I’ve mentioned before that I live approximately 30 miles away from my job, which is in the Northern suburbs of Chicago where numerous corporations and companies are located. It is a mecca of office complexes and chain dining, with the occasional gas station thrown into the mix.
I get up at 5 am on the three days I drive into the office so I can hit the road by 6 and get to my desk at 7. In the morning. I know. It takes a lot of coffee to get me there, trust me. This flex schedule means that I typically leave the office around 3 in the afternoon but I don’t get home until anywhere between 4:15 and 5:15. If you do the math that means that I often spend up to three hours a day in the car which wastes both time and money. It also causes me to weep, as I stare at miles of brake lights in front of me, all going to the Cubs or Sox game and all in my way, get out of my way, MOVE and for pete’s sake, LEARN HOW TO USE THE TOLL LANES.
There are two general ways that I can drive to and from the office. One takes me up and down the Kennedy Expressway and one takes me up and down the Edens Expressway. Please note that the term “express” is used very very humorously in Chicago which is to say they are not in any way express unless it is 2 in the morning. If I take the Edens I end up back on the Kennedy for the last part of my drive (or first, depending which way I’m going) and go through what is in the top 5 worst traffic interchanges in the United States and it is generally referred to as the Junction. The Junction is awful. If I take the Kennedy I have to pass by the Junction and I also have to navigate an interchange onto the Tri-State tollway system which is the nicest and least congested part of my drive.
Anyway. I digress.
Construction near my office has rendered the main artery to the Edens impassible unless I feel like sitting for over an hour to drive (I’m not kidding) four miles to hop on the Edens. When I say “construction” I’m saying that a HUGE road is down to one lane in both directions and the agony of getting stuck on it is so awful kittens die when they think about it. This of course has led to congestion everywhere else as people try to avoid the nightmare that is one lane. So as of late, it has been just me and Kennedy. Sure, I have to drive through the Junction as the Edens commuters merge in, but hey, it is faster so I take it.
Today of course it was announced that the interchange from the Tri-State to the Kennedy is undergoing construction and will be closed.
And the re-route involves getting caught up in the Chicago O’Hare Airport traffic, and if you have ever even contemplated flying through O’Hare you know as well as I do that the only logical reaction is to RUN FOR YOUR LIFE.
Which means I have 2.5 options in front of me. The .5 option is sucking it up, taking the detour and sobbing for the last hour of my drive home. I don’t like this option. Also, this detour, in my guesstimation will add approximately 9 million hours onto my commute. Give or take.
The next option is to take the Tri-State all the way South to a third “expressway” known as the Eisenhower, and the only thing I’m going to tell you about the Eisenhower is that it is the only road in Chicago worse than the Kennedy. It makes grown men weep. It has a federal board looking into how to make it “faster” and it is generally worthy of mind numbing traffic like you have never, ever seen. It will add another 10 miles and I’m guessing at least 45 minutes to my drive. At least. On a good day. With no events downtown, accidents, gaper delays or dogs running down the side of it. No really, that happened twice.
The final option is to take the train. THE TRAIN! you say with glee and excitement. Of course you should take the train. You can read! Nap! Use that time wisely! And I nod in agreement until I explain it all to you. One, taking the train costs more money than driving. This is because I do not live near the train station so I must purchase CTA fare to get to and from the station which adds up to about $5 a day unless I purchase an unlimited pass, which is $80 a month. Then my train tickets add up to $60 a month minimum and hey, now I’ve spent more on tickets than I do on gasoline for the car. Then there is the shuttle from the train station to my office which is free, but if you have been paying attention I have now taken a bus, a train and a shuttle.
I’ve still gotten up at 5, but now I don’t get to the office until almost 8 and the train home won’t put me in the front door until after 6. AFTER LEAVING MY OFFICE AT FOUR IN THE AFTERNOON. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. The only thing that keeps me getting up at 5 is the miracle days here and there where I leave the office at 3, walk in the front door at 4 and spend the rest of my afternoon eating bon bons while the rest of America toils away. IT IS MY ONLY BENEFIT. (By eating bon bons I mean I go to the grocery store before the masses arrive so I can actually spend time contemplating which bunch of bananas is nicer looking and I can chat with the seafood monger for an inordinate period of time while contemplating which shrimp I’m going to buy.)
So what I’m saying is, I get to retire soon, right?
