What is the Best Transportation? | Varyer

What is the best transportation?

Generally speaking, I don’t recommend leaving the house. But if you have to, what’s the best way to travel? Let’s discuss.

Buses

Other things that impressed her: cordless phones, how nice the Eagles’ 2017 offensive line seemed, my ability to open jars.

I’ve seen more penii on public transportation than I have in my ‘personal life.’ (This is a data-driven column, but in this case I’ll spare us the hard numbers.)

My grandma was always impressed by my commute. “The bus?” she’d marvel. “You’re such a modern girl in the big city.”

I certainly am. 💅 And as a modern girl in the big city, I’ve been taking public transportation for over a decade—mostly the bus. For a while, things went smoothly enough. I ignored the warning signs: delays, men with their penises out. But as Jenny Holzer said, “There is a period when it is clear that you have gone wrong, but you continue. Sometimes there is a luxurious amount of time before anything bad happens.”

So I embraced my persona as a bus person, commuting twice a day on four Chicago buses, proudly flashing my monthly unlimited pass. I listened to the Replacements’ bus song while I gazed out the window and pretended I was in a movie. Once a lady asked me if I could break a five-dollar bill, then leaned in close and confided that her family’s genes stretched back across the generations to the beginning of mankind. “An unbroken link,” she whispered. I was briefly awed until I realized that everyone’s did, all seven billion of us. But it did make me look at my fellow bus citizens in a special light. We were the collective pinnacle of human evolution and it was beautiful how we cooperated in this democratic transportation system.

Other things that impressed her: cordless phones, how nice the Eagles’ 2017 offensive line seemed, my ability to open jars.

I’ve seen more penii on public transportation than I have in my ‘personal life.’ (This is a data-driven column, but in this case I’ll spare us the hard numbers.)

For a while, my friend Charles and I commuted on the glamorous 146, an articulated express bus that whisked us downtown alongside Lake Michigan. The 146’s passengers were generally fresh-smelling, corporate, and mildly attractive, and Charles and I enjoyed discussing our favorite specimens—what they were reading, new haircuts, weather-based accessories of note, generalized erotic speculation.

Then I switched jobs, and instead of the coastal 146, I was forced onto a series of inferior inland buses. Being one of God’s chosen bus people quickly wore thin. Per Jenny Holzer’s prophecy, bad things happened. Long hair draped over the seat in front of me, and men followed me home from the bus stop. I burned with road rage, but I didn’t have access to the horn, and the bus moved too slowly for me to safely flip anyone off. Wedged into the over-capacity 77 bus, bodies pressed up against me, I took a break from reading everyone’s Lululemon lunch bags to gaze longingly at passing cars, free spirits who didn’t have to stop every two blocks to let potential pervs on board. The empty back seats were almost sensual in their spaciousness. Once I saw a sedan with a plate of waffles sitting in the back. Do you know what would happen to waffles if you left them on a bus?

Scenes of despair…and hope in the form of backseat waffles.

Scenes of despair…and hope in the form of backseat waffles.

Despite the best efforts of activists like CTA_Bob and YoungBusLover, bus bunching is likely an eternal scourge, the common cold of transportation: "Bus bunching is a national problem, and even the best minds can't seem to solve it," Joseph Schwieterman, director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, told the Chicago Tribune. 💔

I became obsessed with the bus system’s flaws. Bus bunching was my pet peeve, although ‘peeve’ doesn’t do justice to my incandescent fury. I turned into a crank tipster on the sparsely-populated ChiTransit forums, emailing demented tips to a moderator called CTA_Bob. I worry about CTA_Bob, whose account I can no longer find, but I’m proud to see YoungBusLover has taken up the cause.

One day, bracing my legs against a beefy manspreader, I spotted the lady whose genes went back to the Stone Age. I avoided eye contact. I no longer accepted that each passenger was a pedigreed child of God. As a hardened bus veteran, I felt that we were more like roaches, resilient scum spawning out of control. I needed out.

Despite the best efforts of activists like CTA_Bob and YoungBusLover, bus bunching is likely an eternal scourge, the common cold of transportation: "Bus bunching is a national problem, and even the best minds can't seem to solve it," Joseph Schwieterman, director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, told the Chicago Tribune. 💔

Trains

What were my options for a bus-free life?

Plus, as a connoisseur of haute deodorant with debatable efficacy, it’s not advisable for me to sweat.

Get a bike! everyone told me. No. The entire concept is deeply degrading: exert physical effort to get to WORK? It’s heartbreaking to see bike commuters: little legs spinning eagerly, pedaling their way to their cell in the prison of capitalism office… Woof.

Instead, I switched cities and tried the subway. But whenever I narrowly missed a train, I was haunted by the possibility I was in a Sliding Doors scenario. And maybe I’m a prude, but I don’t care to have a standing stranger’s ass in my face when I’m seated.

Plus, as a connoisseur of haute deodorant with debatable efficacy, it’s not advisable for me to sweat.

🚨Alert: Celebrity Sighting🚨 The details: SJP was about three feet tall, reading and theatrically reacting to emails on her phone, gasping in delight at seemingly minor news (an invitation to someone’s ‘opening’) while he stared at his own phone and grunted every minute or so. She urged him to make up with a friend he’d apparently slighted; he grunted again. She was gushingly nice to the crusty ticket agent but later, while printing my ticket, the agent claimed to only recognize Matthew. “Did you see the movie guy in here? Broderick?” I said, “Yes, and Sarah Jessica Parker,” and the guy stared at me. “Who’s that, his lady?”

