Very Tiny Voyage: Getting to Work

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I work in the West Loop in Chicago. This is the area where a lot of the cool kids have their startup lofts, and I am one of those cool kids. [Ed. note: I am definitely not a cool kid.] Working here is great in many ways: delicious coffee and lunch options, including the French Market; a big warehouse-y space with tons of windows and hardwood floors and not a single bit of corporate-purple cubicle-covering in sight; etc etc. But the one thing this location does not have going for it–for me, anyway–is transportation.

I don’t drive, so public transportation is pretty important for my day-to-day life. To get to the closest El stop to my office, I would need to change trains downtown. This seems like a small thing, but it’s actually a huge hassle, especially when you think about having to go downstairs, change platforms, go upstairs, and then wait for a connecting train. It could add ten minutes to the whole trip, which is about how long it would take for me to just walk the 3/4 mile from the closest El stop on my own line, the Brown Line.

But here’s where it gets tricky. There are two Brown Line El stops that are almost equidistant from my office. One, Merchandise Mart, is .6 miles , and the other, Washington and Wells, is .8 miles. It would seem logical that I get off at Merchandise Mart, which is both the stop I come to first and the stop that’s closer. And in good weather, that would be the correct choice, because my walk is then mostly along the river, which is a beautiful way to start the day.

However, in bad weather, namely in cold, windy weather, that walk is much worse, because there’s nothing blocking the harsh wind from ripping along the river and destroying my soul before I even get to the office. So in bad weather, the smart choice is to get off at Washington and Wells, where the huge buildings of the Loop do some big-shoulders-style blocking against the elements.

The other advantage, rain or shine, of walking from Washington and Wells is that my route then takes me through Ogilvie train station. This is a bonus for two reasons.

1) The aforementioned French Market. I specifically love to start my day with a cup of Cuban coffee from Beaver’s Donuts. I will occasionally break down and get a little bag of their mini fresh-fried doughnut holes with cinnamon sugar, too. My gut does not need them, but they’re worth it for a special treat.

2) I get to be in a train station. I love trains, and train stations, and anything that tricks my brain into thinking for a second that we might be going on a trip. It’s the tiniest of dopamine rushes, but it helps a lot to start my day in that frame of mind.

There’s a lot to consider when you’re planning a route, whether it’s how you’re going to hit all the sights you want to see in Thailand or just how you’re getting to work. Time, weather, amenities, and natural beauty all play a role. If there’s a true cliche in the world, it’s this one: “Life is a journey, not a destination.”