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It’s Too Cold for This Shit.

And by this shit, I mean absolutely everything.  Seriously.  I usually try and embrace all of the seasons and take them in stride,  “Hey, it’s winter, pretty soon we’ll be complaining about how hot it is!”  I  even believe myself most of the time.  After today, though, when I waited a cumulative 47 minutes outside in subzero wind chills for the CTA, after I slipped going down the stairs, after my I got my stupid coat sleeve wet trying to wash my hands, after I was pushed out of the way by a full grown man for a bus seat, after I dropped my glove and bus card onto the disgusting floor, after I stepped off the bus into a pile of slush up to my ankle, I surrender.  This is a big, huge, miserable bucket of suck and I would give my yet-to-be-conceived firstborn for a single afternoon swimming in Lake Michigan.  Taking a shower in the morning is the happiest part of my day because it is the only ten minutes of the day I’m actually warm.

  • It is too cold to go to the grocery store.  I will make a meal out of zucchini and cream cheese if I have to.
  • It is too cold for that stupid Erin Andrews probiotics commercial.
  • It is too cold to talk about anything other than how cold it is and how much worse next week is going to be.
  • It is too cold for every single living soul to turn into an amateur weatherman.  Today I heard everything from six inches of snow to 40 degrees tomorrow.
  • It is too cold to mop the floors a-fucking-gain.
  • It is too cold to listen to one more word about Justin Bieber and the fact that he acts very similar to 70% of 19-year-olds in the United States and it is too cold to scroll through the hundred or so memes that have already been created and are running rampant on Facebook.   Two things about this: One, if he was a well-loved superstar to adults instead of teenagers here on a Visa and we were making jokes about deportation, the country would be up in arms. He’s not selling government secrets; he’s an idiot teenager    Two, one of the most popular memes thus far is a split-shot of the Biebs and a tough looking criminal with a caption along the lines of “Oh, I’m gonna love you!”  Wait, so rape jokes are okay if we don’t like someone’s music or attitude?  Come on.
  • It is too cold to watch one more fluffed up weatherperson – who is almost always a perky little girl – standing outside in frigid temperatures telling us how cold it is.  WE KNOW.  WHY DO YOU HAVE TO MAKE HER STAND OUTSIDE??
  • It is too cold to remove the plastic Christmas decorations from my front yard because their cords have been frozen to the ground for three weeks.
  • It is too cold to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night because no matter how high the heat is, the toilet seat is like fucking ice.
  • It is definitely too cold for this idiot, Republican GOP candidate Susanne Atanus, who believes “God controls the weather and that tornadoes, autism and dementia are his punishments for the gay rights movement and abortions.”  In other news, Santa Claus really does travel the entire world in one night giving gifts to good, deserving (heterosexual) children and the Easter Bunny is totally real.
  • It is too cold to even enjoy the beautifulness that is Harry Connick Jr. on American Idol because J-Lo is wearing a dress without a snowsuit over it and it makes me mutter incomprehensible things like, “I bet SHE didn’t almost freeze to the front gate trying to get in.  I bet her stupid front door wasn’t frozen shut.”  (True story.  That was when it was actually 20 below as opposed to balmy 7 degrees we’re enjoying right now.)
  • It is too cold for Captain and Tenille to get divorced.  WTF???
  • It is too cold to be sitting at the laptop with two fur-covered animals just staring at me instead of keeping my feet warm.
  • It is too cold to not have a fireplace.
  • It is too cold to not be dressed like Randy from a Christmas Story and I hate scarves.
  • It is too cold to drive a car.
  • It is too cold to enjoy national media pointing out how miserable it is here.  Jimmy Fallon has polar vortex songs and I can’t even be happy about them.

I am declaring this weekend Summer in January.  The heat’s going up to 80, static electricity be damned – hey, the ensuing fire will only create more heat!!! – we’re getting beach cocktails, spreading out a blanket on the floor, and only playing Jimmy Buffett for 24 hours.  Who’s with me??

Four short months ago.

Four short months ago.

Ten Signs the Chicago Winter Has Beaten You Senseless.

One year, I had tickets to both the Bears and Cubs home opener.  The day of the football game, it was 105 degrees on the field.  The baseball game?  Was snowed out.  We know the weather is bipolar in Chicago, but somehow we are continuously surprised by it.  “I don’t remember it sucking this much last year.  Was it this hot last year?”  “Remember last year on this day, when we went to the beach?  Why is it snowing?  WHY???”  We have approximately seven days a year of perfect weather, and generally even those are marred by the impending bitchfit we know Mother Nature is brewing.  Oh, are you enjoying this unseasonably warm day in March?  Opened up all of the windows and pulled out the grill in anticipation of an early spring, didja?  I have two words for you, losers.  WINTRY MIX.  What?  You’re surprised?  Don’t worry.  I’ve got a tornado I’m working on for next week that’s going to make this miserable shit seem like rainbows and sunshine. 

