Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Beginner's Guide to Chicago


You know how sometimes things just click?  Like you just feel totally in your element and in complete control?

This isn't about that.  This is about a girl who moved from Florida to Chicago with absolutely no idea what she as doing.  In fact, if you had asked that girl two month before her move to locate Chicago on a map, she would have just waved her hands and told you, "In the general Canadian direction."

It's with a loving tenderness I look back on that girl as she ordered a cab to take her to her job interview... three days in advance.  I wish I could just pat her innocent little head as she got off that mid-February flight and zipped up a fleece over her hoodie because she wasn't sure if she'd be warm enough with just one layer.

That girl has survived over a year now in Chicago and in addition to learning the wonders of the Weather Channel iPhone app, she has come a long way in almost all areas of city living.  She's certainly no pro but she does have a winter coat that's long enough to cover her butt... so that's something.

And now I'm going to stop talking about myself in the third person because that's getting annoying, and just roll right into the meat of this post:

A Year's Worth of Tips for Starting Your Life in Chicago

  • I shouldn't have to say this but in case there are any Floridians out there: get a coat.  You know that black Columbia fleece you use on nippy days?  That is a lining for a coat.  You will need the rest in Chicago.
  • When using the "L," you cannot swipe your Ventra card twice on one turnstile.  That means you do not get one swipe for you and one swipe for your suitcase.  If you dare bring luggage on public transportation, you will pay with your dignity.
  • But luckily, everyone and the bum next door comes to Chicago with a suitcase... so no one has dignity.  Use that to your advantage: your coat can never be too long, your snow boots can never be too fluffy, and no form of earmuff shall ever be beneath you.
  • Without your dignity, there is also nothing stopping you from buying a shopping cart.  No amount of pride is worth carrying a week's worth of groceries five city blocks.


  • When it's cold, you will have just as much luck hailing a unicorn as you will hailing a cab.  Uber saves lives and fingers from frostbite.
  • And you need your fingers.  More specifically, you need your middle one.  You see, crosswalks work differently here: the lit-up, white man that signals "free to go" in most other situations means "free to go unless someone is late and prefers to make a left turn or is otherwise inconvenienced by standard traffic procedures" in Chicago.  And yelling at them to eff off is only so effective.
  • The cost of living in Chicago is not bad compared to most cities.  But it's still a city; if you think you're getting a great deal on rent, you're not.  There's a reason it's so cheap.
  • That reason can be any one of the following: no water pressure, yellow shower water, smelly yellow shower water, rodents, duct taped bathroom walls, unidentified stains on the floor, unidentified stains on the wall, radiators that clang, radiators that never turn off, lack of a microwave, and rowdy neighbors.  Or maybe you just found a great deal.
  • Yes, you do celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
  • Grocery stores are extremely protective of their quarters.  That doesn't  mean much until you need to do three loads of laundry in a coin-operated laundry machine.  In Chicago, prepare to be on a first name basis with the lady who works at the currency exchange.
  • If it smells like pee, it probably is.  And there is no reason to assume that it's from a dog.
  • The Taco Joint, Ann Sather, Bricks, and 5411 Empanadas.
  • You see all those women walking from the bus stop to their office in heels?  Nope, me neither.
  • There is a place where dreams come to die and that is a Trader Joe's on Sundays at 5PM.  No form of kale, dried, roasted, organic, or otherwise, is worth two hours in the "express lane" or your sanity.
  • Remember the buddy system.  Anyone can fall in love with Chicago, but it's definitely a dish that's better shared.


Look around you.  Tuesday is happening out there.
Tell me about your city.  Any tips or tricks?



Want more tea? Have a second cup!
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