Tuesday, June 26, 2007


They say Chicago has 2 seasons: Winter and Construction Season. This has never been as true as it is right now. At nearly every turn I see orange signs that shout "DETOUR!", "DRIVE 45, STAY ALIVE" "LANE CLOSURES AHEAD". And it's not just the main surface streets and the expressways.

I'm not sure how it is in other parts of the city, but Summer in my specific neck of the "woods" means not so much Construction Season, but Sinkhole Season. Chicago, especially the North Side is built upon both marshland and a ridge. As the old Talking Head's song goes "water flowing underground".

Last summer I turned a corner on a side near my place and THUNK! It was to this day about the worst sound I had ever heard. Good thing I was going somewhat fast (I tend to accelerate at about the 45 degree axis point on right angled turns, just because, you know, it's fun) because a sinkhole, one foot wide and 2 feet deep tried, to swallow my front right tire. My car bottomed out, yet miraculously, there was no damage.

In late 2005 I left my job not only because it was soul sucking corporate gig that was literally making me into an asshole, but also because the 30+ mile commute meant that everyday I lost about 3 combined hours commuting to and from work. My current and slightly less soul sucking occupation is less than half that distance, and when I first started there my commute was, on average 30-35 minutes.

Since about March the commute has been taking about 45-60 minutes. It fucking sucks but I can deal with it since there are good days when it takes less time, although there are days like today in which the commute was longer.

Like, oh, over 2 fucking hours.

Anyone else who lives in Chicago knows what I'm talking about. There was a nasty storm today and that combined with the existing construction, not to mention 40 thousand people making their way to Wrigley for a Cubs game made for a miserable commute home.

The highlight? On one street the line of traffic stretched at least 3/4 of mile due to the traffic lights being out. On top of that, the left lane was closed for construction. Like most polite Midwesterners, I immediately merged into the left lane. However, several assholes whose time is apparently more valuable than mine did not. When it got time for me to let people into traffic, I had some decisions to make.

Cute guy in a Civic? Sure, why not. Annoying bitch on her cellphone in a minivan? I don't think so. Silver haired man in a Mercedes Benz S430 that looked like Robert De Niro? Well, I'd rather get clipped, so, please, you first? Asshole driving a Hummer covered in decals for a company that sells "rare and exotic hard wood flooring?" Are you out of your damn mind? No. No fucking way. Asshole tried to get around me and although his car weighs 3X as much as mine, I boxed him out.

Then the fun continued on yet another main thoroughfare that was not moving. At all. What could make this worse? Oh, that's right, an ambulance! Somehow it got through. Then 5 minutes later, guess what? Another ambulance! I hope the people in the back weren't having heart attacks or strokes.

Though my math skills are probably at a 6th grade level at this point even I can deduce that my 12 mile commute, at just over 2 hours meant that my average speed was about 10 MPH. And did I mention that I drive a car with a manual transmission? Argh!

After speaking with a friend that rides the bus from the Loop to the North Side and my neighbor who takes the train, told me their commutes also took over 2 hours, I feel a little bit better. So much for "The City That Works". Right now, it's more like "The City That Moves at a Glacial Pace". Shit, I could have flown to Atlanta in the time it took to get home from work.


Dee said...

I feel your pain Justin. This is what happened to me.

1. I got off at Addison and had to walk home in the pouring rain.
2. Once I got home our power was out so I could not turn on my A/C or do anything.

I layed on the couch for about a hour hoping the power would come back on. When it did not I decided to go out (since the rain stopped by than) and get something to eat. Well by this time the Emergency lights in the hall way went out and I could not see my hands in front of my face. I braved the stairwell and managed to make it to the first floor. I went to a local bar and got some wings and drinks (it was one of those days) When I got back home power has been restored. My friend showed up and wanted to head out for drinks so I went. Stayed out until around 1am. Once I got back home THE POWER WAS OUT AGAIN. So now I'm hungover, tired, hot and feeling terrible.

Welcome to life in Chicago. I just hope today is a lot better.

Silly Billy said...

Oh boy, that does not sound pleasant. I sure hope a drink was awaiting your arrival at home.

Chad said...

I totally feel your pain. Right now, my commute can range from 35 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on wrecks, construction, and jackasses who decided to drive that day. I love it how you pick and choose who to let in...if a guy is cute, he's definitely got a better chance of jumping in front of me on the highway!