The Nicest Train Conductor in Chicago

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When I ride the subway to work in the morning, usually the announcements of the train conductor are either just-the-facts-ma’am basics or incoherent grumbles.  But every once in a while, if we catch just the right train, we straphangers are greeted by a quiet, steady voice, somehow both ragged and smooth, the voice of someone who has smoked a lot of cigarettes and listened to a lot of jazz. As the train hurtles down the track, he tells us a little bit about what’s happening -- where we’re headed, the temperature, any track work we should know about, all with a gentle, easy demeanor.  And he wishes us a nice day.  

It’s a wondrous note of civility for all of us, literally piled on top of one another on the uptown F, throwing elbows and trying to read newspapers. And none of us have any idea who he is.

Read the papers and most of the focus remains on how awful the economy is getting and corporate tycoons who are ripping us off. Which is at this point less informative than depressing and shrill.  The fact is, a lot of things are bad, but we each continue to have little moments where the small gestures of strangers break through the clouds and make our lives a little brighter, a little more liveable. And it would be nice to read about those a little, too.   

Today in the Chicago Tribune Christopher Borrelli offers a great example, as he writes about trying to track down his favorite train operator, 54 year old Michael Powell, who loves his job so much he would do it for free:

Everything’s lousy and everyone is miserable, yet this man is a bright spot, a credit to the CTA, a guy who goes out of his way, several times in the course of my anonymous 40-minute ride to Rogers Park, to wish passengers a nice day.  

He reminds them not to forget their belongings; he implores them to do their homework. He says, "May the Force be with you," and he says, "Nighty night," "Rain’s better than snow," "Scooby-Doo.

Read the full story here.   
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8 years 6 months ago
What a refreshing change of pace from the sterile ''Next stop is Garfield Boulevard. Doors open to the left at Garfield Boulevard'' that we frequently get on the CTA! I wonder if this guy may have been running the cars in my own days of riding the Red Line between Loyola Lake Shore and Loyola Water Tower a decade ago!

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