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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.

How To (Not) Be an Adult.

Ever have one of those days where, right in the middle of something, your brain is all, “What in the fuck is WRONG with you?  How do you even manage to remember to put on pants?”  This can’t just be me, right?  Other people have to have those moments where they think, “Hmm.  I’m not sure what choices led me to this exact moment, but I definitely regret them at this particular juncture in my life.”  I’m going to assume that this is true for everyone.   However, it occurred to me when this thought jumped into my subconscious several times in the same evening that perhaps I need more adult supervision.

A Night in the Life of the Eternally Perplexed.

  • First thought upon entering the house (and turning all of the lights on,) is “Dammit!  I forgot cat food again.”
  • Spend a few too many minutes wondering if cats can survive 12 more hours without food.  Strongly consider filling the dish with treats and seeing what happens.
  • Flash forward to trying to clean up cat vomit with toilet paper because I also forgot paper towels and head back to the store-that-shall-not-be-named.
  • Ponder the effectiveness of “Stop Only if Pedestrians are Present,” signs in the middle of Chicago Ave.
  • Decide with certainty signs are NOT effective after nearly being knocked airborne by a bitch on a scooter whilst crossing said street.
  • Check weather report – you will not fool me tomorrow, Mother Nature!
  • Seriously, who fucking loses a pair of winter boots?  Especially someone who only owns one pair?
  • Oh, remember when you didn’t feel like changing your shoes at work the last time it snowed and nearly lost your toes to frostbite?  Check under your desk, smartypants.
  • You will not fool me Mother Nature, but apparently you will win.  Again.
  • Hmm, what’s for dinner?
  • Well, not whatever was in THAT container.  Let’s just put that right back where we found it, shall we?
  • Hey, leftover garlic shrimp and pasta!  Surely my husband hasn’t been looking forward to this all night!
  • Hmm.  Not quite enough for the pastatravaganza I was hoping for.  I know, I’ll add some more noodles and saute some garlic and onions to add!
  • Let’s just move this plastic plate to this OTHER burner, out of the way.
  • Singing along, “He was a Skater Boy, said see you later boy!” 
  • I miss Avril LaVigne.
  • Wow, this onion’s taking a long time.  Hope the garlic’s not burning.
  • Do we have a fire extinguisher?
  • What’s that type of fire you can’t throw water on??!!!  Is it a stove fire?
  • I have flour!  Should I throw flour on it?
  • Hmm.  That sort of worked.
  • More water.  It’s working!
  • Holy shit, plastic burns quick.
  • “The fire’s out, kitties!  It’s safe now!”
  • I loved that plate.
  • Pretty sure those noodles are ruined.  Let me just throw them in the leftovers anyway.
  • Well, now everything you were going to eat is ruined.  Dipshit.

After cleaning up all of the water I had tossed around the kitchen in my manic firefighting attempt, I had a beer and went to bed.  Sometimes, you just have to give up and start over tomorrow.

I’m guessing it’s safe to say that tomorrow isn’t holding a lot of promise of normalcy, either, but I’m sure going to keep trying.

If anyone is surprised it was a Christmas plate, I can't believe you read this far.

If anyone is surprised it was a Christmas plate, I can’t believe you read this far.

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.