Saturday, April 27, 2013

Racing for the Train

The elevated trains in Chicago are both great and terrible. You can watch them come and go as you walk up to the stations that rattle a story above ground. It's a way to witness the motion of the city – traveling, transportation, energy, innovation, synergy! On the other hand, it means that each morning as I walk up to my station, I can watch my train arriving from a block away. 

I made the train that morning!

If I miss the 7:33 express, I have to wait for the 7:50. This gets me to work either right on time or ten minutes late, depending on the number of "We are waiting for signal clearance" announcements I hear that particular ride. When I see the 7:33 rolling along, I have to make some quick decisions. Am I close enough to run for it? Is it worth sprinting past the other commuters on the sidewalk? What are the chances that I will spill my coffee down my pants? Down someone else's pants?

One morning, I saw that my train had already arrived before I got through the station's main doors. I inserted my CTA card and trudged through the turnstile. I climbed the stairs at a normal pace and discovered that the train was still on the platform. Huzzah! I dropped into a seat just as the doors slid closed. For the rest of the day, I felt lucky. Any small setback at work didn't feel so bad, since I'd magically made my train. 

That non-sprint convinced me to always run for the train. Really, why not? As I see it, there are three possible outcomes if I sprint to catch the 7:33:

(1) I make it, celebrate my good fortune and my mad dash skills. The rest of the day is excellent by extension.
(2) I miss it, wait for the next one, and resolve to be more like my siblings and get into running.
(3) I accidentally bump into an old woman on my way up the stairs and get arrested for reckless behavior, disrespecting my elders, and being a whippersnapper. My coffee likely goes cold while I wait for Eric to bail me out of jail.

I have a 1/3 chance of an excellent outcome, a 1/3 chance of a decent outcome (especially if that becoming a runner thing happens), and a 1/3 chance of an absolutely terrible outcome.  Not too bad, right? 

This thought process applies to so many things. What are the outcomes of starting a business on Etsy? 
(1) My greeting cards become super popular and I get to start all my political arguments with, "As a small business owner..."
(2) No one buys my stuff, so I eventually send all my cards as actual cards (side benefit: my friends and family get mail and I support the Post Office).
(3) The old woman I pushed grazed on the way to the train buys something from me so that she can write a terrible review and start a negative PR campaign that eventually gets me blackballed from any online craft selling community.

There are always reasons not to run for the train. But if I make it, how great would that be?

The view towards the lake as I wait.
On a semi-related note, there is one conductor who always apologizes profusely when the 7:33 runs late. He makes my mornings.

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