Tagged: disasters

CTA driver screams, then silence

So, this just happened: my Blue Line train may have been about to derail or be hit by an oncoming train. Not the way I was hoping to get home, frankly.

I’m riding on the train from O’Hare. It’s a moderately full train since the station was rather full when it pulled in. But everything’s fine, we’re moving.

We pull into Jefferson Park station. It is about 12:05.

Now we’re pulling out of the station. The driver comes on the PA and says: “This train will not stop at Montrose. If you want to go to Montrose, you’ll have to OOOOUUGUHHHHH!!!!!!!” and the train jerks to a halt.

And then the PA goes dead.

Well! No explanation as to what the hell that was. I immediately start to feel that something is wrong. But I’m in the fourth or fifth car, and I can’t see all the way to the front.

The driver does not come back on to explain it. It is obvious that something bad has happened or there would be an explanation. We’re sitting there a good five, six minutes. I stand up and gather my luggage. I start thinking, I’m going to have to evacuate mid-car.

We’re not all the way out of the station. I’m in the middle of the train, and I am still in the station, next to the platform. That seems safe. It’s not dark.

I chat with some guys from Boston. At this point it’s been a good twelve minutes or so; still no explanation. I’m texting people to say I think I’ve been in an incident.

My thesis is either that somebody jumped in front of the train, or the driver was attacked by a passenger. Either way, I don’t want to meet up with whatever caused that. I start thinking I’m going to open the doors manually and get off, because she hasn’t come back on to tell us what’s happening.

Then we hear the usual beep beep beep, “This train is experiencing –” and then that message cuts out too. I’m about done with this.

Finally. The driver comes hustling through the train from front to back. I ask her what happened. She says, “The train will be moving shortly!”

She never gets back on the PA. The train then starts running backward through the station. Stops again. The doors fumble and then finally open for good.

That is when I immediately bolt, because the hell with this.

I go up to the fare booth and ask what happened. The booth people, they don’t want to say. “You said you were at Montrose?” I said, “No, guys, the driver said we aren’t stopping at Montrose and then she screamed. What the heck happened?”

Here is what happened, according to them: As part of “Your New Blue,” CTA is single-tracking Blue Line in this area. That is why the Montrose station was going to be skipped: they’re working there. The driver ran a signal leaving the station. She screamed when either she realized her mistake or when the automatic safety system shut down the train. The booth guy said, “She screamed because she’s a rookie. The downtown control center called her and said, ‘Did you run a signal?’ Basically, you were about to either derail the train or be put on a collision course with an oncoming train on the single track.

That is why she came running to the other end of the train: to back us up out of the danger area.

This was obviously very scary. You don’t expect to hear a driver scream into a PA at midnight — and then not explain it. I’m thinking either it’s a heart attack, a suicide, or some crazy passenger has just attacked the driver and is coming for us. It was ridiculous for her not to come on and tell us what happened — at least eventually.

More to the point, and it goes without saying, she should not have run the signal. She should have been careful around the construction zone.

And have we not had drivers blow through signals before on Blue Line? It seems like all the incidents involve Blue Line. Remember the Ghost Train? The stories about drivers posting through Cumberland without stopping because they were asleep? And the classic O’Hare escalator crash. Thank God no one was killed. And no one was killed tonight, including me.

I really hope this didn’t happen the way it was explained to me. If we were put on a single stretch of track where we could have been hit by an oncoming train, that is a huge safety lapse. This whole episode further strengthens my resolve never to be in the first or last car of a train. It’s just not worth it.

I may follow up with CTA to find out what happened. If I do, I will post about it again.

On storms

You might know that hurricane names are based on lists of names drawn up by committee years in advance.  I think I read somewhere that Atlantic names are one-third English, one-third French, and one-third Spanish to represent the countries in the region.  But I’ve decided it might be more satisfying to have our hurricanes named after strippers, whores, and drag queens rather than some bland lists of names in boy-girl order.

  • “Hurricane Cinnamon is breathlessly lurching toward Jacksonville!”
  • “Tropical Storm Trixie has grazed the island of Hispaniola.”
  • “The residents of Newport News have braced themselves for the arrival of Hurricane Virginia West.”  (special thanks to imposing local drag empress Virginia West)
  • “Tropical Storm All-Beef Patty has become unstable and has blown out to sea.”
  • “Tropical Depression Miss Thing has been brooding off the coast of the Bahamas for four days now.”

