One of the biggest negatives to traveling with Lael is her tendency to nap. If she sleeps for more than an hour, putting her to bed can be a real battle. And so it was. For several hours we wrestled to get her to sleep. Anne, Lael and I must have switched beds half a dozen times.
I don’t want to get into a blow-by-blow, but let’s just say Lael was “willful” during this whole nightmare. In other words, Lael was tired, but refused to go to sleep because she didn’t want to “miss out on any fun.”
Around 11 p.m., Seth, who couldn’t fall asleep because of all the ruckus, sat up screaming that his right ear hurt him. It was clear that now he was in horrible pain.
So I took Lael downstairs to the little dining area. For the next hour, I tried to get her to stop screaming. I distracted her by pointing out the freezing rain coming down in the parking lot.
Finally, Lael was drowsy enough for me to take her back to the room. As I stood up, I turned toward the stairs to see my fully-dressed wife and son ready to go outside.
“Wow,” I thought, “they really want to go sledding!”
“Um, where are you going?” I asked.
“To a drug store. Or Wal-Mart. Seth has swimmer’s ear.”
“Um, you don’t want to go out in that weather.”
“What else can I do? We didn’t bring any medicine.”
Anne and Seth went out to the minivan. Five minutes later, they were back in the hotel.
“I can’t drive in that,” my wife said.
To be honest, I was relieved, even knowing that it would now be up to me. The weather was bad.
So, I threw jeans over my pajamas and shrugged into my winter jacket. It took 12 minutes to get the half-inch thick ice off the car windows. Thank goodness I finally bought an ice scraper.
I had fully intended to write a Merry Christmas post, but I decided to start my vacation a day early because of an incoming storm. Turns out I made the right choice: we just missed driving in white-out conditions to Galena. I hope to post more about our adventure soon, time allowing.
I hope everyone had a great holiday season. On to holiday hangovers!
The much-vaunted Chicago Transit system is actually more like a decaying, bug-infested chunk of wood in a rain forest. But often you can’t tell anything is wrong with that piece of wood until you lift it up to see what’s going on underneath.
It’s much the same with a bus or train – you don’t know what you’re getting into until you climb onboard. The bus may have trouble accelerating beyond 25 miles per hour; the engine is only one mile from crapping out altogether; the electrical system is shorting out on the Elevated; or diesel fumes – this is the worst for me – may be getting pumped directly into the bus cabin.
Every now and then, the Bus of Doom advertises itself. Consider the Route 136 bus that rolled up on Tuesday. It was already 15 minutes late. There were so many buses following that I suspected another bus from the same route was just out of eyesight. (It’s impossible to read route numbers on Chicago buses – if the old displays are working at all – until they’re inches from view.)
The Bus of Doom arrived, and as I suspected there was standing-room only. With 40+ people waiting to get on, I was not inclined to do so. As people started boarding, I hear a loud HIIIISSSS noise coming from the rear wheel well, which had been scraped open.
The hiss was coming from an exposed hydraulic cable that snaked out of a hole. Was it a brake cable? At the same time. I noticed that a chunk of metal, hanging on the other side of the same wheel well, was touching street and tire.
No way was I getting on this bus. Why was it even on the road? But more than half the people waiting did. By the time everyone was aboard, the cattle stood from bow to stern. Was the hiss starting to sound more like a “Moo?”
The doors closed. Doom rolled about a bus-length forward before hissing to a stop. The driver raced his engine. Did the hydraulic sensors finally warn him something was wrong?
Within two minutes I was on the next 136. One-third of the seats were empty.
While boarding, I mentioned to the driver what was happening on the other 136. She could care less and was not about to help her co-worker. Another passenger who boarded behind me said with a strong, old-style Chicago accent “f--- them.”
We drove off while Doom crept another few inches. I imagined it making a final hiss, like a dying breath, while the cattle inside began braying. Of course, it could have been much worse had the cattle car made it out onto Lake Shore Drive. What if the brakes failed at 55 miles per hour?
During my relatively pleasant ride into work, I wondered what self-respecting maintenance crew would let such a piece of sh—onto the road? Don’t bus drivers inspect their buses before hitting the road? How can Chicago hope to host the Olympics with such a disastrous transit system?
I don’t know. But if you ever wondered why people choose not to commute, just read this post again.
There is no nice way of saying this, but the Chicago Transit System sucks. Big time. Like, really bad. Consider this week:
Bus breaks down on Lake Shore Drive. Our particular route, 136, gets the oldest buses on the planet. I suspect my grandma rode the same buses in the 1960s.
We have to get off bus on busy highway and get onto another that thankfully stopped. You might think that a bus driver would always help his comrade, but previous breakdowns have failed to bear this out. Fortunately, the bus that stopped for us travels the same route I usually take.
The engine craps out on our rescue bus. Perhaps fearing his increasingly vocal passengers, the driver gets the engine going again.
On the way home, bus has exhaust system hooked directly into the cabin. I try to hold my breath for the next 45 minutes. Opening windows make the situation worse. Several days later, my lungs still burn, and all food tastes like diesel.
Next Day: Bus going home is late showing up. As is often the case, we’re sardines packed in virgin olive oil.
On the way to work today, we stop for a broken down bus on Lake Shore Drive. One incredibly clueless passenger screams at our bus driver, blaming her for his ruined morning. Stupid passenger’s outburst delays our own bus by 10 minutes. I suspect next time, this NICE bus driver will pass me up the next time I’m stuck on Lake Shore Drive.
In case you had any doubts, I HATE THE CTA and that stupid passenger.
Sorry about getting this out late, but I’ve been swamped at work and not feeling well.
We started driving on a Tuesday and we didn’t stop until Monday. Rather than a relaxed beach-house vacation somewhere, this trip was all about family.
We drove out of Illinois into Indiana and through Ohio before stopping at an ugly yet affordable hotel in Erie, Pennsylvania. That town is trying hard to revive itself, but the decaying buildings along the waterfront need a lot of loving care.
The next night left us in New York at a very nice hotel where my son remarked, “Wow, this room is bigger than our apartment!”
Sigh. The room did rival our living room.
The next day we attended my wife’s nephew’s musical. (He's the redhead on the left.) Since he was 17-years-old, Brett Boles has been writing and scoring the Count of Monte Cristo. Yes, you could say he’s a prodigy.
While Lael stayed with marvelous babysitters, Seth watched the intense musical with us from the second row. I think his brain was deep into sensory overload.
And he was nearly unconscious by the end, since it was way past his normal bedtime. Seth fell asleep in the car on the way to pick up Lael, who it turns out barfed on her caregivers. Don’t worry, that’s normal in my family.
We carried both of our sleeping little ones into our giant hotel room a few minutes later. Amazingly, they stayed asleep.
The next day found us driving to Anne’s home in Norwalk. We only had a few hours to catch some sleep before a nephew’s Bar Mitzvah at 9 a.m. sharp. The longish ceremony found me at time pinching Seth’s leg to keep him calm. Anne and I traded turns watching Lael in the hallway.
At the subsequent party, Lael slept in my lap for about an hour while I tried to eat my lunch. Seth is finally old enough to sit at the kids’ table and thankfully needs little supervision.
The next morning, we began our two-day drive home. The kids were great, except those few times they weren’t. We plied both kids with food, music and some videos to keep them – and ourselves – sane.
But no rest for the weary: the next day I was back at work, Seth back at preschool and Anne back to parenting. BTW, our little girl registered a solid 32.5 pounds at her doctor’s appointment that same day.
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