Tuesday, July 2, 2013

F*ck Ketchup: A Chi-Town Newbie's Survival Guide

So, you just graduated college and you're ready to move to the city. It's okay to be scared poopless- I know I was when I first came here. To lend a hand, I've compiled a list of things that I wish someone had told me before I got here- tips on how to get around, what not to do on public transportation, and how to make the most of your first few months in the Windy City. 

Does anybody else think they chose this flag because it would be easy to put on a sheet cake?

1.       When somebody who has difficulty walking or standing gets onto the train or bus, you get up and offer them your seat. No argument. The elderly, somebody with a wheelchair or crutches or walker, or somebody with child/with a child- you get up. Immediately.

Your mama raised you better than that.

2.       The city is a big grid (thanks for teaching me this one, Pirate Man Dave Gonzales). Every time you go someplace new, add it to that mental picture you’ve got of the map of Chicago. You’ll know the city in no time.

3.       Don’t confuse Chicago Democrats with the actual Democratic party. Most of us pretend Rahm Emanuel is a Republican so we can sleep at night.

4.       When you’re on a train and you come to a stop, look around you. There are probably people who need to get off the train. It is your responsibility to get out of their way as quickly as possible.

5.       Save yourself the embarrassment- don’t ask for ketchup on your hot dog. They won’t give it to you.

Just hide the packets in your purse like the rest of us.

6.       Take your headphones out of your ears and put them in front of your face. Can you hear them? Yes? Then so can everybody else. No one but you wants to hear "Call Me Maybe" again. Turn that shit down. 

7.       If someone says “Let’s go thrifting!” and tells you they know this awesome place in the city, don’t expect miracles. It’s the city. They know what their stuff is worth. Go out to the burbs, say haaaaaay to your high school friends, then hit up your hometown Goodwill, cuz honey, ain’t nothing wrong with eight dollar Chanel.

8.       You don’t have to be into everything “token Chicago” to be a good Chicagoan. No one has time to like the Cubs AND Navy Pier AND the beach AND Lincoln Park Zoo AND hockey AND obesity AND local breweries AND Boystown AND super-trendy Logan Square clubs AND Ribfest AND politics AND ombre hair AND Tom’s Shoes AND “the bean” AND Michigan Avenue AND Brown Elephant AND quirky pubs AND the White Sox AND cycling AND juice cleanses AND working for Groupon AND local farmers’ markets AND deep dish pizza AND that Frank Sinatra song. You’re allowed to be into whatever you want to be into- just don’t shame other people for what they like, and don’t shame them for not liking the things that you do.

9.       Don’t take up more than one seat on public transportation. Your bag is not more important than another person. And in turn, get over your fear of asking someone to move their stuff so you can sit. You have got to have enough self-confidence to realize that bag of crap from Top Shop does not belong in a seat instead of you.

You can tell that's a backpack, right?

10.   It’s called the Sears Tower. Don't get it twisted. 

11.   ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS look behind you before you open your damn car door. LET ME SAY THIS AGAIN: LOOK OUT YOUR WINDOWS AND CHECK AROUND YOU BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR CAR DOOR. There are a lot of bikers out there on the streets. As a driver, it is your responsibility to keep them safe. Failure to do this could result in “dooring” a cyclist- the cyclist, who has the right of way in the bike lane, runs full speed into your open door (or swerves into traffic, which is worse) - which has killed many bikers and injured thousands more. Let me say it again: LOOK FOR CYCLISTS BEHIND YOU BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR FUCKING DOOR.

12.   If you are a cyclist, know the rules of the road. And wear a helmet- always. If you’re living in the city at all, in fact, you should know bicycle laws: http://www.chicagobikes.org/bikelaws/

13.   A smart phone is a great investment when you’re a city-dweller – it has GPS, reviews of restaurants, apps to get cabs- just don’t be on it when you’re by yourself. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the screen and not realize that a bus is speeding towards you, or someone is following you, or you’re about to miss your stop. Keep your head up.

