Ahhh…my home away from home…The Metra. It is my electro-diesel living room where I work, watch, listen and sometimes sleep. With 40% of it’s product still in service since the Eisenhower presidency, comfort is elusive, as is adhering to any sort of a regular schedule. One-way trips can vary from 40 minutes to 7 hours, depending on the reliability of that old hardware, frozen train signals and archaic switching equipment. On any given winter day you can see 6 rail workers standing around a switch junction with the tracks purposefully set on fire in order to keep them from freezing. We are in the USA in 2017 right? As my buddy Dennis always says…”Is this the best we got?”. Dennis is also a commuter. Then there’s those jumpers out there who decide to take out thousands of commuters in their selfish escapade to meet their maker. Don’t get me wrong, I sound callous, I know, but I’m actually very sympathetic…it’s sad and a tragedy. But after 20-30 of these my sympathy meter is slowly heading south. At the end of the day, it sure beats driving…no questions asked.
So our son is fascinated with trains. Not sure if it’s the Thomas factor or kids just loving trains in general. So to quench his thirst I take him on mini train rides from Barrington to Arlington Heights. He absolutely loves it…the doors that automatically open…the upstairs seats…the loud, blue engine….the conductors. I give him my old monthly tickets at the end of each month and when we take our rides he uses them to “pay” for his ride. The second the door opens he yells with no regard for noise violations, “HI CONDUCTER!!!”, holding his ticket high and proud. He knows by name the two stops between Barrington and Arlington Heights…”Papa, are we in Palatine?” or “Papa, are we approaching Arlington Park?”. And being the age he is, there are never moments without questions being asked…”Papa, are we going fast?”…”Yes, Peter”…”Why?”…”Because, that is what trains do”…”Why?” A luscious blend of aggravating and cute. These days aren’t going to last forever, so soak them in while you can. One day soon I’ll be asking him “Hey Peter, want to take a train ride?” Then I’ll hear “No Papa, you’re boring…I’m going to the movies with my friends”. I dread the day that happens.
After arriving in Arlington Heights we always head to the juice bar to get a smoothie, then to the bakery for a cookie, then to the local fro-yo joint, then to the hospital to check for diabetes. I let him ride on my shoulders as we walk to our destinations. He feels like king of the streets, and me, I feel like the proudest papa on planet earth.