Human Traffic in Union Station.

During the Golden Age of train travel, Chicago was America’s most important rail hub, with passengers from almost everywhere connecting with trains going to just about anywhere.

The glory days of the Broadway Limited and the Super Chief and the Dixie Flyer may be long gone, but some 50,000 rail passengers still pass through this venerable station every day. 

I had some time to kill in this magnificent building on one of my trips and, after a while, I become absorbed with the constant flow of foot traffic passing my seat in the Great Hall. After a while, I pull out a notebook and begin jotting down some observations.

  • Once we men reach age 50 or so, the shapes and the haircuts vary. But most of us look—well—nondescript.
  • An airline pilot hurries past. It’s not the uniform that makes him look so terrific, it’s the cap!
  • Some women, no matter how slim and stylish, simply cannot manage high heels.
  • Veteran travelers walk briskly, pulling their small, wheeled bags; first-timers appear tentative and struggle awkwardly with impossibly oversized luggage.
  • Western boots look absolutely fabulous on some women; ridiculous on others.
  • How does a Jewish man prevent his yarmulke from slipping off?
  • What in the world prompts an overweight woman in her 50s to get a tattoo of Tweety Bird on her upper arm?
  • Once inside the station, 90 percent of the women push sunglasses up onto their foreheads. It’s a great “look”.  Only a few of the men do (and none of the bald guys).
  • With time to kill, older travelers tend to read or watch the passing parade; the kids in their teens and younger ones are all busy texting – some even as they hurry to their trains. Look at what they’re missing!