Chicago Sun-Times

January 2009 Archives

Bus Drivers Wanted

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The CTA is still looking for part-time bus drivers. The pay is $17.98 an hour, and drivers can work toward a full-time position. A job fair will be held Saturday, Feb. 7 at Kelvyn Park High School, 4343 W. Wrightwood between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Applicants should have a resume, a copy of your CDL (Commercial Driver's License) permit or CDL Driver's License, and a copy of your driving record. To get a copy of your driving record, go to a Secretary of State facility with a form of ID and pay a $12 fee. For more information on this, you can call the 31st Ward office at 773-276-9100. You can also apply online to the CTA. Click on "Doing Business" and then "Careers."

During the summer, commuters get to pick up free gum or free granola bars from smiley kids handing out samples on street corners. It's too cold for that sort of giveaway, so Tylenol is handing out free warmth -- heated bus shelters in 10 downtown locations -- to promote its Tylenol "Warming Liquids" for colds. The bus shelters are at
- 16 S. Clark @ Madison
- 197 N. State St. @ Lake
- 300 N. Michigan @ Wacker
- 431 N. Michigan @ Hubbard
- 757 N. Michigan @ Chicago
- 538 W. Madison @ Clinton
- 1 E. Washington @ State
- 5 S. Michigan @ Madison
- 221 N. Lasalle @ Haddock
and
- 533 N. Dearborn St. @ Grand.

Tylenol is trying this notion in chilly, transit-dependent Boston as well. The shelters will be heated 24 hours a day starting this week through March 8.

Reader Kathy Schubert suggested adding a bike category, so here it is, along with the rest of the nominees. So if you haven't voted already, please vote -- the turnout has been outstanding! If you've already voted, and care about bikes in movies, just vote in the bike category. We'll announce the winners of the Ride Movie Awards the day after the Oscars, Monday, Feb. 23.

Marty asked how to vote -- the easiest way to do it on the blog is just copy the categories into your comment, and put an "X" next to the one you want.

Best picture with a bike in the leading role:

"The Triplets of Belleville," 2003
"Breaking Away," 1979
"The Bicycle Thief," 1948
"2 Seconds," 1998
"The Flying Scotsman," 2006

Best picture with a train in a leading role:
"The General," 1927
"Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express," 1974
"The Darjeeling Limited," 2007
"Silver Streak," 1976
"North by Northwest," 1959

Best picture with car(s) in a leading role:
"The Blues Brothers," 1980
"Cars," 2006
"Bullitt," 1968
"Duel," 1971
"Christine," 1983

Best picture with a plane in a leading role:
"Casablanca," 1942
"Airport," 1970
"Air Force One," 1997
"Airplane!" 1980
"Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," 1964

Best picture with a bus in a leading role:
"The Graduate," 1967
"Speed," 1994
"The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," 1994
"Get on the Bus," 1996

Best picture featuring the Chicago "L"
"Risky Business," 1983 (I dislike this movie, but I've never been a teenage boy)
"Spider Man-2," 2004
"While You Were Sleeping," 1995
"High Fidelity," 2000
"The Fugitive," 1993

Best picture with a boat in a leading role:
"Titanic," 1997
"The Poseidon Adventure," 1972
"Captains Courageous," 1937
"Lifeboat," 1944
"Moby Dick," 1956

Best picture with a motorcycle in a leading role:
"The Great Escape," 1963
"The Wild One," 1953
"Easy Rider," 1969

Best picture with an RV in a leading role:
"Lost in America," 1985
"The Long, Long Trailer," 1953
"About Schmidt," 2002

Best imaginary vehicle:
The Batmobile
The Starship Enterprise
The Millennium Falcon
The Great Glass Elevator

Best overall road picture:
"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" 2000
"It Happened One Night," 1934
The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, 2001, 2002, 2003
"The Grapes of Wrath," 1940
"Sullivan's Travels," 1941

The CTA announces a number of events affecting weekend service -- none look too taxing. See the full list here.

We've got votes coming in through the blog, through e-mail and snail-mail. We're getting a good turnout. Tell your friends, and vote!

The 2009 Oscar nominees will be announced Thursday, so the "Ride," always looking for a shameless tie-in, presents "The Ride Movie Awards."
The Ride can't think of a great transportation movie from 2008 (unless you count those ferries-in-peril in "The Dark Knight"), so the nominees span movie history.
Please vote for your favorites, add other nominees and categories if you like, and we'll publish the winners Feb. 23, the day after the Oscars. The easy way to vote would be to just copy this entry onto your comment, and put an X after each pick.