Our vacation to Northern Wisconsin was all I hoped and dreamed. There was fishing, sunshine & grilling out. Even some fire works. It was a much needed break from city living:
That is the face of someone who needs some fresh air. Please indulge me while I engage in the time honored tradition of sharing my crappy iPhone photos of my vacation with you. You’ll wish you had been there! Or at least that I had a better camera.
Rhett Butler was not a fan of the bonfire but this was mostly because he was required to wear a leash and this impeded his ability to run up and down the hill from the dock to the cabin as many times as possible within 10 minutes. He has formally requested we buy him his own hill for Chicago. We are getting right on that, buddy.
He did however enjoy riding around on the boat and napping in the sunshine. He was noncommittal towards the fish.
The humans on the trip all had a great time as well. Cheese was eaten, beers were enjoyed and the lack of connectivity to the internet was liberating.
Oh and about that life jacket…..
Needless to say, he would prefer arts & crafts camp to swim camp.
When I first moved to Chicago I lived near Navy Pier, downtown in a high rise with a doorman. While I knew I wouldn’t always live downtown (600 square foot studio, FTW) it was a great place to live when was learning how to get around in Chicago – there are always signs pointing you back towards the number one tourist attraction in town. No matter how lost I got- typically determined in a bathroom of a Starbucks while consulting my Not For Tourist’s Guide that has many, many maps in it- I could always get back to Navy Pier. Sadly, because I was dressed like someone in normal not tourist clothes or carrying groceries, I got stopped for directions a lot. I always nodded, looked super serious, and told the people that they should just take a cab! Your destination is really far away!
This worked to my advantage until I had some people from Iowa take a taxi three blocks and I ran into them again. That was awkward.
Last week B and I took and evening walk with the dog, and while we were a few blocks from home a nicely dressed older couple approached us, smiling. The husband spoke first, shaking his shirt with his fingers while he spoke.
Haaaaaaad Rock? T-shirt?
The wife stood next to him, pointing to the street signs and then giving the universal sign for “where” and held her hands up by her head and shrugged her shoulders.
The husband, unsure if we understood spoke more slowly and shook his t-shirt with more emphasis:
HARD ROOOOCK? T-SHIRT?
B speaks some Spanish. I can peck my way through German. We both have a few phrases in French. But Italian? No. We knew they were speaking Italian to each other, and we were fairly sure it came down to something along the lines of “Hey. People. Tell us how to get to your restaurant called Hard Rock Cafe so we can buy our grand children a t-shirt.”
Have I mentioned we do not live close to Hard Rock Cafe?
We slowly began trying to help them. Large pantomimes were made. I’d start and hold up two fingers and say “TWO” over and over really loudly while B pretended to walk South. They’d comprehend, and I’d then hold up one finger, and say “ONE” over and over and B would walk one block East. We finally hit an impasse when we knew they could get to the street Hard Rock was on…but they needed to go about 20 blocks. We didn’t want them to think that they were at Hard Rock so we started gesturing big. I held up many fingers. They shook their head, we shook ours. We pulled out our iPhones and demonstrated where we were, where they would be, where the Hard Rock Cafe was. We all shook heads. We all stood in silence.
We were going to get these people so lost.
I tried to gesture to a cab, but the couple shook their head and motioned that they wanted to walk. OF COURSE THEY DID.
While I was starting to find a stick to sketch things out in a flower bed, and twenty minutes into the ordeal, the gentleman pulled out a map. Where this map was fifteen minutes earlier I have no idea, but suddenly, we had a map.
B pulled out a pen. We put the map down. He drew a star where we were. The couple made grand flourishes with their hands, making it clear that YES THE STAR IS WHERE WE STAND NOW. B made a circle where Hard Rock Cafe was. I shook my tshirt over and over again.
HARD ROCK CAFE! BUY A T-SHIRT! YES! VERY LARGE YOU CANNOT MISS IT.
The woman nodded her head, smiling.
GRANDE! HAAARD ROCK CAAAFE! GRANDE!
Finally, we were all on the same page. We shook hands, graci, thank you, graci, thank you. Air kisses were given and we waved bon voyage.
We walked away, high fiving, shaking our t-shirts. They were the best directions I’d ever given, even if they were for the biggest tourist trap in town.
I’m unplugging for the holiday weekend. Rhett Butler is very excited:
I’m hoping this weekend contains lots of campfires, s’mores, fireworks, fishing, reading and sleeping in. I’m hoping not to see any skunks, bears or Canadian tuxedos.
As for any swimming, Rhett Butler wants everyone to know he is fully prepared:
Goodbye forever (or until next week),