The CTA, Uncle G, and the 505

This is the second time I’ve been on a purple line train leaving Merchandise Mart at around 4:45PM.


(Photo snagged from the interwebs)

The CTA has a few conductors that like to talk to passengers. I had a few good years riding the red line with this guy, who often reminded passengers to “smile, it’s not so bad”, and to “have a great day” which is appreciated on a Monday morning, especially from a stranger wearing a striped conductor’s outfit. Most of the other verbose folks spend the majority of their time repeating, yet slightly changing the automated messages from the train. Some examples:

  • Where they’re currently headed
    • The train has an automated system that states the next stop, i.e. “Armitage is next” when you leave the stop prior
    • The conductor says things such as “The next stop will be Armitage, Armitage will be the next stop” either before or after the automated message
  • Why the train is stopped
    • The train has an automated system that states “We are standing momentarily waiting for signal clearance. We will be moving shortly.”
    • The conductor says things such as “We are holding right now due to a train ahead of us, please be patient” either before or after the automated message
  • Trying to use the word “alight” as much as possible
    • No automated system for this
    • The conductor says things such as “Please allow passengers to alight the train” or “ALLOW THE PASSENGERS TO ALIGHT”
    • I assume this came from some training manual because no one uses this word in real life
  • That another train is on the way
    • No automated system for this
    • The conductor says things such as “I have an immediate follower”
    • This is always a lie*
      • *Unless they’re technically referencing the fact that there are other trains, somewhere, behind them on the track

But today — today, I have been introduced to “Uncle G”.

About a month or so ago, perhaps a little less, I got on the 4:45ish purple line train from Merchandise Mart, heading North. Apparently, it’s run number 505. The conductor came over the speaker between Chicago and Sedgwick (if you don’t know the CTA routes in Chicago, this is one of the longer jaunts between stops on the brown/purple track) while the train was slowed wayyyyy down. His speech is as follows, to the best of my recollection:

“Good afternoon passengers. Go ahead and let’s do a safety check. Look around at your fellow passengers. Does everybody look okay? If not, or if someone is feeling unsafe, please go ahead and hit the intercom button in your car and let me know what’s going on, and the good doctor of the 505 will take care of it for you. Or if you are in danger you can call 911 for the police. I mean, you know what I can handle. You decide.”

I wanted nothing more than to release my giggle fit by connecting with one of the other passengers, but no one seemed to be paying much attention or willing to make eye contact. I, however, thoroughly enjoyed it, and tweeted about the experience in one of my “El Reports”. (Turns out it was January 20th, so yeah, about a month ago.)

It pales in comparison, however, my experience this afternoon. Again, my purple line train slowed between Chicago and Sedgwick, and again, the speaker clicked on in my car.

“Hello there everyone! Welcome on board the 505, and thank you for being part of my CTA family.  Everyone please take a second now, maybe 2, maybe 3, maybe 4, 7, 8, and look around at your fellow passengers. Check and make sure that everyone is okay. All you young people, younger than me. Younger than Uncle G. Look around at each other. Make sure everyone is safe here. This is the 505. This is the friendship train! I’m Uncle G. You can come say hi to Uncle G when you leave the train. Just stop by and say “Hi Uncle G!” when you get off if you want. Now we’re heading to Sedgwick. Sedgwick and North Avenue, there. Be careful now. If passengers need to get off, go ahead and step out and let ’em out. Then you can get back on. On our way to Sedgwick now, thank you.”

When we got to Sedgwick, he announced (in and outside): “PASSENGERS! Allow everyone to get out of the train. Some people are getting off the train to let others out so you need to let them get back in first. Thank you.”

I wish I’d have been close enough to Uncle G to say hi to him as I alighted the train, but I was just too many cars back. Besides, I had to get off in a herd of people at Belmont after he reminded everyone that it was indeed, a purple line train. “Brown line riders, I’d like you to stay but I don’t think you want to.”

I want to ride the 505 forever.

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