Beggars, shell game, stinkers: An awful CTA Red Line trip

Last week I was making my way downtown on the Red Line, heading to a job interview. I was trying to get into a zone without much luck.

First, there was the beggar who came from the other car. He was asking riders for a dime – 10 cents! I was thinking he should have set his sights a bit higher and he might get some righteous bucks. One guy actually did give him a dime, and the beggar didn’t seem too happy about it. Just think if he had asked for a dollar?

Soon after, a female beggar came through the car with a better rap than the dime-seeker. But she didn’t score anything.

Finally, at the other end of the car I heard the unmistakable sounds of the Shell Game operator. It was the same guy I had confronted last month. This time I was too far away and the train was too crowded anyway. But it appeared that he had to pay out more than he won. So that’s a good thing.

Finally, on the return trip home, I got on a car that stank of human piss and poop. I moved away from it, and noticed a number of people who were covering their noses with their hands.

It wasn’t so totally unbearable that I had to leave the car. I saw a homeless person with many coats and bags at the other end of the car, muttering in the corner.

But as the Red Line car emptied going north, the guy got up and moved closer to me. And I had to leave the car.

And so that was about the worst round trip CTA experience I’ve ever had. And that’s saying a lot.


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  • fb_avatar

    I can't say I'm surprised. Perhaps if CTA reinstated the motorman who controlled the doors or had plain clothes cops to patrol the train cars...or took trains out of service and had civilians making minimum wage (at least) to clean the cars and remove trash at the end of the lines, it would make rides a little better. Just some suggestions.

  • In reply to Kenneth Byrd:

    Motormen operate the train from the head end car.
    The conductor opened the doors. Conductors have been gone for 17 years now.

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    In reply to Kenneth Byrd:

    They do have people who remove trash and clean the cars at the end of the lines. But it's a long way from 95th to Howard.

  • What you experienced on the Red Line, is the same Red Line experience people have had for well over a decade..

  • Has anyone had experience with a woman I call "Histrionic Beggar?"

    This is an older woman with a very refined (for real) appearance and presentation. She'll pop through the emergency doors and say "Hello, I am in need of assistance. I am homeless. Hello ..." Pretty loud, pretty well articulated ...

    Here's the thing: She almost insists on some kind of acknowledgement when the car is half-full or less. She'll stop at each person ("Hello, sir. Hello, sir. Hello, sir. ...") and make several attempts before moving on. Seems more emotionally needy than most of the type ...

    Familiar? I've seen her mostly downtown.

  • In reply to Blue:

    Or the 'leg infection' guy..

  • Hilkevitch suggested that if you get the job, now is the time to get a car, even though, as suggested by the cost of parking comment, Emanuel is trying to make it real expensive to use it.

    One has to wonder how Joseph Schofer, transportation expert at Northwestern University, defined "quality" when he said "This situation should put the CTA on notice that they need to maintain quality of service so that they do not lose riders..." Smelling like excrement may be a "quality," but it may be like CTA providing "consistent" service.

  • Kevin, I feel your pain. I ride the Blue Line, and I cannot tell you how many times I've had to get off the 3rd car from the front (the car I prefer to ride) and change to the 2nd one because that one reeks something terrible; like somebody died. I get on at the Rosemont stop, so obviously, some homeless person(s) is riding the train to O'Hare and then going right back downtown. Either that or its some smell-prone homeless person begging for money, going car-to-car. Don't see any shell games going on the Blue Line.

  • I know I'm dreaming to think that it would ever happen, but I'd really like to see the riders rise up and collectively confront the aggressive pan handlers. Perhaps if they were made to feel uncomfortable, they'd stop hassling the riders.

    Of course, it's never going to happen. The chance of a violent encounter with a deranged pan handler makes most of us think twice. Also, I'm sure this would wind up blowing up in our faces, and we'd be made out as the bad guys.

    Pan handling and shell games are illegal on the CTA. They now have security cameras on practically every car, and I'm sure the CTA is well aware of the usual idiots causing the problems. Apparently it's asking too much for the CTA to be proactive, and kick the troublemakers off the trains.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    The panhandlers don't have an economic incentive to comply with the irate passengers. Same as I said a week ago, the shell game artists were only delayed by Kevin's intervention by 3 minutes, and, as this post proves, certainly not permanently.

    Your security camera point makes sense, but I'm sure the higher priority is to ID rapists and robbers. Similarly, with the homeless, CTA could kick out everyone at the terminals and hose down the train, but apparently does not.

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    Yeah, I ride the Red Line and yeah, I run into the same panhandlers, the same train-sleepers, the same ill-smelling homeless people. They're not the cause of the problems--they're the evidence. Until there's appropriate mental-health services and housing available, where would you have them go? Anywhere but where you all are, I guess.

    I certainly hope none of you ever experience the sort of profound mental illness or catastrophic reversals of fortune that will render you homeless. And if you do, I hope you encounter people more-compassionate than yourselves.

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    In reply to Regina Arndt:

    Thanks for your comment. I read through them up to yours, just hoping someone would point out the real problem here. God willing, we will wake up one of these days and realize that we are all responsible for homelessness.

  • I thought January 4th was my worst trip ever on the Red Line. It was late Sunday around 7pm. I had just come from Macy's and was heading south. Train was somewhat crowded so I stood up from Monroe to Roosevelt. I finally was able to sit down. I sat in the 2nd seat from the door, put my bags on the 1st seat and had my back to the people behind me. Woman rudely taps me on the back and starts talking to me. Apparently she couldn't see my ear buds in nor could she hear the music. Long story short, she asks me for money because she's homeless, etc. I tell her I only had debit cards and pop my ear buds in. I hear her call me a b***h. Okay whatever.

    This past Sunday, was the absolute worst. I get on the train and almost immediately a man gets on and just starts walking back and forth. It wasn't until he stopped moving that the stench hit the car. Like he had peed on himself for the past 5 days and just kept the clothes on. He sat down on the long stretch of seats, puts his feet up, legs cocked open and stretches out across the seats. Just sitting there. Had everyone on one end of the car.

    Anyone experience the guy at 95th (he's also moving north of 95th) who says "Can I have a dollar, fifty cents, a dime, anything? I'm a Vet and I'm homeless. I need to get on the train". I see him every Friday and Sunday

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    In reply to DreaR:

    The guy at 95th...oh, my. I see him almost daily. Every day he stops me (sometimes by touching my shoulder or grabbing my arm, which: okay, look, I am a RAVING introvert and I don't even handle being SPOKEN to well--forget about touching!!!) And every day, I tell him what you told that woman: I don't have any cash.

    One day I was waiting at the bus stop at 95th and he came over and started asking everyone for money, and when he got to me I gave him my usual answer. He said "You said that last time!" And I came back with "It was the truth THAT time too!!"

    The people around me just cracked up laughing. Apparently they know him too.

    He was on a Red Line train one day and he yells, like at volume 11, "I'M SORRY FOR YELLING BUT I KNOW YOU ALL CAN HEAR ME!" and then continues his spiel--except I guess that day it was "throw-every-possible-appeal-in-the-mix" day, because along with being a veteran, he also claimed he had to get to work in five hours. None of us had the nerve to ask where he worked.

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