Write about fools? This topic needs to be narrowed or I'll never finish…
Wow. At first when I heard the topic du jour for this issue was fools, I thought, "Hey, I see fools & foolishness all the time, this will be a snap." But then the horrible realization sank in – where to start, to delineate?
So I decided to focus on a few of the more blatant abuses of urban etiquette. I know what you're thinking: "Oh sure, another pointless series of rants. What makes this guy's ideas any better than mine?"
So I'll stick to a subject I have experience with on all sides – getting around Chicago by foot, bicycle, car, and public transit. My experience? I've been taking public transportation in the city since the early 1980s, when I was about 9 or 10. I've been biking around the North Side since I was about the same age. I got a car when I was 17; I can tell you no 17-year-old knows how to drive, and I was definitely no exception. I've been biking to work nine months a year since 1995, so I've spent a good deal of time being a cyclist in traffic and being in traffic dealing with cyclists. I'm not perfect, but there is a world of difference between occasionally making a mistake and being so self-centered that you don't even realize what a pain in the ass you're being ("Those people couldn't be honking at me!").
It takes an open mind to learn the ins and outs of what constitutes acceptable ways of getting around in the city, and I understand it must be hard to fight the urge to say, "Well, I saw this guy in Lincoln Park double-park his Grand Behemoth SUV in front of the bus stop even though there was an open space a few spots down, so it must be OK." Let me give you a tip – Lincoln Park is a great place to go to learn exactly how NOT to act in the city. So is anywhere on the lakefront between Navy Pier and the golf courses.
If you are like many of the city's new North Side residents and you came here from a Big 10 university or from the suburbs where you grew up in a giant Brady Bunch-esque bubble, I have some news for you – etiquette that made sense in your town of 10,000 does not necessarily make sense in a city of 3,000,000. As a pedestrian, you are not automatically correct, and few motorists will cut you slack just because you're all hopped up on Charbuck's and are grooving to Brittany's latest while jogging the wrong way down the street. Get your butt on the sidewalk where it belongs!
Public Transportation Etiquette
This stuff is pretty cut and dry.
Driving Common Sense
- Let 'em get off the bus before you get on the bus. I mean really, isn't that a no-brainer? Same for the train. Don't be that idiot that waits for the doors to open during rush hour and just storms ahead like the Germans into Poland in 1939. Remember what eventually happened to the Germans?
- My god, don't walk right in front of the bus right after you get off. What makes you think anyone driving down the street can see you with a giant bus in the way?
- While it is acceptable to run like an idiot against/across/around/ under traffic if your bus seems catchable but you aren't at the stop, use a little common sense. Unless you're lucky enough to be in a crosswalk, you are the one who will be footing the bills if you get flattened by someone talking on a cell phone while driving who didn't think you would actually run right in front of his car.
- And would it hurt you take a bath before raising those stinky pits above other people when you're standing on the bus or L? Don't laugh – at my workplace, there is an HR directive to limit or ban any fragrances that might be offensive to co-workers. After smoking and drinking are finally banned on earth, body odor is next.
If any of this startles you, do not pass go, do not collect your tobacco settlement, pick up your copy of "Illinois Rules of the Road" and give it a look-see (or check out http://www.sos.state.il.us/publications/rr/rules_of_the_road.html).
Rules on Foot
- Use your goddamned turn signals! They are FREE – I have yet to see a car that didn't come with them factory-installed. How self-centered and just plain old lazy do you have to be to not do it? Did it ever occur to you that the car or bicycle behind you might want to know if you were suddenly planning on jerking your vehicle into the next lane? It's a nightmare for cyclists when you blow by only to suddenly veer in front of us and STOP, but it would at least not be a constantly life-threatening experience if you could expend the 3 calories it takes to slap the signal lever. I suppose the fact that it's illegal to not use a turn signal doesn't matter to the fools who don't want to be bothered, but tough.
- Do you really need to constantly pull around traffic to the right? Will getting to the stop light 2 seconds faster really make your day? Is there something confusing about what constitutes a lane and what doesn't? Just because your car will physically fit somewhere does not mean that it's a lane for traffic. If there are no dotted white lines separating that space from the other lane, it's not a lane. Period.
