Friday, March 23, 2012

This is Grand

I love the declarative sentences of the CTA. If you’ve spent any time on the Chicago Transit Authority’s trains, you will be familiar with them. This is Argyle. This is Fullerton. But I admit: I love some more than others.
The announcement This is Chicago has always struck me as patently obvious, yet somehow charming in its absoluteness, its utter unassailability. This is California never fails to elicit the knee-jerk contradiction, snarkier than I would like, “Ahhhh, no, but it really isn’t.” My responses are utterly unvarying. I cannot help myself. For years my brain has completed the introduction This is Howard with my most cordial, “Well, hello, Howard! I’m Kendra,” in response. I don’t expect anyone to share my taste in these things, but I’m telling you that, for me, the joke never gets old.
And, for all those years, if I was entertaining an out-of-town visitor, I would invariably halt our conversation in the L car, look up expectantly at the speakers as we approached my favorite landmark in the city, and wait with unfaltering glee for the voice of authority to announce, as it always did at that point, This is Grand. “It is, isn’t it!” I would think, maybe even say out loud if there was someone with me.  It was grand, afterall—life, the city, being on a train going somewhere, all of it suddenly so poignant.
Indeed, what a sweetly archaic adjective grand is in the first place. How disarmingly earnest it sounds. How quaint to say such a sentiment out loud in the first place, in public no less, in the polite society of strangers. It is not at all the effect of the more precise statement This is Grand and State.
The station name hasn’t changed. The station name has been Grand from the beginning, since the State Street Subway put the first subway cars in the city. Likewise, its sister station, at Grand and Milwaukee, is and has been Grand since The Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway opened it in 1943. All that’s new is how the stations are announced. I’m sure the addition of the cross-street is helpful. I’m sure it saves a few tourists a year from schlepping the several blocks between stations. I’m sure it’s a good thing to say This is Grand and State, This is Grand and Milwaukee. I’m sure someone else will fall in love the exactitude of these statements. My out-of-town visitors may be impressed with the thoughtfulness of this supplement, its contribution to navigating the city’s great grid. “How clear!” they will tell me. “How objective and to the point!” And I’ll have to agree. It’s good. Of course it is. It just isn’t grand.

Kendra Greene is a Defunct staff reader and contributor to Ye Olde Blogge.


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