by Peter Zelchenko February 26, 2010

How have the CTA cuts been affecting normal Chicagoans? Well. I wouldn't know anything about that -- I only hang out with eccentrics.

Like Blondie, for instance. One of CTA's many colorful bus drivers, Blondie (really Luray Turner, #8679) drives the #X28. She's big, black, blonde, beautful, and always laughing.

"People also call me 'Sexy,'" she told me a couple of weeks ago. "And sometimes 'Red Cadillac.' Have you heard that one?" No, I haven't. (That's her car.) But Red Cadillac's isn't driving her car. How was she faring with the transit cuts after the snowstorm that had just hit?

"Baby, I had to hitchhike to work this morning. I live on 92nd." This was on a bad leg. She has to be at the CTA's 103rd Street bus garage at 103rd and Stony Island at 5:56 a.m. to check in, but the #14 and #15 buses which run south along Jeffrey -- a six-block hike from her home -- now start coming to her stop around 7:30, thanks to the cuts. So she had to hitch a ride on Jeffrey to get the two miles to the garage.

Wait. A CTA driver has to hitchhike to work?

That's not all. Blondie tried to call the CTA's Travel Information line (836-7000 or 888-YOUR-CTA) to find out how she could get to work, but they opted to shorten its hours about a year ago. Now you can only get the CTA on the phone from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Today, if you want to know anything, you need to be rich enough for a smartphone and BusTracker service.

(Don't attempt to text BusTracker at 41411 with anything but a costly smartphone; it will take longer to muddle through the impossible interface than just to freeze and wait for the bus.)

Insiders like Blondie know the number to CTA Control, and she managed to get through, but they had no advice for her either. So she hitchhiked.

Indomitable Blondie is always cheerful, despite her difficulties. The rich have cars, or at least they have BusTracker. The rest of us are even more emotionally and physically stranded than we've ever been, thanks to the CTA and the mayor's whiz-kids.

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