My morning Brown Line commute has evolved over this past year, and it's not only because I'm now getting on at the Francisco stop rather than squeezing on at Southport. Rather, I'm finding that I spend my time en route to the Loop completely differently than I did six months ago.
Yes, I'm still memorizing every face that gets on and off the train. And all those zipping by on the platform.
Yes, I'm still jockeying for position to be the first in the doors.
Yes, I'm still trying not to touch anything but the insides of my pockets for the duration of the trip.
And yes, I'm still meticulously going over my 14-step plan for how I would save everyone's life if my car jumps the tracks and dangles toward Sheffield. Step 6 involves everyone's shoelaces. Step 12, the interlocking of naked armpits.
But I recently joined 2005 and began podcasting, and for now my El commute has been saved.
I used to simply listen to an album on my iPod and skim the day's RedEye, which often tasted like sugary "commuter news" with its condensed national stories ready for quick consumption, but a couple of months ago I just up and stopped grabbing it from the box. Maybe it was because I was reading all the same content the night before online or because of the paper's endless Pete Wentz coverage, but I just suddenly stopped caring for it after one-and-a-half years. (I do admit I miss the columns of Mark Bazer and Jimmy Greenfield. Funny, funny writers.)
Aimless, I began picking up the weekly Chicago Reader, but its hard-hitting contents somehow didn't sit well on the morning train. I kept to saving it, and Time Out Chicago, for the ride home when I'm more in tune with all their beverage coverage. And with the musings of Dan Savage.
Quarters are for meters, laundry and shopping mall water fountains, so that left out the possibility of falling back on the Sun-Times or Tribune.
Suddenly I found my morning train rides up in the air, ripe for the media's taking. I considered renewing my subscriptions to The Believer or The New Yorker, but didn't. Maybe, I thought, I could reach left, right or across the aisle for a copy of "Eat, Pray, Love." Maybe I could get a turn in on somebody's Nintendo DS. Or maybe I could put my laptop's battery to the test and watch one of the movies my coworker has given me via USB.
Confused, I tried reading some ESPN.com and blogs through my BlackBerry, but ended up playing tedious games of BrickBreaker instead.
And then, just when I was fearing another morning commute where I'd be playing solitaire on my iPod while listening to another album I just downloaded, I gave these "podcasts" a shot.
Check. Effing. Mate.
Instead of listening to TV on the Radio, I'm now watching TV or listening to the radio. On the train. My morning rides now consist of Countdown with Keith Olbermann (the video podcast) or any number of NPR shows (audio podcasts) like This American Life or Eight Forty-Eight.
I'm blissed out, watching rooftop deck after rooftop deck go by while listening to Ira Glass. I'm watching Olbermann flip out over Sarah Palin's latest interview while listening to my conductor call out the train stations. And for now, all is right on the way to the Loop.
So what are you listening to, watching, or reading on your El commute?
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