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What a Day!

Fabio is in the process of becoming a naturalized American, so yesterday he had to take off work to be fingerprinted. His appointment was at 8am and turned out to not take very long at all – he was home a little after 9:00!

So, he suggested we have a family day, which I’m always up for! I had been wanting to take the kids downtown on the train for some time now, and I thought it would be much easier with Fabio along. So, we looked online for free stuff to do on Thursdays, and found the Aquarium to be free on Thursdays! YAY! We packed a lunch, got coats on, hustled to get everyone pottied and loaded in the car to make the 10:13 train. It was already about 9:50 by that time, and I hate rushing to make a train, so I was already feeling stressed, when Fabio suggested I double-check the Aquarium’s site to make sure today was free. So, I ran back inside and guess what? November’s free day is Tuesday! I got to feeling so stressed! I had only a few seconds to figure out where else was free on Thursdays and still make the 10:13 train!

Well, we realized that it was no longer possible to make the train anyway, so we let the kids out of the car so we could think things through. We decided to go to the Field Museum anyway, even though it wouldn’t be free, and make it on the 11:13 train, which gave me time to prepare a sack lunch and get my mind together and at ease. (Trains only come once every hour after rush hour is over.)

We still left the house in plenty of time. We got to the train station and tried to find a parking spot. We did – at the furthest end of the lot, of course. We had almost walked to the station when I saw a sign stating that the lot was only for members and all other cars would be towed and fined $125! So, Fabio ran back to move the car while I took the kids to the station to buy our tickets.

I inserted a $20 bill into the ticket machine and, of course, you can’t buy multiple tickets at once. You have to do them one …. at….. a ….. time….. and the machine gave me my moutain of change in coins! So, I was rushing to re-insert the coins to buy the remaining three tickets when I see Fabio come RUNNING down the hall, stating that the train was on the platform!!! AAAAHHHH!!! I grabbed the rest of the change out of the machine, grabbed the kids up and we all raced up the stairs to the platform…. just in time to see the train pulling out of the station!
I almost cried. I couldn’t believe it! Now what would we do?

We walked back down the steps dejectedly. Should we drive into the city? Wait another hour for the next train? Then we would really be pushing it with naps and all…. Go home and forget it all?

As we walked through the station, I saw a couple of girls walking toward us all excited, approaching the ticket machines and I thought I could at least sell our tickets to them! I asked where they were going and they said, “Downtown.” Hmmm….. next question: “What time does your train leave?” “At 11:13. It will be here any minute.”
OOoooohhhhhhh! So, the train that had left the station was the SOUTH-bound train! Hallelujah! So, we all RACED back up the stairs to the platform one more time and this time we just made it into the NORTH-bound train! <>

Now before I go on with the rest of our day, let me interject a little here about trains, stations, and such. This was only our second experience of riding the train in America, although we did it almost daily in Japan. Now, let me tell you, it is a much more pleasant experience in Japan. Now that I had something to compare it with, I couldn’t believe certain things about the trains in America: there are no schedules or train route maps posted on the walls in the station. There are no signs on the platforms that let you know the trains’ direction and destination. There are no indicators on the train itself of these things either. And another welcome commodity would be a clock in the station or on the platform or both! (My watch battery is dead.) Once we did arrive at Roosevelt Station, wow! That place is an embarrasement to the city of Chicago! It does look like they are working on making some improvements, but those improvements look about twenty years overdue…. Then there are other little things, like being able to buy multiple tickets at once, being able to receive change in bills as well as change, etc. So, those of you reading from Japan, be thankful for the spiffy train system in place there! 🙂

Okay, so we did finally make it to the Field Museum, and we did enjoy it. 🙂 The kids enjoyed the train ride too! The only other time they had ridden the Metra was three years ago, almost exactly. Dominique was 5 weeks old, and Joshua was 2 years, 4 months old. We told them about that time yesterday, and Joshua said he remembered it! We thought he was just bluffing, so we asked him who we were with and he said, “Mr. John and Miss Karen and Little Elizabeth” (the Leitzels). So, I guess he really did remember it! I guess the train ride had made more of an impression on him than where we went after the ride (Shedd Aquarium), because he didn’t seem to have any recollection of that!

So, about the museum: We didn’t catch Egypt the last time we were there, and in September, they opened a new exhibit: Crown Family Play Lab. That is a neat place for kids! You can see pics below of the kids playing there, dressed up like turtles. This visit was also neat, because even though it had only been a few months since the last time we were there, Joshua is reading SO much better than he was that time, so he was going all around reading the labels on everything and getting himself an education! (Without me having to explain it all.)

So, a good time was had by all and then it was time to make our way home on the train. We were pre-armed with our tickets this time, and we left the museum with plenty of time to spare to make it to the station. All good. We double-checked that we were on a south-bound train before stepping aboard, and then we relaxed and prepared to enjoy the ride.

Until about 15 minutes later when things started to look… unfamiliar! We were headed to South Chicago instead of the south suburbs! I checked with a train staff member, and he said we would have to ride to the end of the line, wait in the same train, and after a while it would go back the other direction and we could transfer trains at 55th Station. Great! So, it took us about two hours to get back to Homewood! And now I think we have had our fill of train riding for the next three years, at least. Unless we go back to Japan before then. Then I would gladly ride the train daily again. 🙂