Long gone are my suburban days when I can run into the store for a quick pick up of something for dinner. Ditto for deciding to go out to dinner at that last minute on a Friday or Saturday night. In Chicago, you need to plan ahead and just accept that waiting in line is the the trade-off between hundreds of choices and hundreds of other city dwellers doing the same thing. Even a quick trip to the ATM at 8:00 pm often involves a wait. Along with never being first, it also means that many sale items are often gone by the time you get to the store – anything from the buy 1 get 1 free bottles of green ice tea, to boxes of tissues. Sometimes I have gone to 3 stores to find a liter of Diet Coke!
The upside of this is when you do have a short wait, it makes your day. Starbucks with only 4 people – hooray – a table on a Friday night after only 10 minutes – fantastic, we don’t have to try someplace else. But the best natural exhilaration I ever got was on a trip into the city just a bit past rush hour. The traffic was crawling in both directions as I reached the junction where the express lanes start and end. The signs before said the express lanes for inbound traffic were closed, so I crept at 2 miles a hour with everyone else. All of a sudden the car in front of me darted on the express lane – it had just opened. I quickly followed. It was surreal as on both sides of the express lane barriers cars were at near standstills and yet here I was going 60+ miles an hour with only 1 car in front. I wasn’t first, but I smiled the entire way into the city that night and I still smile when I think about the chances of me being in the right place at the right time and almost being first in line in the City of Chicago.