Give till it hurts

The millionaire families of Laguna Beach need help!  They can’t afford to pay their expenses from the awful landslide.  Here is a list of profiles of the families who need your money.  The city wants to give each family $3,000 a month for 30 months and $60,000 for geological studies.

Click here to donate thousands.

I like how the obviously gay couples — “Jo and Jm,” and HC and DK, the flight attendant whose Steinway piano was lost — are referred to in carefully gender-neutral ways or their sex is just left out, whereas everybody else is Mr. and Mrs. W.

It’s also amusing that they actually admit one house was “red-tagged” in a previous 1978 landslide.  Now the same set of spoiled Californians is back for more money.  I was just in Laguna Beach a month ago, telling people it was all a dream and it wouldn’t last.  I was proven right sooner than I thought I would be.  These people have no sense of perspective.  One of them actually told me, “It’s hard to believe that places like Houston and Ohio really exist.  It’s like the whole rest of the country is a big bubble.”  No, you’re in the bubble.

By the way, the city mayor doesn’t want you to think they are millionaires, but before the landslide, they used to be — especially the one family that bought its house for $280,000 eighteen years ago.

Caster’s revenge

Well…  We lost the final round of the moot court competition.  It was unpleasant — after the argument concluded, I felt pretty sure we’d won.  I think we had a better-developed theory of the case, and we knew our facts better, but our opponents pulled it off.

I had the usual crazy incident; this time it was that I dumped a pitcher of water all over the table and had nothing to mop it up with except Ginsberg v. New York.  That was great.  It’s always something.  This spill did not preclude my partner from winning “Best Oralist.”

So now it’s back to being a regular law student, who just reads constantly and doesn’t have to talk about it so much.  I understand we’ll still get a nice plaque.  We learned so much and got to work really, really hard.  And the support we got from our fellow students and professors was amazing.  Overall, a good time I’d definitely do again.

Objection, your honors

The Honorable William Klatt
373 South High Street, 24th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215

February 13, 2005

Dear William Klatt:

I’m a 26-year-old first-year student at Capital University Law School, and I’m writing to you in your capacity as the Tenth District’s administrative judge.  I had the pleasure of participating in Capital’s first-year moot court competitions this weekend at the county court complex.  For reasons that will become clear, you’ll be interested to know that I sat on the left side of the appellee’s desk in courtroom 23-B.

Today, after having wrapped up what I thought was a pretty tough oral argument, I returned to my seat so that my co-counsel could conclude our portion of the argument.

As I sat down, I noticed that I was listing strangely portside, oddly close to the wonderful view you have there in 23-B.  I remember thinking, The judges must have been even rougher on me than I realized if they can induce vertigo. I tried to sit up straight and found myself lurching in the other direction.  The reason for my precarious imbalance soon became clear: one of the casters in my very comfortable chair had come out, putting me in grave physical (and legal) danger.  As exhibit A, I placed the errant caster on our desk.

Co-counsel, valiantly trying to ignore the lurching and scraping noises behind him, continued giving his part of our argument as I righted myself and located a spare chair that had been conveniently placed near our table.

I am certain that your honors did not requisition this “ejector seat” function, but you might want to consider it for certain members of the bar.  I am currently studying products liability, and have a few theories under which you might justify the utility of such furniture.

We won the case, and I believe the judges did compliment us on our “poise.”

I look forward to practicing before the Tenth District Court of Appeals very soon, but perhaps in a more steady position.

Bill Cash III

And if you need help getting back to your car…

So we had two more rounds of moot court today.  I don’t know how but we have advanced to the Final Four, baby!!!  Life is good so far.  We go back for the semi-finals tomorrow and I don’t even want to speculate on who’ll be in the finals.

The opponents are definitely getting harder, but I like to think we are, too.  We’ve dropped a lot of our prepared stuff and we sort of freestyle it now.  Yeah, in front of that bench, we’re just two bad-ass government attorneys.  A lot of times during these things I put my feet up on the desk when it’s not my turn to talk.  The judge, he all right.

