How does that work?
City living inspires a lot of WTFs (chief among them: What did Daley just say? But that's a question for another time). These explanations of prominent urban curiosities should satisfy your need-to-know urges.
How do drag queens hide their packages?
Two words: duct tape, says Mercedes, a drag queen who performs at Spin (800 W Belmont Ave, 773-327-7711, spin-nightclub.com). “The body has a cavity [that] the testicles can ascend into during cold weather. You push your testicles into that area. The penis can be pushed in there or can be pulled into the anal area and…
…then a piece of duct tape is rammed into there.” Those who don’t want to mess with duct tape (or the remover sometimes required to get rid of the sticky residue) can conceal their wares using a strong, thong-like contraption called a gaff, available online at drag-queen.com. “There’s really no law or rule everyone subscribes to,” Mercedes says. “It’s really whatever works best.”—Christina Couch
How are cars cleared from the express lane during the inbound/outbound switch on the Kennedy?
A sophisticated 44-camera surveillance system and multistep safety procedures ensure a smooth transition of the two reversible median express lanes that ease rush-hour choke holds on 90/94. But how does the Department of Transportation clear motorized laggards before making the switch from inbound to outbound, or vice versa? “We start closing the swing gates at the entrance [upstream] and let the cars flush out on the opposite end [downstream],” explains Stephen Peters, operations and communications center manager for IDOT District 1. Every day at 11:30am, at the end of the morning rush, the series of gates at the express-lane entry ramps at the Kennedy and Edens split (heading inbound toward downtown) close first; each entry ramp has a dozen or so gates set on a delay, which progressively close with the direction of traffic. Then, the same thing happens with the gates at the midway ramp at Sacramento. With all of the entry points closed, says Peters, “through natural attrition, the remaining vehicles will flush out” at the end of the inbound express lanes at Ohio Street. The same thing happens in reverse during the afternoon rush. As an added precaution before the switch, Emergency Traffic Patrol “minutemen” drive the seven-mile stretch, red-and-blue lights flashing atop their white SUVs, on the lookout for any disabled vehicles or confused Mr. Magoo types who may have meandered onto the already-closed lanes. And if there’s a stall-out on the road, the car is hauled to a safe location by an IDOT tow truck. —Rod O’Connor
How does the CTA make those voice-of-God service-delay announcements you hear when you’re standing on the El platform? Where is that voice coming from?
Judging by the sound quality—scratchy, tinny and often barely audible—you’d think those announcements emanate from an underground lair three miles below the earth’s crust. But in fact, the people informing riders of delays broadcast from the CTA Control Center at 120 North Racine Avenue, explains CTA spokeswoman Wanda Taylor. When there’s a significant delay due to God knows what—a medical emergency on a train, someone having a tea party on the tracks—a train operator, rail supervisor, the Chicago Fire Department or the Police Department notifies the Control Center via radio or phone. A manager then decides whether to run a train express and from which station. Once that decision’s been made, a Control Center employee updates the CTA website and makes the announcement to weary El riders, most of whom are waiting at a station the express train will breeze right past.—Laura Baginski