Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Here’s a fun trick: The next time you find yourself in a small-ish gathering of Chicagoans or long time Chicagoland-residents, ask them where the Lake is.
Then, like needles on a compass, watch them spin and point in an Easterly direction – with unerring accuracy and a beautiful, almost eerie, synchronicity – all the while looking at you with that strange mixture of pity and disgust that Midwesterners reserve for people without any common sense.
I’m probably the only one in the room who finds this fascinating, but it never fails to amuse and amaze me. It could be because, growing up for a good while in Denver, my polestar was to the West – and it’s hard to miss the Rocky Mountains.
But this is Lake Michigan we’re talking about – it’s FLAT. You can’t see it from anywhere except the lakeshore. And being able to pick it out of the grid – regardless of where you are in the Chicagoland area – is the hallmark of true residency.
I’m not there yet. I still haven’t experienced that polar shift.
If it does happen I suspect it’ll come on suddenly, the same way the tectonic plates shifted on the Eisenhower when that minivan crashed into my lane without signaling or allowing decent clearance.
Without thinking I did the thing that no one in my family (we're not from these parts) would believe or understand: I leaned long and hard on the horn and issued a steady and violent stream of obscenities that generously and sufficiently described the driving and mating habits of the thoughtless wonder behind the wheel – all the while looking at her with that same strange mixture of pity and disgust.
Just like a Chicagoan.