A seriously amusing eventuality occurred today on the way into the courthouse.  (The second round was at our state appellate court in the county complex.)  We all pile out of our cars and head for the elevator.  This kind of clean-cut-looking guy follows us.  He is carrying a PeopleSoft bag and he has glasses, so I figure he is some kind of computer nerd just there to check on stuff over the weekend.

We all take the elevator up to 9 together.  I give my mom the instructions: “Look.  You can go in with us, but I don’t really want the judges to know who you are or what side you’re on.  Don’t make a big scene here, OK?”  She promises to be good.

On the 9th floor, we all take the skyway out of the garage and across High Street.  When we get to the courthouse, the door into the courthouse is locked.  There’s nothing to do except turn around and go all the way back down to the street.  And we don’t want to be late!  I’m a little incredulous, so I kind of punch the guy on the arm or something and say, “How come you didn’t know it would be locked?”  “Well, I’m never in here on the weekend.”  “Yeah, all right…”  We get back in the elevator.  Somebody asks him, “Oh, so why are you here?”

He says, “Well, I’m here for moot court.”  Oh shit. I say, “You’re not one of our judges, are you?”  “Well, I don’t know.”

Needless to say, the guy did turn out to be one of our two judges.  There was nothing I could do except lean right in during my intro and say, “Good afternoon, your honors…” and try not to smirk.

Well, we won, so I guess it didn’t cause too much injury.  My mom was pretty amused though.  Let’s let this be a good lesson about being decorous outside the courtroom as well as in.  :)

Now we can breathe

So, they arrested our highway shooter suspect. (I want to say “the sniper,” but I always felt like the sheriffs never really wanted us to use that term. Maybe some opportunist cop will have a book coming out with “highway shooter” in the title.) I personally never worried too much, except for one very recent trip back to the city on I-70. I hope that justice will be served and that we might be able to make some sense of this awful experience.

Now, for the usual round of complaints and cynicism! There was certainly some bad reporting coming out of this thing. In yet another Times slight to Ohio geography, repeated articles stated that I-270 carried 77,000 vehicles a day and “most truckers and suburban commuters must use it.” The traffic count is low; the statement is inaccurate. It makes us look like a piddly little town if we only have 77,000 vehicles on the “must-use” freeway. At least the Times didn’t identify it as “two and a half hours south of Cleveland” the way they referred to New Albany a few years ago.

I’d like to turn my attentions to the father of the alleged shooter. According to the papers, he took guns and ammunition away from his son in the middle of February, but didn’t show them to the police until March 12th. Let’s think about this… Your son is a “paranoid schizophrenic” who told you not to use electrical appliances because they allowed the government to spy on him. His girlfriend believed cameras were in the walls. There were at least 24 shootings, centered on the south side. You live on the south side. You took away four of his guns, for some reason, can’t imagine why that would be, and then you waited a month to tip off the cops? Thanks, dad! I don’t care how much you would want to protect your kid (and he definitely needs help — and will need protection from some of the victims): not sharing this evidence was grossly irresponsible.

In another disturbing story, the Dispatch commented on the fact that McCoy Jr.’s mental illness wouldn’t have prevented him from getting a gun. Not only did he not have a court finding against him, even if he did, Ohio is not one of the 17 states that electronically captures these judgments. The story failed to mention the gun-show loophole, which would have allowed McCoy to buy a used weapon with absolutely no background check. Now, having come through this experience as a community, with weeks and weeks of citizens worrying about being targets, with over four thousand leads coming in on the tip line, you would think we would be a little more interested in protecting ourselves from gun violence. Is it so much to ask that, at a minimum, we try not to give the mentally ill legal ways to buy weapons? I’d like to believe we’ll be a little more cautious in the future. I won’t wish too hard.

And finally, I’ll be checking up on that Wal-Mart from a previous entry, to see if they’re going to resume selling that scary video game, or if they’re still selling, you know, guns.

In other news: in my online poll on whether vacuumed ants can escape, there were three votes for “no,” one vote for “yes,” and one non-countable vote linking to a site recommending to vacuum the ants but to plug the hose afterward. (Sorry, but I can’t plug the hose, so that didn’t answer the question.) However, careful observation of my now only slightly infested kitchen shows that vacuuming was indeed a success.

Updated in 2016: Here is a 2013 news story on the shooter.