post. It appears that you understood it to say the exact oposite of what it actually said.

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