There has been much hand-wringing and anguish expressed over the glitch-prone Ventra cards that were supposed to make taking public transit easier.
I have been part of that sad chorus.
About 30 days before the first deadline for getting the cards activated, I spent 90 minutes with a Ventra representative on the phone at 3AM (I figured volume would be down, and it probably was, but it didn't seem to have any effect on the competence of the agents).
I did succeed (after three attempts) to get the card activated, but for some reason I can't get the automatic replenishment function to work, so I have to shove dollars in a machine at a local El stop every time I want to put money on my card.
Also, when using the Ventra card, it doesn't give you the total price for the fare or the amount left on your card, which was a very handy feature of the soon-to-be-discontinued Chicago Card.
There's little about the Ventra card that's handy, and there's nothing that works better with the Ventra Card than with the old Chicago Card…and much that works much worse or not at all.
My wife hasn't received her Ventra card yet, and it's been over 60 days since this disastrous system was rolled out.
So it was with some trepidation that we took the Green Line downtown to go to The Local in Chicago.* It's tough to go out to enjoy an evening not knowing:
-- If we'll be stuck with no money on our Ventra card –no way to manually add more dollars and no way to get home
-- If we'll be double- or triple-charged on fares, as has been reported by many and as has happened to me at least once…that I know of!
-- If the card will even be read as some electronic card readers seem not to be working properly
Fortunately, despite such concerns, dinner at The Local took away the bad taste of dealing with Ventra. I had the Thursday special: Stroganoff with a nicely crisped beef filet sliced on top. I hadn't had a beef Stroganoff in maybe 15 years, and topping this dish with good quality meat makes a huge difference. Also, in a fine dining nod, the sour cream was spooned on top rather than mixed in, which made it possible to selectively add it to bites so that each forkful was a little different. With this bowl of noodles, I had what might have been the best wine pairing of the year: The Prisoner, 2010, very soft and flavorful and perfectly synchronized with the mellowness of the entrée.
Not to end on a sour note, but my simple, private toast at dinner was that those who were paid off to institute the Ventra will face eternal fires. Happy holidays!
*Obligatory food reference