That being said, this winter has been particularly brutal.  Snowstorm in January?  Not surprising.  Wind chills of negative 40?  That’s new.  And being that it’s only January 9th and we’ve already had nearly two feet of snow and several days in which Alaska was enjoying temperatures 30 degrees higher than here, I think we have a legitimate argument that spring should probably start next week.  Here’s a couple of signs the weather is winning.

You Have Worn More Than One Pair of Pants.  To Work.

I don’t generally even pull out a coat until it dips below 25 or so.  This year?  I had seven outfits on at the same time.  Once arriving at work, it was like the unsexiest strip show ever -  and I wasn’t alone.  The whole office was like a graveyard of outerwear.  Boots strewn about, sweatshirts laid out on desks, extra socks under desks; coats, scarves, and hats ripped off haphazardly to counteract the 80 degree difference in temperature between the ground floor and the 29th.

Every Single Person You Know Has a Cold.

Coughing, sneezing, sniffing, that gross clearing of the throat and sound of snot in Kleenex – these are your days now.  The only place I’ve found to be comfortable is in a sweatshirt, yoga pants, thermal socks and slippers on the bathroom floor with the shower running full stop to create my own personal sauna.  Sometimes I bring whiskey to make it a party.

If You See That Post About How Beautiful Chicago Looks Under Ice Posted One More Time, You’re Going to Punch Someone.

So many of my social media friends – currently not in sub-zero temps but instead in places with reasonable weather like California and the South Pole – posted this article this week.  Yes, it IS beautiful.  Unless, perchance, you happen to be attempting to walk through it.  Then, you can’t stop to admire the beauty.  You know why?  Because YOU’LL FREEZE TO THAT SPOT FOREVER if you stop moving for even a second.

Ditto to the “Chiberia” Folks.

Just, ugh.  Fucking stop it already.  That’s worse than “Chiraq.”  Sometimes I hate Twitter.

Your Kitchen Floor Looks Like This.

"There's only so much I can do!!!!!"  cried the mop.

“There’s only so much I can do!!!!!” cried the mop.

You’re About to Spontaneously Combust At Just About Any Second.

It’s so dry in your house/apartment/workplace due to the constantly running heat that shuffling along the floor on carpet is a deadly game of Russian roulette – the next thing you touch might be your last.

You’ve Developed a Love-Hate Relationship with Your Mode of Transportation.

I can’t speak to those of you poor souls trying to drive in this nonsense.  But those of us taking the CTA have developed a drug-dealer-like dependency on our bus drivers.  “Please, please, please, be on time, you miserable f-ing piece of garbage.  Please.  I’ll be nice.  Please just show up.  Please don’t make me wait out here longer than three minutes, you f-ing jerks.”

You Forgot How to Walk Like a Normal Person.

Anyone who has thought that they were walking on innocent snow or slush who has violently found the black ice underneath is terrified of it happening again.  So we all walk gingerly, which, in boots, is more of a slow uncoordinated clompstomp across the street.  Walking the full block and a half from the El to work becomes a terrified mantra of “Don’t fall don’t fall don’t fall don’t fall WATCH OUT SEWER COVER don’t fall don’t fall don’t fall please please don’t fall.”

You’ve Done This.  Or At Least Watched a Video of One of Your Friends Doing This.

For those of you lucky souls who aren’t currently dealing with Mars-like temperatures, this is what happens when you throw a pot of boiling water into the air when it’s 14 below.  (Also, yes, I am considering a second career as a cinematographer, how did you know?)

Gray, Dirty, and Wet is the New Clean, Shiny, and New.

Nothing you own will ever be the same.  The slush alone is enough to ruin the best of pants and shoes, no matter how hard you try.  Just let it go.  You need all of your strength just to not fall on your fucking head and break every bone in your body. Everything is ruined.  We’ll start again next year.

So thanks, Polar Vortex.  For making us appreciate this so very much more.

SEVEN MORE MONTHS!  SEVEN MORE MONTHS!

SEVEN MORE MONTHS! SEVEN MORE MONTHS!

Lessons Learned

I’m not sure about all of you, but this whole rainy/wet/dreary/no sunshine all week weather we’re having is kind of making me want to take a hostage and make them fly me to anywhere that’s dry and bright.  As I’m a fan of self-diagnosing disorders – every time I hurt, I’m pretty sure I have fibromyalgia – I’ve decided I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and require sunshine at least every 72 hours.  Otherwise, normal, everyday irritations take on giant proportions.  You know that feeling?  You’re slightly irritated, then something else minor happens like your pen running out of ink and all of a sudden you’re like the fucking Hulk, wanting to smash everything in sight.

That being said, I decided a Friday Blast Off of things that made me crazy this week would probably be a little self serving and more than likely be an incoherent, profanity filled rant.  Instead, I put together a small list of things I’ve learned this week.  They’re nothing life-changing, but hopefully my experience will help to serve you well in the future.

