Keeping the Red Line Clean with Kuya Jerry

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(Editor’s Note: RogersEdgeReporter journalist and Senn High School student Kirsten Ceralde shares a nice story about a friend she made at the Granville Red Line Stop, with a reminder to appreciate the people who keep our public spaces clean and safe.)

I first made friends with Clemente Santos when he became a regular customer during the time I worked in a coffee shop near the Granville Red Line station. I quickly caught on to his accent because it reminded me of my grandparents, and I realized he was Filipino, like me.

I don’t know why he goes by Kuya (brother) Jerry, but he said that’s what everyone calls him.

I had always seen him cleaning and talking with people getting off the train. In his free time, he would sometimes grab a coffee and stay for a chat with me about our families, and our growing Filipino community. Kuya Jerry was proud of how long he worked in the CTA, and I enjoyed listening to how passionate and dedicated he is with his job.

“I’ve worked for the CTA for about 20-21 years,” he said. “…I love it!”

He’s had some adventures.

“One day, not even five minutes after I left the Montrose Brown line station, there was a strong wind and the billboard fell on the platform. If I would’ve never left, it could’ve fallen right on me. I could’ve died,” he said.

“I’m from the Philippines, when I came here I was already 27,” he said. He worked for the Hilton hotel for the first 10 years living in America, then switched over to working for the CTA in 1991. He didn’t think it was his ideal job at first. But he said he grew to love it.

In the beginning, he worked all over the CTA train map, going from the blue line to purple, brown and finally settling at his three main stops the red line – Bryn Mawr, Thorndale, and Granville.

He got to know many passengers and local business.

“There’s a lot of passengers that are friendly … who like to talk and chat while waiting for the train,” he said.

I asked him what the hard parts of his job are.

“The snowing time,” he said, “when the negative degree hits and the low 20’s. I have to carry the heavy sand and salt. Take it and throw it in the platform and spread it, it gets very difficult.”

I also asked him what we passengers can do to make his job easier.

“Use the garbage plastic that is there, don’t litter. It goes on the track and makes my job more dangerous. I have to remove the graffiti and clean up the pee in the elevator and train. Just don’t do it!” he said with a laugh.

Next time you take the red line, remember Kuya Jerry. Appreciate the salted platform, the fewer trash on the ground, and the clean walls and carts. Let’s try to do our part and keep the trains clean by picking up after ourselves and be thoughtful for those who has to take care of ur garbage. Of course, try to be friendly to those who help our experience in the CTA bearable. He left off on a good tip saying, “try to keep your stuff in a safe place. Especially during the summer; your phone, food, credit card, I see it too many people losing their stuff. “

 

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