Chicago Sun-Times

Acts of Kindness in Transit - Tell Us Your Story!

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Everyone has a bad transit story -- the belligerent bus driver, the train that got stuck for an hour, the delay at the airport.

But how about a few nice transit stories? Did anyone out there ever get a smile from a bus driver that made a bad night better? Or did a CTA motorman hold the train for you as you came galloping down the stairs, and keep holding it after you accidentally dropped your keys on the platform?

I used to work the "midwatch" shift at the City News Bureau of Chicago. That meant I worked until 2 in the morning, and had to ride home on the bus down Chicago Avenue to Damen, back when that neighborhood was definitely not trendy. It was a little eerie -- but the driver made all the difference. It was always the same crowd on the bus -- me and the cleaning ladies. He used to chat with us and sing us songs, and warn us to be safe. He greeted us in Polish and Spanish. And he always told us to be safe. Everyone was smiling when they got off that bus -- no matter how dark and stormy the night.

I've also encountered astounding acts of kindness from passengers. I was once on a subway train with a man who was certainly drunk and possibly crazy -- he was holding a whiskey bottle, waving it around and yelling about how angry he was. Passengers started moving away from him. I considered changing cars. Then a little lady sat down next to him and took the bottle out of his hand. "You won't be needing that anymore," she said, with great authority. She put his arm around his shoulder and started to talk him down. He started crying and confessed that his mother had died -- that's why he was drinking. Maybe his mother had died 20 years ago -- maybe it was yesterday. It didn't matter -- she gave him sympathy and he calmed down. It was a beautiful act of courage.

So please share your stories -- there are a lot of good eggs out there on mass transit, along with the bad apples.

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4 Comments

One of the nicest bits about living in Chicago is the rapport a rider can establish with a CTA train operator once the train is on the platform. If it doesn't slow them down, the operator is usually friendly about a quick hello, comment on the weather, or an update on the system. They are attentive when listening to concerns about people's behavior on the train. But the nicest part is rushing down the platform, catching the eye of the operator at the front of the train, having the doors held open just long enough to dash on board, and having the announcement "doors closing" come on, knowing that the driver held the train for me, the passenger. I don't know if this happens in other cities. I don't recall it in New York, Washington, or London. It's a Chicago thing.

A few years ago an amazing bus driver took my friends and I twenty extra blocks south on Pulaski on a Sunday. One of my friends, acting as our guide, forgot that the Sunday schedule was different than the weekday Pulaski schedule. When we were last on bus at the last stop, he asked us where we meant to go, and he took us there. We were so thankful. It was a much appreciative act of kindness.

How about a story about kindness shown *to* a bus driver? One cold, damp January evening I waited along with an older woman for a Montrose bus. And waited. And waited some more. When the bus finally arrived, she said to the driver, "Thank God you made it. We were worried sick about you!"

Which is a line I've stolen and have used a few times since then. It's really easy to yell at drivers when they're running late, but seriously, they're not doing it on purpose. It's better to take it in stride and appreciate them when they do show up.

Mary,

I remember Damen and Chicago Avenue way back also. I lived just off of there when I was a young man with my mother. In 2000 I went back for a vist and walked around and found the old neighbourhood changed. Still somewhat familiar as I could still pick out sites that hadn't changed, in my mind at least, all that much.

That is off the point. You asked about acts of kindness on the transit system. Still in the year 2000 I saw a very kind CTA bus driver. This driver took the time, without a murmer from the passengers of helping a blind person off the bus, across the road, and up to the doorway. Totally out of character as I remember thinking at the time

Regards,
George

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Wisniewski published on May 1, 2008 10:32 AM.

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