NATO-restricted commute isn’t Southlanders’ cup of tea
BY CASEY TONER email@example.com May 21, 2012 9:24AM
Metra riders in Tinley Park were not allowed to board trains with coffee or other items as part of NATO security measures. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 1, 2012 12:58PM
Monday morning was a little hazier than usual for Keva McNeal.
The Richton Park resident had to forgo her morning caffeine jolt on her Metra commute downtown to the Chicago Housing Authority due to the pesky travel restrictions in place for the NATO Summit.
“If I didn’t have to go to work today, I wouldn’t be here,” McNeal said. “Until I get my cup of morning Joe, I won’t be very productive, I’ll tell you that.”
Metra commuters were prohibited from bringing food, water or luggage with them onto the train while the NATO Summit was under way. The Metra Electric District Line runs underneath McCormick Place, site of the summit.
Passengers were allowed to bring only one laptop-size bag and were prohibited from wearing backpacks. They also were not allowed to carry food or liquid. Some Metra Electric District Line stations were closed at times Monday for the summit.
Despite the restrictions, Matteson resident Art Wasik, 85, carried a suitcase and a trumpet case onto the 7:30 a.m. Metra Electric District Line train bound for downtown Chicago. He was headed to O’Hare Airport en route to the International Trumpet Guild meeting in Columbus, Ga., a four-day excursion he had been planning for six months. The NATO Summit wasn’t going to stop him.
Department of Homeland Security officials initially told Wasik he would have to find an alternate route to O’Hare Airport, but eventually let him board after a dog sniffed his luggage and his trumpet case.
“As time goes on, nothing goes smooth,” Wasik said.
Wasik, a retired music teacher at Thornridge High School, said he heard about the restrictions, but he didn’t think they would extend as far out of Chicago as Matteson.
“I’ve got nothing to hide,” Wasik said. “I’m an old man, you know?”
Richton Park resident Felix Simpkins, meanwhile, headed to the Thompson Center downtown where he works at the department of insurance as a fraud investigator. For Simpkins, 52, the NATO Summit meant he had to leave his briefcase behind, he said.
Still, he felt it important to get to work, despite the summit.
“We can’t allow ourselves to stop,” Simpkins said. “The work force must go on.”
Metra officials had warned of frequent passenger screenings and boarding delays, although the process was smooth and uneventful at the Matteson stop. Three Department of Homeland Security officers, a bomb-sniffing dog and a Metra policeman strolled the platform.
The security measures irked Matteson resident Samuel Allan, who was headed downtown for a child support hearing at the Daley Center.
“I ain’t worried about the protestors,” Allan said. “But the police are overstepping their bounds. I’ll say it.”
Not all passengers were displeased. Park Forest resident David Jones, who works as a paralegal at Chittenden, Murday and Novotny, said the NATO Summit had thinned the morning crowds.
“It’s easier,” Jones said. “I got a close-up spot. Usually all the cars are pretty full.”