Probably the best thing about living in Chicago I’ve got to say is not having a car. In Scranton, there was no having a job or going out or being seen as a respectable member of society if I didn’t have a car. It was just a given, it was a necessity. But here, a car? What the hell would I do with a car?
Besides having the highest gas prices in the country (allegedly), there is also nowhere to park. Were I to drive to work, between garages and filling up I’d be blowing nearly the whole paycheck on the lousy car. The girlfriend drives to the suburbs every day for work and even though her car gets roughly a thousand miles to the gallon (I have no idea) she’s still filling up twice a week or more. So no car is awesome.
I also mentioned having a job, which yes, came to pass after living here only three weeks. I’d heard horror stories of moving to big cities and riding the couch for months before finding any gainful employment, and even then it usually involved being a “sandwich expert,” a “barista,” or a “part-time toll booth operator.” But nope, I’ve stumbled into precisely the career I abandoned only a few short weeks ago, processing medical claims! Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, folks!
I realize my grand scheme of reinvention has now hit a bit of a hiccup, given that I’ve gone back to the same job I had before with no serious future prospects, but – and this is a big ass but – having no money in a city with 10.25% sales tax will drive a person to abandon a renaissance of being in favor of being able to keep the electricity running and having a bounty of Cup of Noodles in the larder.
So maybe this hasn’t started out exactly as I’d envisioned. But did I really think that just because I’d hightailed it away from the home of my youth I would stumble upon the long-elusive perfect job with salary and benefits and prestige and interns running around fetching coffee and muffins? Okay, maybe a little, but I’m notoriously rose colored in my outlook, and in my cheeks.
Oh, but back to not having a car. I love public transit. Love it. I can’t even fully describe. The trains! The trains are awesome! Sure, every so often it’s so crowded that you get jostled and molested and sandwiched to within an inch of sanity. Sure, now and again a psychotic will stand up and start proclaiming the greatness of Jesus and the need for spare change while everyone else works hard to ignore them (Not that thinking Jesus is great is psychotic, but doing so on the Brown Line isn’t exactly the ideal pulpit, folks).
And buses! Holy moley! Buses that run everywhere, all the time! How great is that? If you went anywhere in Scranton by bus, like as not you were a) 75 b) 16 or c) impervious to aggravation. They didn’t go anywhere you’d want to be, the schedules were hard to follow and deceptive, and they seemed to stop running for any reason at any given time. Raining, solstice, balmy, Wednesday, bingo – any reason, and the system ground to a halt. There was no way to rely on buses.
But here, I trust in the CTA. Sure, sometimes things are slow. Sometimes people don’t shower thoroughly enough before cramming up next to you and trying to hold your hand on the pole. But goddammit, it’s still better than having a car. Taking the Brown Line to work, I get a fantastic view of the city on the way, and it makes me feel like all this reinvention almost happened. Hell, it did happen, in a way. It’s the same basic job, yeah, but it’s downtown in the third biggest city in the country, right across from the Wrigley Building, right on the river, right across the street from a Chipotle. It’s pretty much everything I wanted in employment when I decided to come out here, just with more claims processing than I’d hoped for.
So while I still have to contend with this drunk old lady upstairs, who brought me a cake on the 4th and said she was glad to finally meet me, as she’d apparently forgotten our previous encounters, and while I still attempt to scare the lingering cat away, and while I may get elbowed in the face every now and again on the Red Line near Clark and Lake, I’m still all kinds of excited about living in Chicago. These are great times.
To be kept in mind, of course, is that it is not yet the winter.