  • Don’t go to Sephora in a hoodie and jeans.  The salespeople will either think you’re trying to rob the place or descend on you like vultures, assuming you are there for a life-changing makeover and your desperate ass will be grateful for their helpful tips.  (Yes, I know I could use an eyebrow wax, thank you, Skyie.  Is that seriously your name??  How do you say it?)
  • Rain gear is never where you need it.  I have boots, I have a raincoat, and I have an umbrella.  (Well, I had a raincoat.  My stupid Potato cat decided to take out his frustration with me buying cheap cat food by pissing on it, so now I’m down one piece of rain gear.)  But Tuesday, I did have a raincoat.  However, all of these things were snug and dry in my office, while I walked through a torrential downpour Wednesday morning in gym shoes and a cotton cardigan because it was the only thing I had with a hood.  Lesson?  Keep two sets of rain gear.  One at work, one at home.  When they both end up in the same place, BRING ONE SET HOME.
  • The floors at any CTA facility will be permanently wet and slippery as soon as the first raindrop falls.  Proceed with caution.  Very few things incite a panic attack than that split second when you slip atop the stairs, an image of your smiling face on the front page of the newspaper under the headline, “CLUMSY GIRL WIPES OUT COMMUTERS DURING FALL DOWN STAIRS,” flashing before your eyes.
  • Speaking of the CTA, you’d be wise to remember that the bus drivers don’t care that you’re wet and trying to stay dry in the shelter.  They will cruise through that puddle, splashing you head to toe with dirty, filthy water before they stop the bus.  That’s why the busses smell so bad.  Another note?  The bus floors are also slippery.  Grab hold of something immediately upon entering said bus if you’d like to keep your pants clean.
  • Last but not least, if you make the copycat recipe of Red Lobster’s Cheddar Biscuits, keep in mind two things.  1)  There’s a reason people go to Red Lobster.  It’s the fucking biscuits.  They’re amazing.  If you are the type of person with little self control, having twelve of them within grabbin’ distance is probably a bad idea.  2) They have a lot of garlic.  Your co-workers probably don’t want you to eat them for breakfast.

Happy Friday!!  Everyone have a great weekend!!!

Rain, rain, go away, I hate you!

Rain, rain, go away, I hate you!

 

How To Survive a “Snowstorm” in Chicago

When did we Chicagoans turn into a bunch of pansies when it comes to snow?  It’s a disturbing trend that seems to worsen each year.  Every single time it snows, the media plays it up so much that one would think the fucking end of the world was imminent.  Up until a few years ago, the news broadcast would be something like, “Oh, and we’re probably going to get some snow tomorrow, so plan accordingly!”  Now, each time the radar has a speck of white on it, they’re all, “OH MY GOD IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD SHUT THE STATE DOWN AND BEGIN STOCKING CANNED GOODS!!  EMERGENCY!!!!”  And like freaking sheep, we buy into it, nodding our heads, bemoaning the disaster to befall us the next day.

When did we forget that 90% of the time, the weather broadcasters are wrong?  And barring that, when did we forget that we live in Chicago??  It’s the Midwest, everyone!  We’re hearty people!  Five inches of snow?  Pssht.  Shovel it out, throw a lawn chair in your parking spot, and head on into work.  Unless there’s over a foot, the only thing that needs to be said is, “Eh, really coming down out there, huh?”  This is why we keep shovels in our cars (well, obviously I don’t, but that’s because I’m woefully unprepared for pretty much any situation.  Sometimes I forget to wear a coat,) bags of salt in our doorways, and have boots.  Because we live in Chicago.  And it fucking snows here.  Occasionally, it snows a whole fucking lot.  And we know this.  Because it’s CHICAGO and that’s what happens in the winter.

That being said, here’s a couple things to help you keep in mind for the next “Snowpocalypse,” which will probably happen sometime around the second week in April.

Whilst Waiting for the Bus – Use Caution.

I was actually pretty happy it was snowing this morning.  It was that big, pretty snow that just made the city look beautiful.  And while it was coming down pretty hard by the time I left for work, it was relatively warm and I happily made my way to the bus stop, listening to Pandora and just generally enjoying my lovely, snow-covered city.

When I got to the corner where my stop is, I was the only one there and saw a bus coming from only about a block away.  I learned quickly in my CTA adventures that if you are the only one at a bus stop, it’s necessary to make yourself visible as otherwise your transportation will go zooming past you without a second glance, leaving you standing on the sidewalk like a dolt with your bus card in your hand, all, “But, whaaa?  Wait!  You didn’t stop!”  (This doesn’t make them come back for you, FYI.)  So I was standing right up under the sign, trying to make eye contact with the yet-unseen driver, when a complete douchetard in a stupid car came flying down Chicago, going way too fast for conditions, I might add, spraying the giant pile of accumulated slush over my head in a manuever that probably should have been on YouTube.  The first time this happened to me earlier this year, I laughed it off, saying I hope someone at least saw it so they had a good story.  This time?  Kind of wanted to throw baseball bats at his car.  Added bonus?  The aforementioned driver saw the whole thing and added insult to (wet) injury by remarking, “Pretty messy out here, huh?”

Pretty, Giant Snowflakes Can Cover Up Ugly, Giant Ice Patches.

