The Daily Commute: Trying to Avoid Getting Caught By The Train

April 16, 2017 | by Mark Stephen O'Neal

I work at a law firm as an office services clerk nine to five, Monday through Friday in addition to being a writer. It’s not my idea of a dream job, but it helps pay the bills nevertheless. Getting to work is often a hassle at times because I take the Metra rail to downtown Chicago from the south suburbs, and my station is encompassed by railroad tracks in the township of Riverdale. The Metra rail runs on time ninety-five percent of the time, so I try to give myself enough time to get myself to the train. The fact that I’m not an early riser makes getting to the train on time a real challenge for me as well.
It was hump-day Wednesday when I had awakened, and I was feeling a little sluggish. I had hit the snooze button three times after 7:00 am and slowly got out of bed to begin getting ready for work. The thought of calling off of work entered my mind, but I shook it off instead and began my morning routine. I couldn’t seem to get it going and let time slip away from me as the clock read 8:34 am. My clothes were already ironed thankfully, and my shower and grooming routine were completed as well. The only tasks left were to get dressed and make it to my train before 8:55 am.  
I locked my front door and jumped into my car as the clock on my dashboard read 8:41am. I roughly had less than fifteen minutes to arrive at the Metra station and park, and I knew that I probably would have to make a mad dash to the train platform. I had heard the freight train horn and instinctively went in the opposite direction of my normal route because I didn’t have a second to waste due to railroad track blockage. I then zoomed to the corner and turned on my left-turn signal at the stop sign. As luck would have it, the motorist in front of me was driving less than the speed limit, and that send me into orbit because I now had less than ten minutes to get myself to the train. This torture continued for a half mile until we arrived at the stop light, and the clock read 8:46 am. I decided to chance it by going in the direction of the railroad tracks once the light turned green because if I stayed behind this slow-driving motorist, I would surely miss my train.
My move paid off as the railroad track was clear at 140th and Indiana, but I was stalled by a truck that was trying to park a block away instead. Damn! I desperately made a left turn at 138th and Indiana instead of going all the way to the traffic light at 139th only to be met by a construction crew blocking the street before the intersection. There was a log jam of cars up to the corner, so I proceeded to make a right turn down the alley to 139th Street. The person in front of me had the same idea as we both preceded to the corner, but there was also a car coming down the alley in the opposite direction. I looked at my clock, and it read 8:51 am. The alley was too narrow for the motorist coming in the opposite direction to pass, so the guy in front of me had to veer to an opening on the right side of the alley to let the car pass. I followed suit and drove to the corner to make a left turn in the direction of the Metra shortly afterwards. It was 8:53 am when I parked my car in the lot. Whew!
I hopped out of my car and sprinted to the platform—okay, not a sprint—but more like a trot because I was out of breath before I even made it to the stairs. The train was five blocks away at the Ivanhoe stop when I got to the top of the stairs, and I belted out a sigh of relief. I wiped some sweat from my forehead and waited until the train arrived. What a way to start the day.


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