14.   Honk before you turn into/come out of alleys in your car. Every time. It’s the best way to ensure pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists know you’re coming, and even though it’s not the law, it’s the polite thing to do.

15.   THE TRAIN IS NOT THE PLACE TO HAVE A PHONE CONVERSATION. Sidewalk? Acceptable. Stores? Acceptable. A PLACE WHERE NO ONE HAS THE OPTION TO EITHER A) GET AWAY FROM YOUR STUPID CONVERSATION ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU LOVE MOBY  or B) PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE IS NOT THE PLACE TO TALK. Seriously, though. Wait to talk until you get to a place where people can move away from your narcissistic phone dilemma.

16.   Don’t risk the ticket- there are meter masochists everywhere. Pay for parking. Look at the signs before you walk away. Don’t park your car on city streets when it’s snowing.

And oh, my god, they mean it.

17.   If you do get a ticket, make sure you look up the photos online. You can contest them. I have gotten out of at least six tickets since moving to the city because a meter maid was mistaken.

I only pay for the tickets I earn, beetch.

18.   If you’ve got somewhere super-important to be, check local activities. Things like sports events, parades, and local street festivals could completely change your route and your ETA.

19.   It’s hard to see homeless individuals. It happens a lot in Chicago. If you don’t feel comfortable giving cash, but feel you still want to do something, you can look online here for information on helping and donating to local shelters: http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/cgi-bin/id/city.cgi?city=Chicago&state=IL

20.   Listen to your gut. If something tells you to get off that train car, or get out of that bar, or take a cab home instead of waiting for a bus in that strange neighborhood, listen to it. This is not license to be paranoid. This is reinforcement of what your mom told you when you were a kid. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to remove yourself from the situation.

21.   All cab drivers must take credit cards. It’s the law. If they refuse, you can flag down a cop and the cop will kindly remind the driver for you.

22.   I don’t assume my phone/wallet will get stolen when I go out- but I have left it behind places and have had to figure out a way home. Always keep some spare cash hidden on you in case you lose your wallet/phone so that you can get a cab. I also try to research any new places I’m going so that if something happens, I can find my way back home from wherever I am.

23.   There is no Chicago uniform. You don’t have to shop at Urban Outfitters, Top Shop, Zara, or American Apparel to be cool. You don’t. You can, absolutely, if you want to- but don’t let anybody try to convince you that you won’t fit in if you don’t. That’s some bullshit. Have you seen the stuff in these stores? If you were thinking, “I could probably buy a torn-up kitten t-shirt at a thrift store for fifty cents instead of here for $49.50,” chances are, you’re right. Check out these blogs if you don’t believe me: http://thriftstorerunway.com/new-winners or http://thriftandstyle.com/?page_id=3115.

24.   For the love of God, if you can, fart before you get on the crowded train.

25.   Don’t flick strangers off when you’re angry at them. This is Chicago. They will chase your ass down. Let it go.

26.   If you’re in a bar and someone is giving you trouble (touching you, saying offensive things, etc.), don’t try to handle it yourself, and don’t make a scene. Instead, politely go to the bouncer with the situation and let them handle it. Generally, they’ll kick the asshole out. If they don’t, get out of that bar. It’s not a place you want to be anyway.

27.   If you want to bring your car, bring your car. Yes, it can be difficult to park (make sure if you plan on bringing one, you get an apartment with plentiful street parking ALL YEAR ROUND or a designated spot), and yes, it could be stolen (sorry, Sally the Taurus), but don’t let anybody tell you it’s not doable. Those people are always the first to beg you for a ride to Trader Joe’s when it rains.

28.   Don’t talk shit about the suburbs. That’s probably where you grew up. Show some respect.

29.   Go to Sidetrack on a Monday night with friends. Do it over again the next week.

...says my high school theatre teacher, very confidently. I'm a believer. 

30.   Soak it up. This may not be California, and we may not have Broadway, but Chicago has its own wonderful charm. The people here are amazing. The stories they tell are good ones. If you commit to making the most of it, Chicago can be an exciting, enriching, and beautiful home. Even if our city landmark is a giant bean.