If you live outside city limits, you probably don’t have to do a lot of walking in the snow.  While this certainly presents its own challenges – namely, driving in stop and go traffic because everyone forgets how to operate an automobile the second cumulus clouds develop – having to travel on foot in snowy weather is a whole other bag of pain in the ass.  Especially if one lives in a neighborhood where shoveling your sidewalk is not a priority.  Which my neighborhood apparently is.  Despite it being a relatively mild winter, what snow/ice that has accumulated has stayed right where it started and to put it bluntly, it’s slippery as all fuck outside.  Which, if you have a short memory like yours truly, can pose a problem.  As I stepped out, my enjoyment of the beautiful snow was quickly undercut as I stepped one foot into the alley and nearly snapped my leg in half trying to overcorrect after hitting a patch of ice the size of my dining room table.  Use caution, folks.  There’s evil underfoot in the form of solid ice posing as snow.

Don’t Log In to Facebook.  I Promise.  Just Don’t.

As I may have mentioned before, weather updates via Facebook make me kind of homicidal.  Pictures of your backyard, kids/dog in the snow, a fabulous snowman?  Bring it on.  Love it.  I get that.  Got stuck for four and a half hours in traffic?  Okay, I can understand that one.  Posting statuses freaking out from 5PM the night before the impending doomstorm that may or may not actually happen?  Stop it. Just stop it.  Yes, it probably will take forever to get to work tomorrow.  Yes, it probably will take forever to get HOME from work tomorrow.  Yes, it probably will snow.  Yes, it probably will be messy.  Yes, drivers probably will be fucking morons.  Yes, you probably will be one of them.  STOP. IT.

Side note?  I have to say this.  Teachers?  I do love you.  You have a nearly impossible job, which is thankless, underpaid, underappreciated, and extraordinarily stressful.  So please don’t misunderstand when I say if I see one more post about how you have a snow day BEFORE THERE IS ANY SNOW, I will kind of want to punch you.  Also?  To those few who didn’t get a snow day and took to social media whining and complaining about how you can’t believe your school is the one that didn’t give you a snow day and how dare they expect you to work – um, you’re pretty much part of the only profession that gets to not work due to weather.  Every single other person in the Chicagoland area has to figure out how to get to work tomorrow - you can do it too!  You’re a teacher!  I have full confidence that you can navigate your way to school just like the rest of us have to navigate ourselves to work.

In a nutshell – stand back from the street, watch your step, and quit your bitching.  Embrace the snow.  Enjoy it.  It’s a short few months before we’re all sticking to the seat of the car and sitting in front of box fans and complaining about our sunburns.  And guess what?  We’ll survive that too.  Promise.

Lake Shore Drive on 2-2-11.  This?  Was a snowstorm.

Lake Shore Drive on 2-2-11. This? Was a snowstorm.

And Sometimes, I’m the Idiot Everyone Wants to Punch

As anyone who has read this blog knows, a good portion of it is dedicated to venting about people that have shown some sort of incompetence.  Whether it’s in line at the grocery store, on a crowded bus, or on my computer or television in the form of “news,” and “celebrities,” pretty much everyone I have any sort of contact with who isn’t one of my immediate friends or family is a fucktard in my mind.

Although I spend a lot of time seething over other’s idiocy, rest assured, I’m hardly sitting on some high horse.  I mean, this morning, I went to put on my rainboots as I was determined not to fall on my ass yet again and found a dollar bill, three bottle caps, and two crumpled up drawings of clowns that appeared to be in jail jammed in the foot.  Despite not having children to blame this on, I wasn’t surprised.  So believe me, my glass castle shattered some moons ago.  Despite this, I still  have no problem calling out the general public on their inadequacies and dumbfuckery at the grocery store or on the bus.  However, I’ve had a few incidents in the past week or so which have me think that perhaps I’m being a tad judgmental.  And that sometimes?  I’m the fucktard.

Incident #1 – Dominicks.

Earlier this week, I made my daily stop to Dominicks after work.  There appeared to be four thousand people in the store, and the lines were already about 15 deep.   I got hit with a cart, blocked by a trio of elderly ladies debating the merits of their yogurt brands, accosted by someone posing as a medical professional who wanted to check my spine, and almost exploded from holding in profanity whilst waiting for the cutesy couple in front of me to figure out how to pull a produce bag off the roll.  (Hint – it’s not by standing there and giggling, “OMG!  I ripped another bag!  You try!” “No, you try!  You can do it!.”  So very much hate.)  By the time I got to the end of the line behind 17 people waiting for the self-checkout, I was already kind of crazy and spent the next 15 minutes in line cursing each and every one of my fellow shoppers.  I was seething at the inefficiency and sheer stupidity of these folks who were holding up the line.  Tapping my foot, rolling my eyes, sighing huffily – the whole nine yards.