Best picture with a train in a leading role:
"The General," 1927
"Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express," 1974
"The Darjeeling Limited," 2007
"Silver Streak," 1974
"North by Northwest," 1959

Best picture with car(s) in a leading role:
"The Blues Brothers," 1980
"Cars," 2006
"Bullitt," 1968
"Duel," 1971
"Christine," 1983

Best picture with a plane in a leading role:
"Casablanca," 1942
"Airport," 1970
"Air Force One," 1997
"Airplane!" 1980
"Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," 1964

Best picture with a bus in a leading role:
"The Graduate," 1967
"Speed," 1994
"The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," 1994
"Get on the Bus," 1996

Best picture featuring the Chicago "L"
"Risky Business," 1980 (I dislike this movie, but I've never been a teenage boy)
"Spider Man-2," 2004
"While You Were Sleeping," 1995
"High Fidelity," 2000
"The Fugitive," 1993

Best picture with a boat in a leading role:
"Titanic," 1997
"The Poseidon Adventure," 1972
"Captains Courageous," 1937
"Lifeboat," 1944
"Moby Dick," 1956

Best picture with a motorcycle in a leading role:
"The Great Escape," 1963
"The Wild One," 1953
"Easy Rider," 1969

Best picture with an RV in a leading role:
"Lost in America," 1985
"The Long, Long Trailer," 1953
"About Schmidt," 2002

Best imaginary vehicle:
The Batmobile
The Starship Enterprise
The Millennium Falcon
The Great Glass Elevator

Best overall road picture:
"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" 2000
"It Happened One Night," 1934
The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, 2001, 2002, 2003
"The Grapes of Wrath," 1940
"Sullivan's Travels," 1941

Boston subway riders use a "CharlieCard" to pay their fares. Who's Charlie?

Yesenia was the first to know it was named after the folk song "Charlie on the MTA" and if Yesenia can send me an address and a preferred T-shirt size, I can send out a Sun-Times t-shirt. You can send by the blog or e-mail me at mwisniewski@suntimes.com.

The Boston subway system named its electronic card-based fare collection
system the "CharlieCard" as a tribute to a 1948 song called "Charlie on the
MTA" by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes. The Kingston Trio had a hit
with the song in 1959. The song tells of a man named Charlie who can't get
off the Boston subway because he didn't bring a nickel for the exit fare.
The chorus goes like this:

Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn'd
He may ride forever
'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned.

The abiding mystery of the song is that every day, Charlie's wife hands him
a sandwich "as the train goes rumbling through." So why doesn't she hand him
a nickel?

It's confession time.

I know I should stop talking on the cell phone while driving. I know it's illegal in Chicago, even though my chances of getting stopped for it are about equal to my chances of getting ticketed for jaywalking. I know it's dangerous -- new studies come in every year comparing driving while talking on a cell phone to driving while drunk. The National Safety Council recently called for a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving -- warning that use of a cell phone increases the risk of a crash by four times.

Hands-free or hands-on -- it doesn't matter. Cell phone use takes your mind and your eyes off the road. But people keep doing it -- think of how many times you're cut off in traffic and the driver's on the cell. Think of how many times YOU have had near misses because you're on the phone. Sure, it's convenient to use the phone to let people know where you are and when you'll be home. Sure it's nice to be able to use traffic time catching up with friends or clients. But it's just a terrible idea.

Laws aren't going to stop cell phone use while driving. There had to be something else -- a sense of social shame. There has to be a tipping point -- to go from thinking it's ok to drive while on the phone to thinking it's akin to breaking wind in public.

Think of how many people smoked in the 1970s -- one of my jobs as a kid was to empty and clean out the household ashtrays. My kids have never even seen an ashtray. It's not because cigarettes are illegal -- they're banned from many indoor places, but they're still legal outside and in people's homes. Most people don't smoke because finally, enough of them got the message that it's insanely bad for your health, and social mores evolved to make it seem silly instead of cool. That's what going to have to happen with cell phones and cars.

But some people have to be in the vanguard -- like the people who refused to smoke in the 1940s and risked looking like health nuts who only drink milk and eat raw vegetables. Some people have to decide to be cranks about it, and refuse to answer the phone unless the car is pulled over. Some people have to decide they're not going to talk to friends on the phone if they know their friends are driving.

I've done probably 946 really stupid things in my life. But I've never, ever driven drunk, because I was always afraid of hitting a kid. For the same reason, I vow to not talk on the phone while driving. That particular bit of stupidity is over. Will someone else take the pledge with me?

Metra had a terrible week, all apparently due to circumstances beyond its control.

