We were driving around Chicago because we attended our son’s Navy boot camp graduation. Also because we so clearly have a deep-seated death wish.
The fascinating thing about driving along Cicero Avenue in Chicago is the humanity you see. Moms pushing strollers, drunks staggering in the middle of the street, day laborers on many corners, slackers on others, people waiting for buses, people with briefcases, people with nowhere to go.
I’m pretty sure I saw a hooker grandma, too.
The poverty in this area was apparent. Buildings that had burned long ago haven’t been repaired or rebuilt. Liquor stores on most corners. Bodegas only advertising liquor and diapers. Tons of check cashing stores. But I didn’t see one bank.
Thought-provoking and sad to these suburban eyes.
But the roads! Oy vey … and the drivers!
I’m going to apologize right up front to all you Chicagoans, but OMG … I’m not sure I can do the awfulness of driving in Chicago justice! I fear my powers of description aren’t up to the heights required.
Let’s address four areas.
1. There are no left turn pockets so traffic, much like raw sewage, backs up. The fun here, of course, is how it forces these bad drivers (and by ‘bad drivers’ I mean everyone) to swerve — at full speed and at the last possible second — into the right lane with no notice.
2. Parking is allowed on the street. On the busy, busy street. You’ll be traveling along until suddenly you come upon one of these parked cars or, much more exciting, someone else comes upon one so swerves — at full speed and at the last possible second — into your lane while they go around it. So, Chicago traffic engineers, listen up … you CAN get three lanes in the space of two along Cicero Avenue. I know. It seems like it goes against some law I should have learned in school, but there it is.
3. Potholes and manhole covers. We rented an itsy bitsy Hyundai and about every few hundred feet, I expected to be swallowed up in pothole and dropped to China. (I swear I smelled kung pao chicken and potstickers.) When I wasn’t worried about dropping in on the Forbidden City, I truly believed we’d be high-centered on a manhole cover like a horrified tortoise atop a Doric column. Luckily we learned to swerve — at full speed and at the last possible second, otherwise we’d still be there. I picture kindly folks sending up sandwiches and thermoses of coffee in a bucket we’d rig with pulleys. In May, children would tie colorful ribbons and dance around our column, weaving it festively. Most drivers would swerve around us, but eventually, some poor tourist who hasn’t yet learned the importance of swerving in Chicago would knock us from our perch.
4. Traffic lights were out at major intersections. Not once, not twice … FOUR times! In the space of a few miles! And I’ll let you guess which drivers from which city didn’t know how to deal with it. Okay, maybe that’s not fair. They probably didn’t even realize the lights were out, what with all the swerving and speeding and such.
So, there it is. My review of driving near Midway Airport. I can’t wait to go back in a snowstorm!
Was I too harsh? Have you driven along Cicero Avenue in Chicago? Do you consider yourself a good driver? Do you swerve around cars at full speed and at the last possible second?