Until I got my own dumb ass up there, scanned my container of soup (one of the main reasons I still frequent Dominicks is they have the most amazing baked potato soup on the planet,)  a six-pack of Miller Lite, a roll of toilet paper, and some cat food.  It was right about here that I realized I had eight singles in my purse, along with a whole mess of quarters.  Now, not only am I that person holding up the line, but I’m paying for the saddest combination of items ever WITH CHANGE.  And then?  I ran out of quarters.  So if I was looking for a lesson in humility, I certainly got it while digging for sixty more cents in my purse while everyone behind me tapped their feet in exasperation, rolled their eyes, and mentally called me a pathetic jackass in unison.

Incident #2 – CTA Part One.

The CTA has done everyone a big favor since the new year in raising their prices on one-day, three-day, and seven-day passes.  And by “done everyone a favor,” I really mean bent them over without consent, lube, or dinner.  Without going into all of the math, it is no longer economically efficient for me to buy a seven-day pass and instead makes more sense to buy ten dollar CTA cards every couple of days.  Which means, of course, with me being me and whatnot, I occasionally find myself near running to (fucking) Dominick’s before work once a week because I forgot my pass is no longer valid.  Earlier this week, I got on the bus, put in my card, and got the hateful message that there was only $.75 on my card.  Once again finding myself digging around for change, I assumed the bus driver would do what every other bus driver does when the person is short, which is either wave them on or let other, better prepared folks board while I got my shit together.

But if that had happened, it wouldn’t be my life.  So instead, the bus driver just sat there while I dug around frantically for my wallet – and isn’t it always the case that the more you’re in a panicked rush, the more shit you drop?  Seriously, normally I can reach in my purse without looking and find my lighter, keys, and phone within seconds – leaving everyone waiting behind me in literal freezing rain.  After I’d dropped my lunch on the floor, pulled out a tampon wrapped around my headphones, and mistook a quarter for a penny, I finally had enough to carry on and began walking through the near empty bus while other passengers boarded.  And apparently said bus driver really had it in for me, because as soon as my last quarter passed through, everyone else jumped on the bus and she immediately slammed on the gas.  At which point I dropped my lunch a-fucking-gain and was too afraid to bend over and pick it up while the bus was lurching to and fro, then caught my foot in the plastic bag it was in and nearly gave someone a very unwelcome lap dance.

Incident #3 – CTA Part Two.

I get out of work at 5:30 every night.  From there I catch the Blue Line at Clark/Lake in order to catch my bus.  For those unfamiliar, the Clark/Lake stop is a relatively busy one, as every other train line save the Red Line stops there.  In addition, 5:30 is somewhat of a turning point – it’s not necessarily considered “rush hour,” anymore, so if you miss a train by 30 seconds, you may be stuck waiting for another 12 minutes listening to the guy play the buckets and desecrating some classic Temptations hits.  The Blue Line train also runs to the airport, so quite often I’ve found myself behind some clueless tourists who are trying to pull their giant luggage through the turnstiles.  (Another hint – it ALWAYS gets stuck.  Always.)  While I’ve certainly been frustrated by this, I will honestly say I never get mad at the tourists, because they don’t know any better and I do not forget that not long ago I was right there with them, terrified and confused by all of the people rushing by me.

That being said, I have often become apoplectic with the girls carrying giant gym bags, the sales guys in suits and backpacks standing at the turnstiles and just waving their wallet in front of the sensor despite it CLEARLY NOT RECOGNIZING THEIR CARD, the vagrants trying nine different cards that they’ve found on the ground, and the folks that get up to the turnstile and then begin searching for their pass, holding up the rest of the line for us savvy travelers.  All of that being said, I have to wonder what names I was called today as I bopped up to the turnstiles with my headphones, singing along to Tiffany, when my card wasn’t accepted.  No worries, I took it out, waited a beat, then tried to put it in again.  No dice.  Wouldn’t even go in the slot.  Waited another moment – not noticing the security guard trying to get my attention as I was too involved in my music – and tried again.  Nothing.  Now, I’m irritated, and at the same time I look up to get the guard’s attention, he taps me on the shoulder.  Exasperated, I turn around – with headphones still on, mind you – and make a “WHAT?” gesture.  He points at my ear and I yank a headphone out, all, “Yes??”  “It’s upside down, ma’am.”  Me.  (And I’m embarrassed about this, honestly.)  “What?  I can’t hear you.”  “Your card.  You’re putting it in upside down.”

Well, shit.

I wonder how many people are telling stories about the dumb blonde they got stuck behind this week?

Dammit.

Dammit.

Friday Blast Off: What I Said vs. What I Meant

profanityTook a week off from yelling at people in my head last week to bring you the lovely story about my glorious days as a tuba playing elk.  Despite this, I apparently still have friends that are willing to look past my awkward years, and for that I thank you all.  That being said, here’s some people that I wish would have been shot into the sun this week.

The Completely Clueless and Furious Attorney Who Kept Repeating Himself at an Increasing Volume for 15 Minutes:

What I Said:          “Sir?  Sir?  I understand – SIR.  I do apologize.  I did speak with Angela from your office, have you checked with her?”