On Wednesday morning, a ticket seller reported that an
armed man had boarded the express Loop-bound Burlington Northern train.
The ensuing police search that delayed thousands of passengers ended peacefully when officers discovered the gunman
actually was an armed U.S. Secret Service agent.

Later that same night, an Amtrak train derailed south of Union Station, delaying Metra trains going to the south and southwest suburbs.

Friday, sub-zero temperatures and a freight derailment in Buffalo Grove caused widespread problems and cut North Central service for the day. Thousands of passengers were stranded in the bitter cold.

Will we have trains to and from Antioch by Monday? Metra expects to, but check Metra's web site for service advisories.

It's hard to say what Metra could do to prevent this sort of thing -- since there were outside causes. The best thing to do if you're a passenger is always dress for the weather and make sure you have enough to read.

More Bus Tracker

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The CTA is expanding its bus tracker program Jan. 26 to add 11 new routes -- for a total of 86 out of 153 bus routes. Bus Tracker is a web-based program that provides riders with the locations and estimated arrival times of buses along routes. So if you have a BlackBerry, a PDA or a cell phone that can search the Web, or if you have time to check your computer before flying out of your house, you can know approximately when you're bus is going to arrive.

The CTA found that the number of visitors to the CTA Bus Tracker web site has steadily increased, particularly since the start of cold weather. Since November 1, the web site has logged an average of approximately 20,000 visits per weekday.

About 15 percent of all visits to the site are from wireless devices.

The new routes will be:
• #3 King Drive
• #X3 King Drive Express
• #4 Cottage Grove
• #X4 Cottage Grove Express
• #22 Clark
• #36 Broadway • #49B North Western
• #82 Kimball/Homan
• #93 California/Dodge
• #96 Lunt
• #97 Skokie

Look here to see if your route is already on Bus Tracker.

I'm a mild-mannered reporter -- like Clark Kent, but without the secret super powers.

I don't typically yell at people in traffic. I try very hard not to swear in the car. But there is one thing in traffic that makes the rage burble up like lava, makes me wish I carried a carton of eggs in the front seat, makes me wish unthinkable things on people I don't know -- and that is intersection blocking.

You've seen this. You're waiting to cross a major street. It's rush hour. You have the light. But you can't move, because a string of yahoos decided to move into the intersection and SIT THERE through your light because they can't move forward. You can't move around them.

You wonder -- what makes people do this? What awful crime was committed against them when they were children that makes them want to destroy the afternoons of innocent strangers? Did someone take their candy? Did the homecoming queen turn them down for the spring dance? They can see ahead of them. They know traffic is bad enough and slow enough that they can't clear the intersection. But they block it, from either sheer stupidity or sheer spite.

Mike Royko -- who was an even crankier Pole than I am -- once opined on this subject in a February 1990 column. As he sat in a blizzard, waiting for a goofy woman who was blocking the way, he thought about the human brain: "Einstein's equation: energy equals mass times the velocity of light squared, Edison searching the world for a filament that would light our homes and streets. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Popiel's Pocket Fisherman. But there sat this creature, blessed with a three-pound brain mass and those millions of cells. Yet she was incapable of a simple thought: 'If I put my foot on the gas and creep a few more yards, I'll stop and when the light changes those people on my left won't get past me.'" (My attempts to link to this column failed, but you can find it in the collection "For the Love of Mike.")

I suspect that conditions today are much worse than when Royko was driving. He saw one woman during a blizzard -- I can see four cars doing this at once on a sunny day at the intersection leading out of the Jewel east of Six Corners.

Tom Vanderbilt, the author of the book "Traffic," believes that the odds of encountering a jerk while driving are higher than ever, due to increased congestion and the fact that there are more jerks in the population -- judging from studies showing an increase in selfish behavior. As Vanderbilt explained it to me, "traffic is filled with people who think the roads belong to them -- it's 'MySpace' -- that being inside the car absolves them from any obligation to anyone else."

Maybe it's narcissism, maybe it's stupidity. Whatever it is, I will refrain from throwing eggs. But I will throw curses -- silent curses. May you inherit a hotel with a 100 rooms, and be found dead in every one. May your next car be a 1988 Ford Escort. May all the best pictures of your children appear on the "Wanted" posters at the police station. And may every person you encounter on the road drive exactly like you.

This week's Ride Trivia Quiz question was: "What American car maker was called an 'inspiration' by Adolf Hitler?" The correct answer is Henry Ford -- the German dictator used to keep a picture of Ford in his office. Ross Bay was the first with the correct answer, and if he can send me a shipping address and a size, I can send him his T-shirt. Thanks to everyone was playing.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

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