The Red Line of Attack

By The Second City | May 12, 2016

The Red Line. Where the cars are more crowded than a Hot Doug’s surprise one-day-only re-opening, and the smells are stronger than any given Chicagoan’s wish for a surprise one-day only re-opening of Hot Doug’s. It’s also the only CTA line that provides a straight shot between Chicago’s North and South Sides, cutting right through downtown.

Translation: everyone rides it. Everyone. As such, there are certain unwritten rules all riders of this train should be familiar with.

There’s an art to not-seeing a co-worker

Is that Margot from HR at the North and Clybourn station? That guy from marketing in your car at Garfield? That client you had an almost-thing with once cross the platform at Fullerton? No, it’s not. Unless you want to spend the next ten-plus minutes in polite obligatory small talk interspersed with anxiety-inducing silence, you don’t see them. And they don’t see you.

No matter what, do not stare

Remember: this is the train line most frequented by Cubs fans. I’ve seen touchy bros clad in their finest cargo shorts get in fights for less. Speaking of which…

Know when there’s a Cubs game happening

Traveling north? Unless you want to drown in a sea of blue and red, for the love of Kris Bryant, memorize the home game schedule. Also…

Know when there’s a Sox game happening

Traveling south? Unless you want to drown in a sea of black and white, for the love of Chris Sale, memorize the home game schedule.

Learn to speak conductor

Well, kind of. It’s not so much a “language” so much as it’s learning to decipher between the vowels and consonants within the fuzzy, impossible-to-comprehend train PA system. The quicker you can distinguish the difference between syllables, the less chance you have of ending up at Lawrence (again) for God knows why but here I am again at Lawrence and this time I was payingattentionwhathappened???

Get off that express train immediately

Sometimes, in a cruel display of the chaos of life, your conductor will announce that your train will be skipping every stop until Morse, even though you live right at Thorndale. This will happen for no apparent reason. Prepare yourself now, so the blow of being forced to go to Rogers Park will not emotionally destroy you.

…Unless you’re going to Evanston

If you’re trying to get to Evanston, then you’d best check the Purple Line Express schedule and remember to transfer at Belmont…or else you’ll be cursed to ride all the way to E-Town one. Stop. At. A. Time. Giving you plenty of time to think about the life choices that have led you to spending more time than necessary at the Howard station.

Master your stink eye

This will come in handy at many points during your commute on the Red Line, including (but not limited to):

  • When people place their bag on the seat next to them and you want to sit down.
  • When you place your bag on the seat next to you and someone else wants to sit down.

Download stuff at home

The Red Line is one of the few trains in the CTA system that goes underground. Which means no internet. So for the love of Rahm, have the foresight to download your podcasts in advance.

Speaking of the Red Line…The Second City e.t.c.’s 40th revue, A Red Line Runs Through It, is now playing.


Maggie Smith (@THEJudiDench) is a Chicago-based writer and improviser. She performs at ComedySportz, iO and The Annoyance. 

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