What I Meant:      “You, sir, are an asshole.  Let me talk to your secretary as she is clearly the brains behind your operation.  Also, ‘all this new bullshit,’ you speak of isn’t all that new.  Last I checked, email has been relatively common in the workplace for about twenty years.”

Miss Fancy McGiant Bag and Her Extremely Animated Friend, Mr. Flailing Hands, on the Bus:

What I Said:         “No problem!  It’s crowded this morning!”

What I Meant:     “You dizzy bitch.  If you’re going to carry a bag the size of a rhinocerous, take a cab.  I have enough trouble keeping my brains in my head; I don’t need you knocking me in the face with your ten pound lunch.  And you, yes you, flapping your hands like a fucking pigeon – knock it off.  You’re telling the dumbest story I’ve ever heard – there is absolutely zero need to draw more attention to it.”

The Gentleman at the Bus Stop Who Yelled in Spanish Right in My Face Until I Could Escape:

What I Said:         “Lo siento.  No hablo Espanol.”

What I Meant:     “I understand you perfectly and no, I will not give you a cigarette, rodeo.  You’re wearing a fucking sombrero and clown pants at 8:30 in the morning and I refuse to contribute in any way to this foolishness.”

The Girl Dressed in Lime Green Spandex, A Skintight Blue Shirt, Red High Heels, Ornaments as Earrings, and about Two Hundred Extra Pounds:

What I said:          “Good morning…”

What I Meant:      “Excuse me?  Do you know you’re dressed as a bipolar Christmas tree?  Here’s a tip – ask for a full-length mirror this year.  Trust me.”

How was everyone else’s week?

You’re Killing Me, Chicago

I love my city.  I do.  So very much.  We have our bad side, for sure.  This summer has been one of the deadliest this city has ever seen, our public school system has made national headlines and not in a good way, our politicians keep going to jail, our mayor’s kind of a dick, it was 90 freaking degrees for way too many days this year, and we have one of the worst public transit systems in the country.  (That last part may or may not be just my opinion, but having heard stories from other cities, I’m fairly confident we’re sadly lacking.)  We have gangs, we have guns, we have burglaries, and we have Jesse Jackson.  Despite all of this, I still believe I live in one of the most beautiful, amazing, unbelievable cities in the world; sometimes I look out at the skyline from my back porch and can’t even believe that I am lucky enough to live and work here.

However.  HOWEVER.  Being a resident of a sprawling metropolis has its downsides, and the longer I’m here, the more the inconveniences make me (occasionally) wonder if perhaps I wouldn’t be better off on a mountaintop somewhere – somewhere without so many people, somewhere where they’ve never had to play the “Was that gunshots or fireworks?” game, which we played an awful lot this summer.  Somewhere where your automatic response when a stranger approaches you on the street isn’t “I don’t have any money.”  (I used to smile at people because I hoped they’d ask me for directions because I’m super proud of myself that I can now give them relatively confidently.  I learned fairly quickly that was a mistake and I was inviting myself to a very long story ending with, “And that’s why I need two dollars and forty cents.”)  I know in my heart I’d miss this place like a phantom limb, but I do occasionally wonder.  So for those of you on the other side, (i.e. the suburbs) who may be considering a move to the Windy City – here’s my gift to you.

Here’s a few things you probably don’t realize if you don’t live in Chicago.

1.  There’s really only one grocery store within walking distance, and you will grow to hate said grocery store with a white-hot passion you didn’t know you possessed.  In my neighborhood, this grocery store is Dominicks.  My Dominicks, which I find myself at at least once a day, is on Chicago and Damen.  Here’s why it sucks.

  • It has the dumbest layout of any store I’ve ever seen.  You walk in and on one side, there’s the deli, Starbucks, salad bar, and fresh baked goods.  The bread, however, is waaaay over on the other side, conveniently situated next to the fish counter.  In between, you have the booze, then pizza, then an entire aisle of almost ice cream, (we are trying to win that “Fattest City in America” trophy, aren’t we?) then frozen foods, then toilet paper?  Then greeting cards?  Then crackers, dry goods, then….dog food?  Then light bulbs and cleaning supplies?  Then….soup.  You get my drift.  It’s like the person who designed was completely stoned and just followed their thought process on things they might want or need in no particular order.  I shit you not, the other day I was there and needed sugar, which was inexplicably nowhere near the spices or salt but instead nestled in between the baby food and cat litter.  All by itself.
  • Every person there is a moron.  This may seem to be an exaggeration, but I challenge you to walk in there at any given time of day or night and NOT want to punch at least three fellow shoppers in the throat.  My neighborhood is quite the melting pot of hipsters, immigrants, young couples who tend to be a combination of the two and have extremely loud children, and old homeless people.  Put all of these together and you have an amalgamation of some of the most irritating people IN THE WORLD.  Picture Tyler, with his ironic t-shirt, skinny jeans, and pointy glasses trying to find the best sparkling water and vegan chili sharing an aisle with an old lady in a motorized cart mowing down everyone with a basket full of chips and grape pop sharing an aisle with a couple screaming in Ukrainian at their toddler in one of those giant carts that look like cars, and you’ve found aisle 12 at Dominicks.  Which is, coincidentally, the one aisle which houses the only thing you are there for.
  • And then you have to check out.  Never, at any time in my life, have I been so close to homicide as at the self checkout at my Dominicks.  I have long been a proponent of requiring some sort of IQ test before one is allowed to use the self checkout, but no one listens to me.  Therefore, the self checkout, which boasts four stations, usually has a line of oh, about 15 people.  If you have a cart full of free vegetables, none of which you know the name of – please go to a regular checkout.  If you have a fistful of coupons – please go to a regular checkout.  If you and your companion are in lane-blocking motorized carts – please go to a regular checkout.  If you CANNOT READ ENGLISH OR SPANISH – please go to a regular checkout.  Last but not least, if you are the aforementioned Tyler, and are going to lovingly re-bag your backpack 47 times so it has the best distribution of weight while you ride your bicycle home, tying up the line for another seven minutes – please go to a regular checkout or suffer the consequences.

