What Goes Into Planning A Date Night To A Jazz Club?

That's Alicia and Joe sitting side by side on a beige couch at Christmastime. They started dating three years ago today, on April 24, 2015.

Alicia (left) and Joe (right)

Today is a big day for our young blogger Alicia Krage and her boyfriend Joe: it’s their third anniversary together. They started celebrating this past weekend, traveling on their own Sunday from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb (around 60 miles west of Chicago) for a romantic dinner and a night of live music at Andy’s Jazz Club in downtown Chicago. Ali and Joe are both blind, and while they’ve had experience taking commuter trains in the suburbs, the two of them have never taken a train ride to have a date in Chicago before. Ali wrote me last week for information, and I thought her questions — and my responses — might give Easterseals blog readers an idea of some of the things people who have visual impairments have to consider when traveling somewhere new.

Ali: From your experience with Flash Cab, how much time in advance should I be calling them? Keep in mind it’ll take us a little while to get out of the station.

Beth: You can either call them before you leave (even from DeKalb, if you’d like) and give them a time you want to be picked up at the station, as in, “Pick us up at 4:15 p.m. today” or you can call them when you’ve finally arrived outside the station and are at a spot where they can pick you up. Either way, tell them that both of you are blind and that the driver will need to call out to you so you know she or he is there. I’d take the first option, as you will be so busy negotiating the train station that you won’t want to stop and call for a cab. Just schedule the pick-up at a time that allows you and Joe with lots of leeway to get through the station and outside to meet the cab.

Ali: Is there only one exit?

Beth: I think there is only one. It lets you out on Madison Street. A lot of people on your train will be going to Chicago so I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to give you directions if you need them. You could ask the conductor, too, but it’s unlikely the conductor can leave the platform to guide you all the way through the station to the exit.

Ali: We’ll be taking a cab back from the jazz club to the train station, too. In your experience taking a cab to the train station, was the driver kind enough to lead you inside and to an agent to request assistance?

Beth: No. Too dangerous to leave their cab outside unattended that long. If it’s Flash Cab, though, I bet you the driver will at least lead you to the door to get into the train station. Last night I had to take a cab to WGN Radio station, it’s located in the huge Tribune Tower and the Flash Cab driver left his cab to lead my Seeing Eye dog Whitney and me right to the correct door to the lobby there.

Ali: What has been your experience with getting back to the train station? Give me as much detail as you can.

Beth: If the cab driver lets you out at the train station, there will be lots of commuters coming in and out. I’d say there are a bunch of revolving doors, and then wayyyyy to the left of all that swishing noise of those doors swirling around you can find one handicapped accessible door (if you are afraid of revolving ones) with a button about elbow-height on the right hand side of it that you need to push so it opens for you. My experience is that lots of people will ask you if you need help, they always notice me if I’m there, especially if I make a point to look a little bewildered. The inside lobby is pretty huge, I’d ask for help in there, too. Ask them to get you to the ticket office, do this even if you already have a ticket for the train. When you get to the window where people buy tickets, tell them you need assistance to get on the train. They’ll have an official worker get you on the train, it’s very reassuring to do it that way because then you know for absolute sure that you are on the train you want to be on.

Ali: When should we schedule our ride back to the train station? I don’t know how loud Andy’s is, so I’m not sure they’d hear me. Anything is helpful!

Beth: This is another reason I like Flash Cab. In addition to their well-deserved reputation for welcoming — and understanding some of the needs of — riders with disabilities, you can book a round trip with them when you call in the first place. So let’s say you call from DeKalb to arrange your ride from the western suburbs, and you tell them you need a ride from 500 W. Madison (that’s the address of Chicago’s Ogilvy Transportation Center) at 4:10 pm, and you’re going to 11 E. Hubbard (that’s the address of Andy’s Jazz Club). Once they get all that information written down, you can tell them you’ll need a ride back to the train station later that night. They’ll book that ride right then, too. The jazz club isn’t terribly far from the train station, but its likely traffic will be heavy on a weekend night. I know you prefer getting somewhere extra early (over fretting about being late), so I’d say book the cab ride back to the train station so that the cab picks you and Joe up at Andy’s 45 minutes before your train leaves from Chicago back to the western suburbs. Bonus: Flash Cab will phone you to let you know when they’ve arrived and are waiting outside for you. That means you and Joe could put your coats on and all that stuff and then just stay inside listening to jazz until you get their phone call.

Back to me. Once Alicia has recovered from all the celebrating, she’ll write a follow-up blog post here about how she and Joe fared at the Chicago jazz club Sunday — stay tuned!


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