The Leaping Ladies of Lake Shore Drive

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(Photo: Since last winter, it’s been a wild ride on a Lake Shore Drive express bus.)

The easiest jollies for eligible Chicagoans can be found on any Lake Shore Drive northbound express bus. If your knees and your bottom can stand it.

It’s become a fact of life on every 140-something articulated express bus between Michigan Avenue and points nearer to the Arctic Circle (we downtowners peg that chilly latitude starting somewhere near Devon). From Belmont Avenue northward, the crowd on the CTA’s long bendy buses positively bounces.

Thanks to Old Man Winter, who is obviously a dirty letch, a series of gravity-defying potholes has graced the northern end of Lake Shore Drive since the roadway heaved off its yard-thick coating of arctic ice and thawed out for the season.

As many a rider already knows, CTA drivers plying a busload of yuppies up and down the lakefront for a living tend to see things like potholes, speed limits, and vehicles in adjacent lanes as opportunities to ease the existential boredom of spending a lifetime plying a busload of yuppies up and down the lakefront.

Riders know this from the sore bottoms and bruised shins received from many a CTA express bus driver’s decision to evilly grin and bear down on the perilously potholed northbound Lake Shore Drive Oak Street underpass at speed. (And don’t think the State of Illinois has gotten around to repairing this sorry stretch of Route 41 in more than a year’s time, either).

But that Swiss cheesed macadam is peanuts compared to the surface-of-the-moon badlands that has become Lake Shore Drive between Belmont and Hollywood. Recently riding in the rear half of a few bendy buses to experience North Side life, I was happy not to lose my own life as one jarring road hole after another repeatedly separated every seated bottom and standing foot from any contact with an actual piece of the bus by measurable margins.

Which brings us the leaping ladies of Lake Shore Drive. After particularly piqued pothole propulsion, heavier-set gentlemen, like Yours Truly, and matronly madams tend to come back to earth in much the same place as they left it. However, for more diaphanous females–the wispier women, slenderer sisters, and less-meaty mothers among the CTA’s ridership–outright levitation is more the norm.

Imagine my surprise aboard a speedy 147 bus as I headed for Friday night’s monthly Gapers Block get-together at Moody’s Pub in Edgewater when, somewhere in the vicinity of Lake Shore and Roscoe, a young mom with a lovely son cradled in her arms came floating by, sideways, as if carried lazily along in the hidden stream of some midair river.

We waved to each other as she passed, as much out of amazement as simple good Midwestern manners, but before I witnessed her touchdown, I came nose to nose with the young Asian girl who was, at least until a markedly bombastic bump, seated across the aisle from me. I had been stealing glances at her 3G iPhone, so it was quite the convenience to get a close-up look at it. I told her I hoped it was still working as she plummeted to the ground somewhere around Addision.

It was the double piroutte that the long-legged ebony Diva next to me did upon being launched out of her seat as we passed Montrose Harbor, though, that garnered applause from the entire back half of the bus. So impressed was everyone, as soon as the violent bouncing settled down, we clamored over each other to be the first to pry the poor woman up off of the floor.

Apologies would come as we left the Drive at Foster. “I’m sorry I landed on your foot.” “Forgive me for taking out your latte with my landing.” Or my personal favorite said within earshot: “I’m sorry I bounced up and down on you all the way up the lakefront.”

Unless Illinois DOT finds the wherewithal to act fast, with so little of summer left before the icy tendrils of another Great Lakes winter tighten their grip on the capital of the middle of America, the ride on a CTA Lake Shore Drive bendy bus can only get worse before anything gets better.

I don’t know how much deeper the potholes on Lake Shore can get, but if those ladies get any more airborne, the cash-strapped CTA might consider charging a premium fare on these routes. I can see it now: ad wraps on the sides of bendy buses publicizing this lasciviously acrobatic aspect of Second City public transit; trapezes and safety nets installed inside.

Prurient minded Chicagoans might better prefer the CTA to install seatbelts. Or, as a last resort, to wrap the offending buses in plain brown paper bags.

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