2.  You will no longer enjoy driving, as it’s less of a relaxing, listen-to-music time while talking on the phone as it is a NASCAR/bicycle/moped/pedestrian avoiding terror ride that ends in you losing your parking spot and having to walk four blocks anyway.  Therefore, you have to get used to the bus or the El.  Here’s some situations/people to be on the lookout for.

  • The bus driver.  He hates you.  He hates his job, he hates driving up and down the same street for eight hours a day, he hates the cab drivers that cut him off, he hates the bicyclists that veer in front of him, he hates answering the same questions day in and day out.  But most of all, he hates you.  He will hit the gas the second you let go of your tenuous hold on whatever surface you’ve managed to grab onto.  He will slam on the brakes the second you take a sip of your morning beverage.  He will laugh when he waits for you to run across the street and then closes the doors and drives off while you stand, huffing and puffing like a fat kid in gym class, with no one and nothing to take your aggression out on.
  • The assholes that sit on the outside seat when the bus or train is packed full of people like sardines.
  • The assholes that use the seat next to them for their backpack and glare at anyone ballsy enough to politely ask them if they can sit down.
  • The assholes that pretend not to see the pregnant lady, octogenarian, or handicapped person and don’t get up.
  • The assholes that wait until the bus has pulled away from their stop before yelling “Hey, I need to get off!”
  • The assholes that pretend not to notice there’s 30 other people waiting in line for the bus and jump straight to the front of the line.
  • The assholes that stand to the left of the escalator without walking.  Stand to the right, walk to the left, people.  We’re in America.  This isn’t new.
  • The crazy person who tries to sell you cardboard/wants to converse about his overseas online girlfriend/thinks you need Jesus/want you to listen to their mix tape/offers you their phone number/pretends to lose their balance whilst grabbing at your private parts.
  • The crazy person who takes up three seats due to a combination of their stench/mumbling/bags.
  • Pretty much everyone but me.

3.  Chicago is a “bicycle friendly” city.  If you are not a bicycle rider, this will eventually wear on you.  Bicyclists in Chicago – and please understand I know I’m making generalizations here, but there’s a reason such stereotypes exist – believe that they have more rights than anyone else on the road.  They have their own lane but this is simply, to them, a general direction in which they should be heading.  They will fly through red lights, miss your mirror by inches as they zoom by (because if you are in a car, I promise you they are moving faster than you are,) and zip in front of a city bus without a qualm.  They will also become irate and yell profanities should anyone question their movements.  Sometimes, they will make you doubly angry when they get on the bus and take up precious commute time by attaching their bike to the front of the bus.

4.  There’s two Targets.  They are not the Targets you know and love.  They are cesspools of masses and masses of people. A simple trip to get a mop will take you at least two hours so plan accordingly.

5.  I wasn’t kidding about the “gunshots or fireworks” game.  A majority of the time, it is fireworks – at least in my neighborhood – but the fireworks?  Are just as loud.  They start in May and as of this writing, are still happening.  Get used to big booms.

All of the above considered – it’s still a fabulous city. For every idiot I meet, I see a kind gesture every day – someone helping a businessman whose papers dropped, anonymously putting a bottle of water next to a sleeping homeless man, a teenager with his pants belted securely six inches below his hips giving his seat to a nondescript, middle aged female simply because she’s a woman, a bus driver leaving the bus to help a blind passenger across the street.  We are a great city.  We are a community.  We are better than the gangs and the drugs and the guns; we know we are.  We are teachers and nurses and businessmen and baristas and street performers and lawyers, and every time I see a tour bus in the Loop, I remind myself that there are people who pay money just to see, once in their lives, the streets I get to walk every single day.

We are lucky.  And there’s no place I’d rather be.

How NOT to ride the CTA

“Excuse me.  Excuse me!  EXCUSE ME!!!”  I hear it every single day, in varying forms of politeness, panic levels, and volume.  It’s either someone trying to squeeze through the headphone wearing crowd to get off at their stop, or someone asking their fellow commuter if perhaps they may have the seat that is currently occupied by said commuter’s important backpack, or an irritated rider who has just gotten knocked in the head for the fifth time by a giant purse.

