Social Commentary

Chicago Settles In

Police Call Box
Police Call Box

CHICAGO, Ill.— My third day in Chicago and most noticeable is how isolate and deserted everything seems. Metra riders move deliberately through the motions of public transit, saying little. Well groomed, they move diligently toward their destinations, one wearing plastic bags on her feet to keep the rain from the dressy work shoes. The 59th Street station has been empty each time I rode the train.

On the way to my bed from the station, I passed countless police telephones and friendly security people in drizzling rain, as if to say there may be danger on this quiet street, but people are watching in the dim blue light of the call boxes. Sleep came quickly after a long day.

This morning, I drove along Lake Shore Drive and through the truck marshaling area for McCormick Place to parking Lot B. It’s cheap there, $14 the day, and an easier getaway after today’s work. The meeting room was accessed through a labyrinthine path of underground, past truck docks and security, with the din of fans and clatter of forklift trucks. Almost alone, I found the path, avoiding doors locked against early morning intruders and riding escalators up and down the levels of the building. I solemnly made may way to the concourse in search of coffee.

I’m no longer new to Chicago, and have driven and walked her streets— no longer do I get lost. It is a city that minds its own business, with nose to the grindstone of industry. A place where external signs hide everything that matters. Chicago has settled in to lives more diverse than Sandburg envisioned. The city of big shoulders is hunched over into individual lives within the enclaves of a consumer society.