Here’s what haunts me still: there was no good reason for them to take the train to Boston vs. driving. A Penn Station visit cancels out any perceived convenience of the train, although Boston’s South Station is decent: manageable size, airy, a fancy secret lounge for those with enough Amtrak points. Maybe it was a quirky-New-Yorker thing (pathetic), although, according to Celebritycarsblog.com, SJP has several cars. She was documented driving on an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and stated that she is “a really good driver.” We may never understand.

I didn’t immediately write off all rail transit. I gave Amtrak a try. There were highs: I sat next to celebrity elites Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick in Penn Station. There were lows: the quiet car. I’d thought it would hit all my marks, with its big windows and strictly enforced behavioral codes. Silent judgment is my thing. But politically speaking, I lean more passive-aggressive, and the quiet car culture was pro-tattling, with adults tugging on the conductor’s sleeve and pointing out the lady talking on her phone in the next row. It was depressing.

🚨Alert: Celebrity Sighting🚨 The details: SJP was about three feet tall, reading and theatrically reacting to emails on her phone, gasping in delight at seemingly minor news (an invitation to someone’s ‘opening’) while he stared at his own phone and grunted every minute or so. She urged him to make up with a friend he’d apparently slighted; he grunted again. She was gushingly nice to the crusty ticket agent but later, while printing my ticket, the agent claimed to only recognize Matthew. “Did you see the movie guy in here? Broderick?” I said, “Yes, and Sarah Jessica Parker,” and the guy stared at me. “Who’s that, his lady?”

Here’s what haunts me still: there was no good reason for them to take the train to Boston vs. driving. A Penn Station visit cancels out any perceived convenience of the train, although Boston’s South Station is decent: manageable size, airy, a fancy secret lounge for those with enough Amtrak points. Maybe it was a quirky-New-Yorker thing (pathetic), although, according to Celebritycarsblog.com, SJP has several cars. She was documented driving on an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and stated that she is “a really good driver.” We may never understand.

Desire lines are a romantic urban planning term for paths worn in the grass from people taking a shortcut rather than following the sidewalks’ prescription. My dad would say there’s nothing romantic about vandalism.

My dad and I often pass a private school he paradoxically considers a bastion of both elitism and mediocrity. He always points out how the students have worn a path across part of a scenic public park as they cut between two parts of their campus. This makes him batshit insane. “Lazy! Entitled!” I always nod and agree with him, but now I find myself empathizing with the students. I too am ready to bend the world to my will, to be at once lazy and high-impact: I want a car.

Car commercials generally focus on two things: freedom and death. A shiny vehicle triumphantly crests a mountain pass while the narrator extolls the safety features. I used to think true freedom meant not having a car. (I tell myself the same thing about not owning a house and not being married 😓.) Car ownership seemed stressful and overwhelming.

When I was born, the bummer of a doctor handed me to my mother and said, “Here’s your financial responsibility for the next eighteen years. Enjoy.” (Joke’s on him, or maybe on my parents: it turned out to be much longer than eighteen years.) That’s how I initially felt about owning a car: burdened. I would need to chaperone it to legal parking spots, defend it from other vehicles, get it cleaned, feed it gas, change the oil at mysterious intervals…. Plus, I was traumatized. Speeding around with friends shortly after getting my license, I’d innocently given the finger to a driver who cut us off. At the next red light, the driver rolled down her window and then, glaring at us, rummaged around for something just out of view. We braced for her to start shooting, but instead, she threw a footlong Subway sandwich onto our windshield. We managed to nudge it off with the windshield wipers, but that maneuver just smeared mayonnaise all over the glass, obscuring the view of the road. All we could see were our enemy driver’s blurry tail lights as she drove away.

Desire lines are a romantic urban planning term for paths worn in the grass from people taking a shortcut rather than following the sidewalks’ prescription. My dad would say there’s nothing romantic about vandalism.

After flunking out of bus and train life, though, I’m turning back to cars. I’m ready, eager for freedom and the heated seats that make it feel like you’ve wet your pants, but in a good way. I’ve romanticized cars to the point I might make it a full lifestyle, fantasizing about being a tollbooth attendant. What do they even do now that there’s EZ-Pass? I would fire up a Diptyque and work on a crossword puzzle.

Planes aren’t on the list (climate abuse, fear of heights, legroom, etc.) but this sexy plane, called the Runway Angel, is extra-disqualified, both for the name and for the trademark Virgin Air dated-discothèque vibe inside the plane. We’re on a death trap here; no one should be having fun, especially the pilots.

Car prices are initially shocking. Where is everyone getting so much money???? But after considering $600,000 mortgages, a $30,000 car seems chaste and sensible. Warped perspective is a dangerous marketing trick. Maserati sets up shop at airshows because their cars are affordable impulse buys alongside the $90 million private jets. I’ll probably end up with whatever the modern-day equivalent of the Geo Metro is, but I’ll be liberated.

The Verdict

What is the best transportation? This free-thinking column doesn’t insist on dogmatic hierarchies and accepts that whatever makes you feel free is ‘best’ for you. Officially, though, the best bus is Chicago’s 146…and the best transportation is a car. 🙂 I look forward to the warm embrace of car ownership—and a barrier of steel between me and God’s bus creatures.

Planes aren’t on the list (climate abuse, fear of heights, legroom, etc.) but this sexy plane, called the Runway Angel, is extra-disqualified, both for the name and for the trademark Virgin Air dated-discothèque vibe inside the plane. We’re on a death trap here; no one should be having fun, especially the pilots.