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June 25, 2007

Cross the Street at Your Own Risk

It's true what they say: Chicagoans are nice.  They stop and let kids pet their dogs, and they often say "hello" when you pass them on the sidewalk.  Store clerks are friendlier than in the East or West Coast cities I'm familiar with. Chicagoans will quite often go the extra mile for a perfect stranger.  I became very aware of it before we even moved here from San Francisco, and it was a happy discovery.  People here seem to value community more than I ever saw in the Bay Area, where things felt a lot more "every man for himself".  I love it.

However...get these people in their cars, and it's as if they undergo an extreme personality transformation.  To test this, try crossing a busy street sometime.  Go ahead - find an actual crosswalk painted on the street that is not at a traffic light on Lincoln or Damen, say, and try to get across.  If you are not actually glared at as if your very pedestrian existence is an insult to humanity, then you know what it feels like to become completely invisible.  Sometimes I get more aggressive and just start to cross, and after a while I make it into the street.  However, I then find myself halfway across a busy street with no one allowing me to make it the rest of the way for a long time, cars whizzing by me on either side, drivers staring me down as if I were out there to piss them off.  And now even I stop less often for pedestrians trying to cross legally because, inevitably, someone appears right on my tail who goes totally berserk.

So thanks, Chicagoans, for being such a friendly bunch when we're face to face - but could you just slow down once in a while and let a nice mother cross the street?

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