This bizarre story comes from double bassist Andrew Harmon and is about a wacky experience he had while taking the Chicago El with his bass. I take this train all the time with my own bass, and I can certainly relate, although I’ve certainly never had this sort of thing happen to me!
My CTA bass story begins on a typical Sunday morning last year. I had been riding the Red Line with my bass for the past few years to play at a church in Lincoln Park . Normally the biggest annoyance had been the crowd of Cubs fans who insist on smoking in the underground stations, staring at me and my bass yet having had just enough Old Style already to impair their ability to berate me properly.
The wheelchair-accessible doors at the Fullerton station had for several weeks been blocked by a small orange safety cone. I never could figure out why it was there and often wondered what riders in wheelchairs thought about that extra obstacle. So I would reach over the gate, place the cone to the side and wheel my bass through.
That particular morning seemed normal enough, and I exited the station and started walking west on Fullerton . Then I heard what sounded like a huge set of keys jingling closer and closer. The next thing I knew, something had grabbed hold of my bass!
I turned to see a wild-eyed CTA station worker in filthy blue coveralls gripping the neck of my bass, hissing at me through teeth that hadn’t seen a brush recently about how I had damaged his orange cone. I’m not protective/obsessive about my equipment when it comes to other bassists, but since I was dealing with someone a few pecks short of a bushel, I knew that I needed to be careful.
The discussion got pretty heated, and I could tell that neither sense nor reason would win the day. I couldn’t comprehend what he was trying to accomplish by basically assaulting me, but he seemed to want to keep my bass at the station! So the expletives flew, and I’m pretty sure I made a fairly uncharacteristic comment about the value of my bass versus the average CTA salary. At first he welcomed my offer to call the police, but I think he realized that his orange safety cone valuation model was a little off–or he started thinking about all of those Cubs fans jumping the turnstiles.
So he let go. Apparently CTA offices are closed on Sunday mornings, since every number I called was unattended. I never saw the worker again, and the cone stopped appearing. I have yet to come up with a satisfactory moral to this story, but there is a message I’d like to send to the CTA: don’t hire crackheads just because they’re the only applicants willing to work on Sunday mornings.