On the Metra, conductors roam the cars, collecting tickets, making sure muddy feet stay off the seats. On the CTA, except for the lonely employee driving the train or the bus, we're on our own. If some tough has his radio on too loud, or is hogging two seats, we have to police ourselves. The question is -- when is a good time to step up to be the L Scold?
I'm an L Scold, though I'm not as bad as I once was. If someone's playing the radio so loud I can pick out both lyrics and bass line, I'm not afraid to ask him to turn it down. If someone's using one of his seats for bags on a rush-hour train, I'm not afraid to say, "Hey, please move your stuff!" I'll stand up for pregnant women, people on crutches, parents with children, and the elderly. If I'm standing, and no one gives up a seat for someone who needs it, I'll ask for a volunteer.
Usually it works. People are usually polite -- they're just oblivious. They need to look up from their magazines and their piped-in music to see what's going on around them. When I was pregnant, I didn't stand forlornly in the aisle, hoping someone would notice me. I would ask, "Can someone please give me a seat?" and three or four people would leap up. Usually, people do the right thing, and everyone's happy. You get the best smiles from your fellow riders if you successfully get a teen to turn down his tunes. You're the L hero.
But it doesn't always happen, and then it's just depressing. It seems to be getting worse. Last week on the Brown Line, I kept getting knocked in the chest by a tall, tailored, six-figure-salary type with a 200-pound "I must carry everything" bag. After the third breath-taking blow, I asked him to please put his bag on the floor of the car. "See, that's where I keep my bag," I said, pointing helpfully. He sneered, "It will get dirty!" And he didn't apologize. The people around me shrugged in sympathy, while I fantasized about smearing the bottoms of my boots on his creased trousers.
I didn't, but I wonder if my days as an L Scold are numbered. I'm getting tired of it. I'm getting tired of the rudeness and the defiance. These days, if the loud radio player is a tough looking youngster or a vacant-eyed scruffy who rocks in his seat, I'm not saying anything -- I just move to another car. I don't want to get shot. If someone keeps knocking me with his bag, I don't want to say anything. I just want to roll my eyes and offer it up for Jesus, as they used to say in school. If someone is getting hurt, I'm definitely calling the conductor and 911, and helping out if I can. But I've started to let the other stuff slide.
Are you an L Scold? Or have you hung up your verbal weapons and resigned yourself to sit in silence as the rudeness batters against you for the 30-minute ride? Please let us know.