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November 1, 2018

Why I Love/Hate Chicago

By Jillian Schwartz

I complain about things out of my control. Some of the recipients of those complaints? The weather, CTA, and people who annoy me. Where have I found all of these things in one place? The city of Chicago. I can utter the words, “I love this city!” and “I hate this city!” simultaneously, so I challenged myself to pick each topic and fit in both points of view.

So here is why I love/hate Chicago:

Fall

Boo: Fall is the most overrated season of all time. Not only does it last about 8 seconds, but it is also a reminder that 6 months of dark, freezing, icy, sadness is just around the corner. And don’t get me started on the pumpkin spice flavored everything. I probably just put pumpkin spice gasoline in my car. Plus, that first fall morning when I step outside onto the frost-crusted grass and can see my breath…it causes my insides to curl inside themselves. Essentially, I spend 1/3 of the summer being sad that fall is on its way because I know that it’s only the appetizer to winter which is even worse. Did you know that it snowed on April 18 this year? APRIL!

Yay: Fall in the Midwest is so beautiful. I love to grab a cozy drink and just walk around to see kids bundled up playing football in the park, step on crunchy leaves, and see the trees change from yellow to orange to red (especially from way-up-high) Not only that, it’s the right temperature to get snugly  while still being able to do fall activities like visiting apple orchards and pumpkin patches, which just aren’t the same without a flannel shirt. Plus, Halloween isn’t Halloween without a long sleeve shirt or jacket under my costume.

The people

Boo: People who visit me in Chicago have, on multiple occasions, pointed out how much faster I walk and how much meaner I look since moving to the city. I blame it partly on having to learn to avoid the Green Peace and ASPCA people on all of the corners downtown. Now, my first instinct when someone comes up to me is “what are they trying to get from me?”.  That thinking encourages more entitlement and spiciness from people; everyone’s always honking their horn, cutting people off in traffic, and swearing at bicyclists (who, to be fair, are also very annoying; you don’t get to be a pedestrian AND a car).  Bottom line, in any city there are the creeps, the weirdos, and the ones you shouldn’t make eye contact with; my pink pepper spray I got as a Christmas gift–while never used–has been my little safety blanket for some iffy times.

Yay: I like to think that most people in the world want to do good and be good. And with a lot of the individuals I’ve met, that has been the case. In Chicago, I met people who will truly be friends for life. Right after I moved here, I quickly got into the volleyball community–and it really is a community–and it blew my mind how quickly everyone was to grow their friend group. They are like one big giant family–one who sets up tents, volleyball nets, and grills at 6 a.m. on the Fourth of July for an all-day barbecue. In my experience with almost anyone, even when a person seems standoffish, I try to greet them with kindness and their mood flips almost instantly. People hold doors open, are willing to help with directions, and understand the need for manners (most of the time). I’ve gotten that “we’re all in this together” feel a lot of the time.

The public transit

Boo: Are you kidding? I can hardly go a day without refreshing the CTA’s twitter page to find out why there’s another delay on the Brown Line during rush hour (of course). Let’s not forget the excruciating TENS of minutes spent on the platform in below-zero weather, standing beneath a flimsy lamp heater that makes me feel like an egg in a middle school science classroom. Oh how I love having someone’s arm hair in my face or worse, being the unlucky patron stuck in the middle of a crowded train car, not blessed with long enough limbs to reach a bar to hold, trying to get a wide enough stance to balance, while hoping that the conductor doesn’t make any sudden movements. Or perhaps walking onto the train and getting a whiff of a stale, farm-like stench, praying that it’s not from urine that was left un-mopped and is now the reason your shoes are sticking to the floor.

Yay: Cruising by car after car in stop and go traffic is one of my favorite pastimes. Once I’m aboard, I know the train will take me 21 minutes to get to work, which is, conveniently, just enough time to watch an episode of The Office and have a few pre-work laughs. Even when it’s rush hour, I don’t have to pay attention to the road or focus on anything but distracting myself. And back to the weather, (unless you’re spoiled with a heated garage) when you wake up to find an inch of ice clung to your windshield and must spend 10+ minutes scraping and clearing it away, sweating in your puffy jacket? I’ve never had to scrape ice off the windows of the train.

Oh Chicago, you have made me feel so many things in the past 7 years. I love your lake that looks like an ocean, your buildings that are equally beautiful whether it’s night or day, and your endless restaurants and trendy cocktail bars. Not a big fan of your weather for 8 months out of the year, but we toughed it out. No matter where I go after you, however, nothing will change the space you occupied in my heart as my sweet home Chicago.