Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dear CTA

We both know that this has been a long-time coming. Things have changed between us. The excitement is gone. The adoration. The passion.

I think it's time we go our separate ways.

Once upon a time, our love affair was strong. You were always there for me, and I looked forward to spending every day with you. I even painted your likeness on my wall, so I'd always feel like you were close by. But over the years, that love has faded. I'm not going to say "it's not you, it's me." Because in truth, you had a big part in our demise. But I know that I've changed, too. So, let's just say we grew apart.

It all began years ago, when I made my first sacrifice for you; I sold my dear little red truck so I could spend more time with you. I don't regret that decision now. It didn't make sense then, and still doesn't make sense now, for Chris and I to live in the city and own two cars.

Back then you and I had the perfect relationship. We'd spend a half-hour together in the morning, and then again in the afternoon. I truly cherished that time every day. I loved sitting on the bus, reading a book, looking out the window at the lake, or zoning out while watching your reticular middle twist and turn. I'll never forgot that time four years ago when I was sitting in the back row of the bus on my way to work, and my mom called to tell me I had a nephew. "It's a boy?!" I cried, a little too loud on the usually silent morning commute. A few people looked at me, but you didn't judge. You were happy for me.

Although we had a great thing going then, on the home front, living in a tiny Lakeview apartment with no backyard for Rosie was getting difficult. So, Chris and I moved to Logan Square. This strained our relationship a bit. I changed bus routes, and as a result, you became less reliable. You came around less often each morning and afternoon. On the other hand, we were spending more time together, about 45 minutes each morning and afternoon. But due to your unpredictability, I started to resent that extra time spent together.

Still, we stayed together, and we were mostly exclusive. Sometimes in the summer, I'd ride my bike to and from work. But otherwise, you were my one and only mode of transportation.

But then Chris and I decided to buy a house, and we moved to North Center. Again, us moving wasn't your fault. I take full responsibility for that. But once again, the move strained our relationship. I had to change my daily commute, using both the bus and the train. And for the first time, I started to feel like you weren't there for me.

I'd start out each morning walking to the bus stop. I'd try to time my arrival with when bus tracker said you'd arrive. But bus tracker was often wrong, so I missed the bus a lot. On this new bus route, you come around even less often than my previous one. So if I missed the bus, many times another wasn't due for nearly a half hour. So, I'd walk from the bus stop to the train, which usually took about 15 minutes.

Once to the train station, usually I didn't have to wait too long for you to arrive. I will give you credit for that. On my particular line, you're usually pretty dependable. However, the amount of time we had to spend together was lengthy, about a half hour. Then after getting off the train, I had to walk the better part of a mile to get to my office. This is because you don't offer any stops on my line close to my office, nor do you offer a bus route from my line to the office. So, all together, my commute took more than hour each morning. Considering I live roughly 7 miles from work, this isn't a very efficient use of my time.

Still, STILL, I stayed with you. Granted, I did start to stray a bit more — taking a cab or driving in. But you were still my number one choice. At least until this year.

As you know, Chris and I recently became parents. And when I returned to work, we started taking our daughter to a daycare in the South Loop every day. Once again, our decision to enroll her at this particular daycare is not your fault. But the decision ultimately revealed to me just how broken, unreliable and discriminating you can be.

Because I loved you and thought you were still the best option for me and my infant daughter, I tried, repeatedly, to commute with you every day. Chris and I first tried putting the baby in a stroller and commuting in. We'd take the bus to the train, then the train downtown. But sadly, and maddeningly, you do NOT offer handicap access at the stop closest to the daycare. No handicap access means no elevators, which means no way for us to get from the train platform down to the street. Not only was this frustrating for us, but the fact that you don't even offer people in wheelchairs to access some of your stations is downright criminal.

Despite these tremendous faults, I kept trying to make the commute work. I tried putting the baby in a Bjorn, thereby removing the no-elevator issue. Although this did make getting from the train to the platform easier (although carrying the baby, my purse, and her daycare bag wasn't exactly easy), it did nothing to resolve your biggest problem — your lack of reach. Once off the train, I had to walk a half mile to the daycare. Then, after dropping her off, I had to walk that half mile again back to the train. Then, I usually had to wait at least 15 minutes for you to come around. Once you did, I'd take you to the stop closest to my office, and then had to walk another 5 or so minutes in.

All together, from the time I left my house to the time I got to work, was close to 2 hours — just for the morning commute. Then I had to do all of it, or part of it, over again in the evening. As much as I love you, I refuse to spend close to 4 hours with you every day. Sorry, I just have other needs in my life. It can't be about YOU all the time.

Chris and I have started driving in every day. Even with the construction and the traffic, we're at work within an hour, sometimes less. And that includes dropping off the baby, parking and walking to work. And, considering how many modes of transit and stops we had to use before, parking actually costs the same as you. Granted, there's the cost of gas and mileage. And there's also the environmental guilt I feel every day. But ultimately, the amount of stress relieved and amount of time saved makes up for both the economical and moral drawbacks.

This isn't goodbye forever. We can still be friends. I know we'll still see each other from time to time. Chances are, you'll still be there for me when I want to commute to and from a baseball game, or I've had too much to drink (or both). As unreliable as you are, I know you'll still be there for me then.

But our daily relationship is over for now. I hope that someday we can work things out. Maybe we'll move again to a more CTA-friendly area (but I doubt it). Or maybe you'll finally expand your reach and access (again, doubtful). Maybe we'll find some other, yet unforeseen, compromise.

At least I hope so, because I will always, ALWAYS, have feelings for you, and I know I'm going to miss you terribly.

So long for now,


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Working mother

It's been one of those weeks. (Mind you, it's only Tuesday). A week when I feel like I'm not devoting enough attention to my career, to my family, to my house, to my fitness, to my wardrobe. I want to work my ass off, be a devoted wife and mother, with a clean house, toned abs, a killer wardrobe and an actual hairstyle.

I keep thinking I can do and be all these things, if I just watched less television, got up earlier, spent less time on the Internet, prioritized more, organized more, and made even more to-do lists. Then today, I read this article in the New York Times. The article isn't about my generation, but it hits the nail on the head:

"It did not take long, of course, before the guilt set in ... They expected to be both their mothers (or their rosy memory of what their mothers had been) and their fathers (who won the bread but never dreamed of baking it), and because that is an impossible task, they felt they had failed. The old guideposts were gone, and new ones had not been established."

The article is by Lisa Belkin. I read her book, “Life’s Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom” years ago, before I was a wife or mother. It might be time to read it again.