Start the RevELution!

I ride the “El” everyday. I am perfectly aware that most signs, slangs, and people call the El the “L” in Chicagoland. I used to call it the L too. I was confused with all the other names. CTA. Pink Line. Red Line. Blue Line. They were all the same concept right? Just different Line routes? Maybe L meant Line?

I remember one time being on the phone with my parents when I first moved out here. I had just gotten a job at a  soon-to-be-discovered poorly managed restaurant that required me to stay late and take the train home. (Train. People also call it “The Train” here.) My parents, as parents are, worried about me riding home that late at night. My dad grabbed the phone from my mother and insisted that if it was really very late that I take a cab, and send him the bill for the cab trip. Knowing fully well that that would cost a lot of money (and also that cabbies don’t usually print out a receipt) I assured my dad that I only needed to get on the Pink Line to get home and that I would be fine. “I don’t mind if you are on the Pink Line. I just mind if you are on the L.”

I laugh now, but I am surely not trying to mock my parents with that remark. My dad doesn’t live here! How could he know it’s the same thing? How could he understand that all these different lines fell under this giant L umbrella with no rhyme or reason to the title? I could barely figure out the name myself and would mumble it to the new Chicago people I met in hopes that I didn’t confuse them. “I’m gonna take the (mumbly) L Pink Line, Pink L Line, Loopy loop train to the pink L … haha… home.”

And, side note, my parents would not do well in a city. I have never seen so many veins in two sets of eyes since the day we three moved my stuff in and got lost trying to find a Wal-mart. It was the first time I realized that this journey to Chicago was one that was completely unique from the rest of my family, and it was up to me to figure a out few things without seeking the advice of my parents.

And one of those things to figure out was the L. Not just the routes, which I assure you I have done my best studying and calmly figuring out, but also in the name.

Another side note. Fuck the buses. I hate them. They are never on time and they’re slow and it’s cold waiting for them and I never know really where I am going whilst on them and boo. Maybe they just scare me, but I’d like to think it’s the bus’s fault. Needless to say, I feel much better when my route is planned through the rapid train transit that  to me still has no name.

Oh what’s in a name! That which we ride a train by any other name would smell like pee?

But names, as you will find out, are very important to me. As are titles, nicknames, and ideas of future dogs/children. (The other day my boyfriend suggested getting a dog and naming it Ninja. To that I say yes.) And, alas, the answer finally came to me. While I was waiting for the train, cta, pink or green line or whatever you want to call it at the Clinton stop I began watching a snazzy television screen that sprung around ads, sports news, and Chicago trivia. A brilliant idea for all of us transit waiters who forgot a book and are very impatient. My only critique on the screen is that of the frequency of facts and ads. Swear to you, these slideshow blips were more rapid in frequency than the ones that play in a movie theater as pre-preview trivia. Anyone who is anyone knows, that sometimes even movie theater trivia is fucking painful due to the massive amount of repeats. You want to look away eventually, but you can’t because your seat is positioned to look directly at the screen trivia while you make small talk with your date. At least at the Clinton stop the “screen o facts” gave you the option to look away.

Anyway, at this stop, staring at the screen, seeing my breath with each exhale and goofily pretending I was smoking with said visual breath I came across a CTA fun fact.

“DID YOU KNOW? The L got its nickname from the earliest days of elevated railroads.”

I stopped my fake smoking, waited three seconds for the fun fact to be rotated in the screen shuffle again. Yep.

“DID YOU KNOW? The L got its nickname from the earliest days of elevated railroads.”

I finally had the answer.

“DID YOU KNOW? The L got its nickname from the earliest days of elevated railroads.”

No, screen. I did not. Now where’s this damn train? It’s cold. And my invisible breath cigarette is out.

The L. Not called that for the Line or Loop. But the L got it’s nickname from the word Elevated. EL- evated. I get it. I get it. No wait…

That is so wrong. Not that we call it the L (i.e. making that sound with your mouth when you speak the letter L), but that we spell it with just the L. That’s as stupid as someone being named Allison. There’s no need for it. Take out one L for Alison. Put in an E for Elevation.

Saying the “L” is ultimately improper abbreviation, and unnecessary at that. It’s confusing considering there are so many Lines and Loops and Lakes being thrown around in the public transit mix. Tourists are bad enough as it is, (I love saying that because I live here now so I can) and there’s no need to confuse them more with their big CTA maps and my father’s assumption that the L is a specific train that sounds dangerous at night. And god dammit which L street is the actual L?

It’s the Elevated Rapid Transit system. The “El.” That’s how I’m spelling it anyway. And when I speak it, I will imagine that combination of letters as well. I take the “El.”

And I know I’m not alone on this El debate. When I got home that night I thoroughly thoroughly thoroughly researched the fun fact screen by clicking on Wikipedia. Sure enough, the Elevated Rapid Transit System in Chicago, the L, can also be referred to as the “L” the “El” the El or the L. (Don’t even get me started on the use or nonuse debate on quotations. I’m letting that one go.) I am part of the group of “also referreds.” We’re referreds nerds! True, the CTA officially calls it the ‘L’ (with just apostrophes, ooooo) but I will just have to see it all as a Potayto Potahto incident, with my Potayto being the most correct. I mean, really, who says “Pass the mashed Po-TAH-toes please?” No one.

And by holding on to this silly concept of L = Elevated we are doing nothing more than pushing our public transit riders into laziness in language. Now, I am not saying I am a grammar and spelling queen (see current blog) but I also will rue the day that college students turn in midterm papers using the text vernacular of “u cuz i c gr8 bc lol nm ttyl 4eva” (an event that I am sad to say has probably already happened at ASU. I really should get to ruing) or when job professionals print resumes that say “Hobbies include: Backpacking ; ) Cliff Diving : O Charity work : (.” Writing the sentence “I’m riding the L” is no better than the examples above. And it is so easily fixed! Insert the E. Once you do, it will just feel better.

Start the RevELution! Ride the “El!”

So for those Chicagoans who read my blog title and laugh at what seems to be my “newbie Chicago” mistake either nod your head at my detailed explanation or go suck it. But not really suck it. I’m still new and want to make friends.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll meet on the “El.” Or the train or the Pink Line or the Loop….

–       On The El With Just One L

“Never underestimate the power of a simple idea. Just think about the brilliance of mixing pasta and cheese.”


One thought on “Start the RevELution!

  1. flaminglibwife says:

    Your blog is awesome. I love that you go by one L. It’s seriously so dumb when Alison is spelled with 2 L’s. The extra L is so unnecessary.

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