I ventured into Chicago to attend "Riot Fest" a three day metal / punk / alternative music festival in Humboldt Park. I have experience in Chicago, I lived and worked there and I have traveled on the CTA from time to time because of that and from some other personal trips and although those experiences were for the most part before electronic fares and the entire system was computerized the concepts are still the same. With my experiences being some time back we decided to contact the CTA even before we began the trip because we had heard of a station being closed for repairs / remodeling as well as the unfamiliarity of the system.
During our conversations and email contacts with the CTA there was still confusion so we decided to ask questions of friends that live in Chicago, as well as the front desk at our hotel and we had a pretty good idea of what we had to do EXCEPT for one little issue. I kid you not that every single contact with the CTA regarding the closure of the California station was literally avoided or poorly explained. With the exception of one of our friends that gave us excellent assistance, no one could give a clear explanation of what the Blue Line did AT the California station so we decided to have a game time decision to determine what he had to do.
The first CTA employee we asked about the Blue Line told us that the train would stop BEFORE the closed station then we would have to walk to get a shuttle that would then take us to ANOTHER station where we could then take a bus. The next employee said a very similar inaccuracy BUT they told us that we would have to stop before the station then walk to our destination because there was no shuttle. We did ask a third employee and she was EXCELLENT as she not only made sure we got the appropriate three day passes but she also gave us this little nugget; she told us that the train goes PAST the California station and then she told us what station to get off at and then what bus we could take. I kid you not, she was the first one of the day AND at least the first one out of three emails and two telephone calls to get us in the right direction.
Let's ponder another point for a moment and decide how worthless people in call centers tend to be. We called the CTA Customer Service number today whereby we asked the same question but the person that we talked to had no idea about the train because she was on the bus side of the wonderful world of the CTA. Fair enough, I totally understand that we made a mistake there BUT when we asked if she could transfer us to the appropriate department or give us the correct contact number she said "No." Apparently she didn't know how to do that. Yep, I said she didn't know how to do that.
After we got to the correct station today we exited the train and walked toward the exit of the station and we asked a question of the employees as to which direction to go to get to Humboldt Park and that answer has déjà vu written all over it, so I'll give a little back story to explain. A few years ago we went to the Congress Theater in Chicago to see Death Angel / Testament and Anthrax and much like that day when we got off of the train we had to ask which direction to go and the CTA employee informed us a direction of travel with a flippant little wave of the hand and when I asked her to clarify the little wave was done with a head toss. I followed those step by step directions and it took us several blocks out of the way and to fix the gaff I asked a very helpful valet at a restaurant who gave great directions that despite the fact he sent us through the darkest street in the city (there wasn't a freaking streetlight the entire way) we got to our destination.
Today we rolled the dice and asked a CTA employee where to go and she said well there was a bus we could have taken but she wasn't sure if that was the right direction of travel so she referred us to another employee because he "knew about those things." I should have known better because the first thing he said was why not just walk instead of taking the bus because it wasn't that far. Remembering the Congress Theater fiasco I asked him which way and he rather flippantly kind of brushed us away with a small hand gesture but I was ready for him so I used my own hand signal (no I didn't flip him off) to confirm the direction of travel and he said to "go to the next intersection down that way" and it was a couple of blocks from there.
So we followed young Zippy's directions and we went to the next intersection looking for those couple of blocks. Once again those directions were wrong. We followed the pinheads line of travel, then had to backtrack to a direction of travel that we came from, then we asked a woman walking and she gave us a route. That "next block" bull the "Wonder Twin" gave us was four blocks, then we had to walk another three or four to the actual venue (which was then followed by a hike the entire length of the park to get to will-call). You might think that would be an excellent conclusion now wouldn't you but nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
The rain and cold was really getting to me so we did bail a little early in an attempt to get warm so we waited for a bus to get us back to our car parked in a CTA lot. After I watched a man vomit all over the enclosed bus stop and literally clear out everyone from that enclosed bus stop (they relocated in the rain with the rest of us), we decided to walk a little bit where we found a massive number of buses ready for the festival to close. When we approached the bus I specifically asked if the bus dropped off at a Blue Line station he said yes and he told us a specific stop to get off at. He was wrong. We figured it out after we scared the crap out of another woman walking when we asked her for directions but we did get out train and we got back to the hotel.
As I look back at the excursion into CTA stupidity I ask myself is that job really that hard? Shouldn't their employees have some sense of direction whereas a head toss doesn't take the place of legitimate assistance? Can that job be that mind-numbing that they are so severely jaded that common sense or common courtesy are easily covered up with incompetency? I realize that its easy to discount their lack of professionalism by saying that people like us are just dumb but isn't their job to assist? Can it be said that simple questions such as closures or what a train does at that closure are so easy that their brains cannot function when trying to elicit a proper answer?
Following my evening medication (prescription medications) and a little decompression I reflected on the night and determined that all is well! Two more days of killer bands, a couple more train and bus rides and probably another rant about someone else.