Sunday night I took a ride on the CTA holiday train, i.e., the Red Line festooned with gobs of lights, sparkling tinsel, and a Santa sleigh.
Since when does the Christmas machine start churning before the roast turkey has popped out of the oven? I'm aware that in recent years the ornaments and other tchotkes start filling stores soon after Halloween, but this seemed a bit premature. Apparently, the holiday train couldn't wait to start chugging. The train pulled up downtown at Jackson last night, to my amazement. I asked "Santa's helpers" if this was in fact, the Red Line. "Yes!" they shouted. "Climb aboard!" Never in my all my years of riding the CTA have I been experienced such enthusiasm about it.
The train raced forward and the most bizarre Christmas soundtrack blared. The being trapped element reminded me of Gene Wilder's surreal boat ride on the chocolate river in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I love that scene in particular because it contains the element of the unknown.
Unfortunately on my ride no Gene Wilder in sight, and although some female elves, no David Sedaris disguised as an elf. Seat fabrics of Christmas themes! Where does all this extra CTA geld come from? And in a broken economy? I watched the reactions of people on the platform seeing the train for the first time. Women smiled in wonderment and surprise, the males bewildered but not baring any teeth.
One guy with a beard and hoodie got on at Fullerton and held a blank expression as he took his seat and opened a book. He did however take a candy cane from the CTA/Santa helper (no elf costume, sadly, just a knit hat emblazoned with CTA), ripped open the cellophane and popped the red-and-white stick into his mouth. I got off the train soon afterward, realizing the wild escapist ride was way too short. The train whizzed off into the night, Santa sleigh and elves along with it.