Union Station has many layers to it and I don't mean the different floors and corridors. From the South side, Jackson Street, one is confronted with the large stone edifice. The old world charm of the late 1900's grandeur prevails once stepping through the over-sized doors. The marble flooring and pillars impress the stoutest individual and upon gazing over the balcony into the main lobby, one has to wonder what it must have been like a hundred years ago.
If you are not familiar with Union Station, it is the train depot in downtown Chicago. Walking into the building from Adams Street is a great contrast with its bustling, modern version of the city. Once through the glass doors, escalators send everyone down into the belly of the building. Union Station is a maze. The corridors were probably wide enough at one time in the 1960's, but don't try going against the crowd after a train has unloaded and folks surge for the exits and streets beyond.
The mixed scents of fresh popcorn, hot dogs and cin-nabons remind me of a carnival. Nice for awhile, then not so much. The bathrooms are not near so charming as the main hall. Long lines spill out into the hallway as women wait their turn. Men walk in and saunter out in mere moments, never a line. Every woman notices this discrepancy, but little will be done to fix over-used, too small restrooms.
I waited with my friend to pick up another friend coming in from New Jersey. We arrived at 8:30 a.m. fighting our way across the interstate highways, then to a parking garage across from the train station. At 6:00 a.m. the train's website said the train we waited for was on time and scheduled to arrive at 8:45 a.m. We weren't late! High fives all around for not missing our meet-up!
At 8:45 a.m. the travel board changed to late arrival, a two-hour delay. That changed everything. We now would not be able to make a doctor's appointment, a meeting, or be on time for work. We all scrambled to make the necessary calls and settled in to wait. Actually, we enjoyed the beautiful summer day, and walked the streets of Chicago for awhile. We checked our smart phones to see about the delay. It now read another two-hour delay. We had lunch, knowing we would be facing rush hour traffic on the way home. A nice woman we had been sitting by told us her life story. True or not, I'm not sure, but it helped pass the time. Another woman reminded us to keep our purses and valuables close. She had just witnessed a man arrested for taking someone's bag. "And he was dressed so nice," she added.
We took another walk. We sat in the sunshine. We ate popcorn. We stood in line for the bathroom. We watched the janitor switch one escalator from down to up. Interesting. We had wanted it to go up at one time and had to go around. Then when we were about to go down this escalator, he switched it to go up. We never did get a ride on that escalator.
Five and a half hours later, our train arrived.
I've had to wait in many places for many reasons: the hospital during an operation of a loved one, an airport for a plane to arrive, or stuck in congested traffic. Now I can add waiting for a train to that list. As a writer, I people watched. I noticed what folks carried with them to travel. The business folks were stream-lined with computer packs and a few bags, sensible shoes. Travelers, or so the signs all around stated, were allowed 2 carry-ons, about one size larger than they allow for carry-ons for airplanes. I don't believe many bothered to read those signs. Besides the pillows and stuffed animals, books seemed a favorite and I enjoyed seeing that. Since I love books - real books, I was glad to know many still favored them while traveling. I would say most over-packed as they lugged their bags behind them, back packs and purses dangling at precarious angles.
I hope all the folks I watched yesterday arrived at their destinations in a timely matter. Most looked to be heading for someplace fun. I hope they enjoy their ride. I hope they don't have to endure a five hour delay. But if they do, most will have a book to keep them company!
Til next time ~