We joke about it all the time. The phrase, “the third rail” is taken to mean instant doom when used in just about any context.
Except when it comes to being taken literally.
BECAUSE I HAVE lost count of the number of stories I have reported in the quarter-century that I have been a reporter-type person that involved someone dying because they came into contact with the rail that provides the electric power that operates the rail cars on the “el.”
Do people think that the third rail kills everybody else but them? Do they think they are invincible?
Or do they think they’re the equivalent of Wile E. Coyote? How many of those anvils did he get conked on the head with throughout the years?
Too many of these stories blend into each other, because the details are so unfamiliar. I recall one instance when I was a reporter for the now-defunct City News Bureau involving a homeless person, whom it seems publicly urinated on an “el” platform and had his urine stream hit the dreaded rail.
THE “BURNS” ON his body were restricted to his fingertips, since the electricity shot up through the urine and into his fingers. Not a pretty image.
Which makes me wonder why people don’t pay attention to all those signs that get posted warning people of the electrical danger of getting too close to the tracks. Let alone the possibility of getting hit by one of those “el” trains.
They certainly were ignored by a man who, early Wednesday, thought he could walk across the tracks to get to the “el” platform on the other side, rather than using the stairs that people are supposed to use to get from one side of the “el” station to the other.
The Chicago Tribune reported that the man in question was at the California Avenue station on the blue line.
AS SOMEONE WHO has used that particular station on those occasions when I have had to cover a story at the Criminal Courts building located just four blocks to the south, it really would have been simpler for him to use the stairs, rather than jump off the platform and try to walk across the tracks to have to climb aboard the other platform.
This particular man saw things differently. Now, he’s no longer with us.
I’m sure his family will wish he had been willing to put a little more thought into his use of the “el.” Although if he was that desperate to save himself a few seconds of time, he probably was capable of doing so many risky things.
Perhaps it was just a matter of time before he perished. What a waste!
BUT THIS MAN, whom police didn’t immediately identify, wasn’t the only one who didn’t seem to think before acting this week.
There also is the story of a Chicago woman who had to go to court Tuesday in suburban Skokie, only to find herself being arrested and hit with more criminal charges after her court appearance.
For it seems this woman had a young child and two dogs with her. She knew she couldn’t really bring them into the courthouse.
So, she chose to leave them in the car, sitting and waiting while she made her court appearance. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that she now faces charges of endangerment of a child and animal abandonment.
PERHAPS SHE CRACKED open the car windows to provide a little relief. But officials pointed out that the temperatures got into the 80s on Tuesday and that the kid and dogs were in the car for more than an hour – although the woman told the county sheriff’s police she lost track of how long she was in court.
Which makes no sense to me. Anybody appearing in court ought to realize how indefinite the process could be.
One could get lucky and be the first or second person on a court call. Or they could be the last. It’s not an experience for people in a hurry.
Her behavior kind of reminds me of a guy I once saw arguing with a sheriff’s deputy at the Criminal Courts building. He wanted to be able to walk up to the court clerk, immediately get a new court date, then leave.
BECAUSE HE HAD left his car parked right on California Avenue in front of the courthouse, not realizing he’d have to wait his turn on the court call like everybody else.
Yet another person who thinks the rules of life don’t apply to them.