Monday, August 25, 2014

Chicago's Union Station: an Assault to the Senses

It's been a long time since my last post, partly because I now rant on Facebook, especially when it's just a little rant, and partly because I've been too busy to blog. These past few weeks though I've found a topic that really pisses me off.
With my recent move to the suburbs I've been commuting via Metra to Chicago's Union Station. While commuting via Metra for the most part is a quick and pleasant experience, the worst part of my commute is to and from Union Station and my office. With my office being north west of Union Station I exit the North side of the station at the Madison Street Entrance. Unfortunately Union Station is old with the tracks located below buildings. The ventilation on the tracks is very poor resulting in having to walk through a cloud of diesel exhaust. On top of that the trains all back in to the station so walking out the north entrance involves walking past the engines which are not only spewing diesel exhaust but are extremely loud. I have a sound meter app on my phone that I tried using, but unfortunately that topped out at 95 decibels so I can only imagine that the actual volume is well over 100. Many people, myself included, stick their fingers in their ears while walking past to block some of the noise. Sometime I try to use ear plugs, but that requires me to remember to put them in before exiting the train or before entering the station. I'm surprised I've never seen anyone with a mask over their face.
The worst part is during the evening commute since there always seems to be an engine parked at the stairway to the tracks. With two trains leaving at almost the same time the stairs are always crowded and slow moving with so many people going down and you walk right past the top part of the locomotive getting a full blast of warm air that I'm sure also contains exhaust. There was an article in the Chicago Tribune about soot particles on the trains, but I don't remember the article mentioning anything about the stations. I wonder how much soot I breath in on a daily basis.
You would think that being outside the station would end the assault, but you would be wrong. With all the cars, buses, and trucks running past you would think that's my complaint, but it's actually not. Instead it's all the smokers I have to walk past. Growing up I remember always seeing public service messages from the American Lung Association to quit smoking and I always thought that by 2000 there would be hardly anyone still smoking. Boy, was I wrong. I can't even recall that last time I saw a public service message about smoking and it seems like packs of smokers like to congregate downtown, especially around train stations.

Update 9/30/2014
I've been using these ear plugs for the past few weeks and they work really well.  They're inexpensive, reusable, can be inserted and removed quickly and easily, and come with a nice little case to keep them clean and ready to use when you need them.  They're certainly a lot more comfortable than sticking your fingers in your ears and just as effective.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Shrinking Thanksgiving

A little over five years ago I ranted about stores being open for thanksgiving.  Unfortunately since then things have only gotten worse.  Not only are stores like K-mart open today, but Black Friday, which has started earlier and earlier every year is now starting at midnight for most stores.  This means that the employees of these stores, instead of being able to enjoy a brief Thanksgiving diner with their family, now don't even get that.  Many employees have been complaining in order to work the midnight shift they must go to sleep around 2pm and completely miss out on Thanksgiving dinner.  With on-line shopping available 24/7 is it really necessary to have the stores open at midnight?  Are stores really going to make huge profits from those customers that are at the store at 1am to buy that one item on sale?  Are they really going to spend time in the store buying things that they could buy at a normal time for the same price?  It's time to let people enjoy a truly American holiday with their families and not force them to miss out just because they're not fortunate enough to have a job that allows them to sleep in.  If you must go shopping on Black Friday, do it from the comfort of your own home on-line and skip the stores.  If enough people avoid this ridiculousness maybe the stores will open later next year and let their staff enjoy the holiday the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Are you a reporter or a doer?

I don't know about you, but I found this article about Bill Nye collapsing during a presentation at the University of Southern California a little disturbing.  Bill passes out and the only action by his audience is to tweet about it?  Sounds to me like he was lecturing to a bunch of twits.  If I were in the audience, I know posting something about it would be the last thing on my mind.  The first thing I would want to do is find out if he was OK and call for help.  What would you do if you were in this situation?  Do you want to be making news or reporting news?  If the behavior of these students doesn't change the last thing you may hear is, "You're choking?  I'll give you the Heimlich just as soon as I finish this tweet."