Jiving on rides to and from Chicago

Joseph Ramos sleeps while Aden Morvice rests his eyes. Mattea Vecera smiles behind them. Photo by Jude Herwitz

Cherubs are returning on a school bus from a live recording of NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” It’s dark outside, and their heads nod forward. Some rest their heads on others’ shoulders.

But other cherub voices echo against the walls of the bus. “Country roads, take me home.” Cherubs sing while John Denver’s voice comes out of a phone somewhere in the back of the bus.

On field trips to Chicago, cherubs find ways to entertain themselves on buses and trains by listening to music, dozing off, playing GamePigeon on their phones, talking to strangers (on trains) or erupting in song (on school buses).

Alexandra Hederstrom is from Vienna, Virginia, and this summer was her third time in Chicago. Although she’s a veteran Windy City tourist, she tries to take in the city by looking out the window during rides into the city with cherubs. She said the view reminded her of Russia, where she normally spends her summers.

“I looked out the window and was like, ‘Wow, this really does bring back some good memories of riding the train that they have there,’” Hederstrom said.

Other cherubs were a little less attentive than Hederstrom. Joseph Ramos of Arlington, Virginia, fell asleep on the way back from the taping of “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”

“I had my headphones in, sitting next to Aden Morvice, such a comfortable presence,” Ramos said. “There were pretty nice bus seats, closed my eyes. I was out.”

Meanwhile, many cherubs played GamePigeon, an app on iMessage that allows people to play games such as mini golf and word hunt with each other. Jay Post of Mountainside, New Jersey, said it allows cherubs to be competitive without moving from their seats.

Other cherubs on the public “L” train to Chicago interacted with strangers. Cam Medrano of Roseville, California, is a “people watcher” and while on the train, she became distracted by a man dressed in a white lab coat, jeans and darkly tinted sunglasses. She stared at him for a few minutes before Emma Suttell of Anthem, Arizona, noticed his eyes were, in fact, open.

“When I found out that he was awake and watching me stare at him, I could not stop laughing,” Medrano said.

Julia Robbins of New York City often plays music on the school bus—without headphones. Her music comes out of her iPhone, and cherubs join in song. Her phone was the source of the cherubs’ rendition of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” after “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”

“If you’re not interacting with people, buses can easily become very boring to be on,” Robbins said. “Singing with people you enjoy hanging out with is a great way to pass time on a bus and to make it not only a means of transportation but an experience that you love and would want to have happen again.”