Chilly-Willy the Commuter

Why is it so damn cold on Metra trains?

I’m not talking about that momentary blast of cool when you step from the hot sidewalks into the house, or the comfortable 77 degrees I set my thermostat at when I close up the house and turn on the AC.

I’m talking about see-your-breath, numb nose and toes, where’s-the-coffee cold. The cold that prompts everyday riders to carry a jacket, a hoodie or a scarf  to brace against the inevitable cold.

After spending all day working in my meat locker cubicle, the four block walk to the train is just far enough to thaw out my arms and legs. That initial step outside from the icebox to the heat is divine, as the warmth washes over my body.  I start to enjoy the summer weather, to remember why I like being outside.

Then, I board the train, and the cold is a slap in the face as I walk through car after car, trying to find the least cold spot to sit, passing other commuters wrapped in pashminas or wearing fleece sweatshirts more suited for November.

Over time, I’ve identified trends in my usual trains: which cars are even colder, which ones may merit gloves and a hat. A friend and I often referred to these cars as “penguin cars” and joked about seeing polar bears and eskimos rather than Chicagoans.

Occasionally, a car’s AC will go out entirely, rendering it insufferably hot. You can always tell these cars as you come through the train by the absence of passengers. For awhile, one car on my usual evening train had a faltering AC system that only worked about halfway. This was my favorite car, as I could leave my pashmina in my bag and ride home in relative comfort.

A couple weeks ago, this car was suddenly as cold as all the others. In the vestibule, a sticker proudly read, “This car’s HVAC system was repaired with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” Once again, the good intentions of government have gone awry.

Perhaps I should stock up on pashminas.


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