My commute since moving is much quicker but more complicated.  I take the Chicago bus and the Blue Line, and while I can’t confirm this with hard evidence, in my opinion, more people take these two lines each day than visit Vegas every year.  It is never a good sign when you can see the faces of commuters on the bus a block away because they are pressed against the windshield, nor do I enjoy seeing cattle car after cattle car pass me up, desperately hoping I will be able to wedge myself into one of them when the train stops.  Inevitably, I wind up in front of the car in which no one is getting off and thus have to force my person into the door to the dismay of other riders.

Last week, an unfortunate string of events left me furiously muttering obsecenities under my breath after I was uncermemoniously launched from a still rolling bus.

Below are the highlights.  I would appreciate any and all suggestions on how to improve my own experience.

Real Life – CTA Commute

  • Check handy RedEye Tracker and see train is coming in four minutes.  Score!  This is exactly how long it takes me to cross the street and get down to the train.
  • Well, it would be, if two of the lanes weren’t broken and the other was not occupied by a homeless person trying every single card that he has found in the last two days to see which one will allow him to pass through the magic turnstile.
  • Shoelace gets caught in the escalator.  (There are really not words descriptive enough to convey the sheer panic of this 45 second ordeal.)
  • Am freed!  Train is already pulled up, but as there’s four billion people trying to get on and off, I probably have a second.  Begin “run” to first open car.  (Blue line operators think they’re funny and do not “park” in a manner convenient for all waiting passengers.)
  • Get to doors JUST in time to have them slam in face.  Watch other passengers smirk and resist urge to hit the glass with my shoe.
  • Lean down to tie said shoe.
  • Am immediately smacked in head with a giant case of some sort, knocking me to the ground.  Try to look on bright side – at least I wasn’t closer to tracks and now trying to climb away from my death.
  • Stand back up, trying to maintain some sort of dignity.  Fail.
  • Successfully pack myself in with the other sardines/commuters on the next train.
  • Check handy RedEye tracker for bus information.  Score again!  Ten minutes.
  • If man next to me “accidentally” hits my boobs again, I am going to “accidentally” knee him in the goodies.
  • Exit Blue Line and attempt to hurry up the stairs to bus.  Am delayed by a large group of people blocking the stairs and wearing matching t-shirts that say, “Hard Core Bosnians on Tour!”  Seriously?
  • Climb stairs behind five person family from Iowa who are very, very busy staring straight up in wonderment.  “It’s like coming up from underground!”  Bite tongue to avoid shouting, “YOU’RE SURPRISED BY THIS?? BECAUSE THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE DOING!!”
  • It comes as no surprise that the bus is pulling away as I get to the top step.
  • Next bus is in 12 minutes.  Quiver with impotent rage that the CTA stockpiles busses and the fact that there is no reason there shouldn’t be one every four minutes as approximately 30 people are already waiting.
  • Climb aboard bus with 30 other people despite there only being room for two more.  Have no place to face but directly into the armpit of an extremely hairy gentleman.
  • Spend seven minutes desperately trying to avoid accidentally wearing this man’s shirt as the bus driver is obviously a first time driver, extremely malicious and masochistic, or blind.
  • Ignore man in wheelchair who repeatedly calls me “pretty lady.”  Try to listen to Pandora in an attempt to forget where I am.
  • Elderly lady huffing and puffing about the purse strap that keeps grazing her is making me angry.  Hairy man is replaced by smiling, creepy-looking gentleman with hair that can only be described as a pompadour holding onto the pole behind me.  My personal space has not only been attacked, it has been H-bombed.  Uncomfortable doesn’t really cover this particular sensation.
  • Each of my senses is being assaulted.  I am pressed up against this scary man, the child in the seat (in his OWN seat, I might add,) in front of me has obviously sullied his diaper, my hand is gripping a sticky plastic swinging rung, giving me the appearance of an uncoordinated monkey, and”Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” just came on my radio.  Touche, Pandora.  Touche.
  • I attempt to exit the bus two stops early to stop the bleeding.  I am blocked by a big fat woman who pretends not to hear me.
  • I attempt to exit the bus one stop early and am moderately successful.  I say moderately because in the process, I was thrown into the person in front of me with such force I wondered if we should file a police report, and promptly fell out the back doors of the bus, which, as stated before, did not come to a complete stop.

This all culminated in my shuffling my feet on my way to Dominick’s and subsequently home, mumbling things like, “Beer,” “Stupid cow,” “Stupid cow family,” “Dumb head mean driver, see if I smile at you again,” “Listen lady, I’m trying not to get impregnated by this clown, deal with my purse strap,” “Bosnians?  Why?” and “No, YOU shut up.”

Perhaps this is why there’s always at least one incoherent homeless person on every bus?  Years of frustration, of getting stepped on, yelled at, knocked over, and being shoved up against people they’ve never met has rendered them helpless to communicate normally?

I’ll take my chances.  It still beats the hell out of an hour of stop-n-go on the Kennedy.

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