eating my way around the world

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” --St. Augustine

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Location: Chicago, IL, United States

Twitter @nikonjunkie

24 August 2012

How to Not Be an Asshole Tourist

Dear Chicago Tourists,

We extend a fine welcome to you to our fair city, but while you’re here, here are a few tips to help you be less of an ass/bumpkin/inconsiderate space-sucking waste of DNA:

  1. We get that you and five of your friends/family members/coworkers/fellow churchgoers are all traveling together. This does not mean that you all have to line up horizontally across the entire width of the sidewalk and stroll at a leisurely pace.  It’s not Red Rover.  What’s an urban Disney World for you is our commute to work. Also, if you are walking at us on the wrong side of the sidewalk, some of us (*cough*Katie*) have been known to bust through the middle of couples holding hands. Stay to the right. This ain’t Japan.
  2. Those weird-looking things in the fronts of buildings are revolving doors. By all means, please enter each chamber two at a time so you can get stuck, stop the door, laugh uproariously and cause four locals waiting behind you in the cold to want to punch you in the back of the head. One at a time, please, unless the second person is your pint-sized offspring.
  3. Revolving doors are there for a reason.  They cordon off the weather so that the inside of the building doesn’t get served with an Arctic blast in the winter—or conversely, a blast furnace in the summer. On days without temperate weather, please don’t skip over them to use the regular doors, but use them wisely (see #2).
  4. We admire our skyline and architecture too. It’s a reason that many of us locals are former tourists to this fine city. However, when you must stop to snap that photo on Michigan Avenue, step to the right out of the flow of foot traffic then stop. Just coming to a dead stop in the middle of the Mag Mile is like coming to a dead stop at the Daytona 500. Someone is going to run your ass over from behind, and that will not be as fun as it sounds.
  5. Speaking of getting your ass run over, the Don’t Walk signs on the Mag Mile are not messing around.  So the light is still orange, but you don’t see any cars coming through. Should you stay or should you go? Decide to cross anyway, and be prepared for the #66 bus to come barreling through the intersection.  Hint: It weighs a little more than you do.  Cabbies may try to brake for you; city buses will not even try.  (The sign says Don’t Walk because traffic is turning, genius.)
  6. Those newfangled things that look like moving stairs are called escalators.  They can get pretty packed around here, so when you get to the end of one . . . start walking.  While it’s tempting to get to the end and just stand there to look around, the people behind you are still coming at you. That’s how escalators work.  If the rest of us wanted to bodysurf on strangers, we’d head to a bar in Wrigleyville. But seriously, why do so many of you try to form a human wall at the end of escalators?!
  7. This goes double for revolving doors.  Yes, most of you have that much trouble with revolving doors.  When you go through one, keep walking.  While sending some of you flying with my chest in the Walgreens off Michigan Avenue was fun, sometimes I would prefer to just enter a store without having to body-check anyone. When two other people are pushing the door behind me, coming out of it is not really optional. (By the way, you all love to form your human wall just inside the revolving door at Portillo’s. But thanks for that. I will go around you and beat to you to the counter to order my chili-cheese dog every time.)
  8. This city is full of double doors that slide open so people can get out before other people can get in  (i.e., elevators, trains). Try to bust in through the exiting throng of humanity at your own peril. Yes, some locals also do it, but that makes them assholes too.
  9. Speaking of public transportation, before my first visit to this town, I drove my ass over to Barnes and Noble and picked up a Chicago subway map. That was way back in 2008 before everyone had a smartphone.  Whether you go old-school with a map, bust out the iPhone or use mental telepathy, please figure out a general idea of how you’re going to get the hell around.  Yeah, we all get lost.  We do not all get lost to the degree that we have to step onto a CTA bus and hold up 75 people while we have a two-minute conversation with the driver about how to get to the Museum of Science and Industry. (This actually happened. Once I started timing, it was over 90 seconds until a man in the back yelled, “Get off the fucking bus and go buy a map!”  Ahhhh, the city.)
  10. Yes, we know our beautiful city is photogenic. We fully agree, but much like it’s a bad idea to come to a dead stop in the middle of the sidewalk to snap some shots, it’s similarly boneheaded to try to stand 12 feet from your friends across a crowded walkway (e.g., near the Water Tower) trying to keep everyone from crossing in front of your new point & shoot while you fiddle with the settings.  It’s nice that you came here on vacation. We’re trying to get to work.  In an area that 500 people pass through in a minute, you’re probably not going to get 30 seconds of uninterrupted hang-on-I’m-trying-to-turn-on-the-flash! time. Find a place to stand that doesn’t inconvenience everyone and maybe—just maybe—we’ll actually take the group shot for you.
  11. That’s awesome that you got a sweet hotel room right on the main drag.  If you hadn’t gathered by numbers 1-10, downtown sidewalks can get pretty crowded.  Come barreling out of the Embassy Suites onto the sidewalk without paying attention so you can just stand there looking up at the sky in front of a local carrying 40 lbs of groceries in hand to their apartment four blocks away and don’t be surprised to get rear-ended like it’s Mardi Gras and your ass is made of beads. We call you asswalkers. You know, you walk out of a door ass-first, talking to whomever is behind you, not paying attention at all to who your caboose is about to run into on the sidewalk.
  12. Don't smoke on the street. OK, if you must, enjoy your cancer stick at least 15 feet from any entryway (Chicago city ordinance) and just stay put. As you may have gathered, our fine sidewalks can be quite crowded, and since none of us want to inhale your carcinogenic putrescence in restaurants, what makes you think we want to inhale them as we walk the 8 blocks behind you down State Street?  (Yes, in what will remain an abject mystery to me, most smokers seem to operate under the delusion that being outside is like living under nature's vent hood, where all odors are miraculously sucked up undetected into the ether. Actually, they're not. At all. They just pollute everywhere you've been walking for minutes, leaving the rest of us to navigate your sinus-inflaming reek until they are finally dissipated by the winds.) Also, don't toss your butt on the street, or I may make you pick it up and eat it. This city is beautiful, and we'd like to keep it that way.
  13. Respect the crosswalk.  Those of you that aren’t blessed with living in Tourist Central may not know that, in crosswalks and on sidewalks, pedestrians are king.  Now, only a weapons-grade asshole pedestrian would slow down walking through a crosswalk to make a driver wait—most of us are keen to get wherever the hell we are going (in case you missed numbers 1-12).  That said, Chicago cab drivers are generally known to be amongst the world’s craziest, but even they will come to a screeching, dead halt for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, slow walkers or not.  Block the crosswalk—or sidewalk—with your car, and don’t be surprised if you see yours truly sliding across the hood of your car, stuntwoman-style, after memorizing your Indiana plate number. I have to get to work!

Happy visiting, and be sure to try the pizza! J


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