- When you are making a left turn in Chicago, pull your bloody car as far up in the intersection as possible without getting in the way of the person across from you doing the same thing. Every day I see lollygaggers sitting there, not moving past the crosswalk, oblivious to the crescendo of horns blaring behind them, and it's just pathetic. The rule of thumb is at least two cars should be able to get through turning left at any intersection, since two cars can fit in the intersection and once you're in the intersection you are entitled to complete your turn. Larger intersections (6 corners) should be able to accommodate another car or two. But you have to be paying attention, and you have to be fast – don't dawdle your way through, make the turn quickly so the person behind you doesn't get screwed blocking the intersection.
- Hey, speaking of blocking the intersection… Blocking an intersection because you were too foolish to realize that you couldn't get through is the most ignorant thing you can do in Chicago, outside of flat-out running someone down. I won't elaborate because it doesn't need to be explained. Just don't do it!
- Don't just fling open your driver's side door without looking in the mirror. Here's a fact – YOU are always at fault if you cause an accident with a bike because your driver's side door was open, even if you opened it and then the bike hit it. Check your "Rules of the Road." I'll be happy to pimp-slap you to oblivion if you do this to me, and then I'll sue you to boot. With any justice you'll end up in the Big House where you can see how people that have no respect for other people learn how to co-exist.
Do's and don'ts for cyclists, pedestrians, and rollerbladers.
Of course, there are a whole lot more fools out there, but I thought this was a good start. I'd also like to give my "Fool of the Year" to none other than our own Mayor Daley, for his unbelievable foolishness putting all those damn planters down the middle of Ashland Avenue on the North Side. Need I say more?
- Hey, want to know what looks foolish? Try a person on rollerblades, with headphones, holding another similarly foolish person's hand while being pulled by a dog in the middle of the bike path on the lakefront (or anywhere for that matter) on a crowded day in the summer. Do you people have any concept how stupid this is? The lakefront path was NOT designed for rollerbladers – you people are carpetbaggers as far as I'm concerned. I'll tolerate rollerbladers as long as they maintain a modicum of common sense, but you have chosen a mode of getting around that requires a wide, sweeping motion, and for some reason many of you further alienate and isolate yourself from the rest of us by wearing headphones. I'd also love to hear what exactly possesses people on rollerblades (with headphones, natch) to go backwards on the bike path, usually right down the freakin' middle of it.
- My personal favorite fool of all time? The 300-pound guy who insisted that the bike path is for joggers when I yelled at him and his other golf-club-carrying buddy for waddling down the bike path. I'm OK for sharing the path with joggers, but not with people who are just walking around. Walk somewhere else – what, you came all the way down to the lakefront just so you could walk in the middle of a cement path? You can do that on your own block!
- Don't walk your dog in the bike path. How would you like me to walk you in Lake Shore Drive? I feel bad for the dogs, it's not their fault their owners are such fools.
- Don't jog, rollerblade, or bike with two, three, or more people right next to each other. If you can't fit in the lane designated for you and there are other people around, be considerate.
- Joggers and pedestrians, don't just up and jump into a different lane on the bike path. Bikes, as you may have deduced from your high-school physics class, are unable to move sideways. If you put me in the position of running into you, a soft, cushy thing, or the pavement, I'm picking you every time.
- I think I mentioned this already, don't jog or rollerblade in the street!
- Cyclists, when there is traffic at a four-way stop, stop. When you whiz through, you piss off traffic and you make those of us who don't want to die prematurely look bad. Cycling is not a way to get out of respecting common-sense traffic laws. That also goes for cycling on the sidewalk – just like you don't want people walking in front of your bike, don't do the same to people on the sidewalk. Obviously cyclists will never come to a complete stop when there's nobody around (as if cars do that), but when there are other people on the road, have some common courtesy.
Direct all comments, criticism, and flames to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Copyright©2001 by Carter O'Brien.
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