Monday, November 9, 2015

Exact Change Only!

Giant cities are like ant colonies full of constant movement and people trying to pretend they aren't in a crowd. I'm back in Chicago, gamely deciding to see what it's like to just use public transportation tonight through Wednesday.
In the city it always costs to park, time gets devoured waiting behind other idling vehicles. Would public transportation be a great alternative to the cost of parking, the time and traffic?
The machines all had lines. Signs demanded exact change, white and blue labels even noted all coins down through nickels were accepted. "No change given!" was the giant warning over out heads.
I thought I had it figured. $20 for a three day pass. Got it! Nope. Forgot the five dollar charge for the card. Lose five dollars and pay with a ten? Why, when I had a giant Ziploc full of change I brought for emergency tolls?! I proudly must have resembled Mr. Bean as I plunked nickels, dimes and quarters in. The machine started beeping. I was not done. The coins quit feeding in. I tried smaller coins. Dimes worked for a few more seconds. The machine went silent. It seemed like we'd raced but I wasn't sure what I won. No ticket came out. My twenty came back with a refund slip. My change was not returned. The CTA woman babbled at my confused incomprehension. She told me the machines weren't for coins. I messed it up.
They sent me to their headquarters, do not pass go, do not stop for coffee. Go get your three day pass. Take the blue train to the green one then the green one to cut the red wire. That's about what I caught too. Strange city, at least I was hustled off on this quest on a light rail. There were signs to helpfully tell me everything I didn't know and still didn't understand.
Still with help from a random friendly lady, I figured out which stop to use on the green line. I went to the CTA to ask where the headquarters was on the ground and she shook her head. "They closed at 4:30 pm." It's after six, going on seven. My receipt was from 5:15 pm. The workers at O Hare had to know they were wasting my time, sending me on a frustrating, stressful and fruitless quest.
She asked where I was headed, gave me a map and told me use my receipt as my pass tonight. Go to my meeting, then catch my other light rail.
She didn't tell me the red line folks would refuse to acknowledge my receipt. In fact, she emphasized if someone tried claiming otherwise to show them the date and time on the receipt and to mention it WAS valid. She didn't tell me what to say when the red line folks responded to this with apathy and by saying she was wrong without looking at the receipt. In fact they tried imitating a machine by just saying it's a receipt it's not a ticket. I was still told to go on an epic journey tomorrow to get my $3.95 refund. After paying $2.50 for the piece of paper my 50 cent ticket was printed on I've decided to just walk to my appointments tomorrow and skip the three day pass for another one way back to O'Hare.
So far, exact change because no refund will be given but don't use change although you can. Just because that trip says it takes seven minutes, it will always take longer. Of course, this likely makes sense to someone.