How to Drive Chicago: dominate the expressway, brah

37. Drive. Commuting on the expressway through or around downtown during rush hour (which is every hour) can be nauseating. Expressways are very much like flowing rivers with slow pockets and fast-moving channels. These correspond directly to which side cars are entering and exiting the highway from. Move to the lanes that lead to highway exits. Less cars mean faster speeds. Avoid the side of the highway that has entrance ramps. More cars equals….. you get the point. The difference in how quickly you zip through traffic can be drastic. That stretch of exits and entrances can go on for several miles and then unexpectedly flip sides.  Know where those changes occur and move to that side accordingly.  

How to Drive Chicago: One Way Streets

35. Drive. Chi-town is brimming with one-way streets. Busy one-way streets. Populous cities come with loads of crime. This means police chases. Always look in both directions when crossing a one-way street in your vehicle. Peering only in the direction traffic is supposed to be coming from won’t get it done. Drivers fleeing the po po will take any route possible which means all bets are off on one-way streets. They could blow you up in an instant if you’re not looking for them.

How to Chicago: Don’t Mess with Cops

33. Survive. Don’t mess with police. Common sense for most people, but there are a few of us that have trouble with authority. Growing up in the suburbs this became an issue for me. I thought putting the kibosh on teenage fun was the primary objective of police in the absence of any “real” crime. Maybe. Maybe not. What is certain is that I was irreverent when they appeared. 

In an expansive metropolis, however, it’s very different. Police there are perpetually working with real problems, real crime, real morons and issues. Their job is arduous. Their job is scary. They won’t mess with your average citizen unless you are doing something very stupid or really wrong. 

So don’t add to their shit pile by being an asshole. 

Unless you live in Geneva or some place. In that case, dick away. They are trying to ruin your fun. 

How to Drive Chicago: Parallel Park

32. Drive. So many city dwellers fail at this simple maneuver. I, for one, am a prodigious parker by parallel. Give me 1 inch clearance from front and back bumper and I’ll slide in there faster than you can say purple rain. I actually have it listed on my resume. 

– Attended Elmhurst College

– Physical Therapist

– ’91 Homecoming King

– Saw Prince live in concert

– Parallel parking god. 

How apropos as most people don’t know that Prince was an amazing parallel parker as well. 

I digress. Learn how to parallel park. I mean go out and practice it if you have to. It’s essential for living in any big city and it’s embarrassing if you can’t get it done quickly.  Use your hazards to clue in cars to the rear that you are parking (a turn signal seems to confuse people behind). Set up directly parallel with the car that will ultimately be in front of you. Reverse. Turn the wheel all the way to the right. One one thousand. two one thousand. Turn the wheel all the way to the left. Boom. Bob’s your uncle. You’re done. 

How to Chicago: Car Wash

30. Thrive.  Chicago hand car washes, the ones where you pull into a garage and then exit the vehicle and let the bathing begin (the car, not you…..though that would be an interesting concept) flood the landscape. Here’s what I’ve noticed. The one right around the corner run by people of Middle Eastern descent without any cars waiting in line is just as good as the one 6 blocks away run by Latinos with 30 cars in the queue (well, almost). It’s water and soap on metal. Some vacuuming.  You don’t need to wait in line 70 minutes for that. 

One suggestion if you work at said car wash. There is no need to Armor All the brake! Jesus Christ . It’s like stepping on a wet fish when you pull  away. 

How to Drive Chicago: Alleys. 

28. Drive. Chicago is a city of alleys. A great deal of us drive in them daily. To exit an alley and enter the street a car must cross a sidewalk fairly blindly. Do it slowly and cautiously with your head on a swivel. Do not punch your car horn twice and zip on out. It startles oncoming pedestrians and irritates the local homeowners. You may think that you’re doing people on foot a service, but I think it’s lazy.  Hitting the horn is not an excuse to swiftly exit the ally.  Walkers with headphones blaring may not hear it. There’s only 1 prudent way to do this and that’s as slowly as possible. No horn needed. 

We’ve already covered this I guess… car horns are irksome. 

How to Chicago: Weeknights 

24. Thrive. You live in a big city! It’s wonderful and it’s crowded. Take advantage of what downtown has to offer on weeknights. Beach on a Tuesday after work? Yep. You’ll have it all to yourself. Free concert downtown on Thursday night? Sure. Only locals are out. Dinner on a Wednesday night in River North? Do it. It’s gonna be swarming with people in three days.

How to Drive Chicago: Zipper Merges 

23. Drive. All merges are zipper merges. Think about that phrase “zipper merge” and act accordingly. One car from the left. One car from the right. Do not deviate. Left, right, left, right. Whether you are entering the expressway, merging from 2 lanes into 1, or being redirected by construction, do it. It will speed everything up. 

Let people merge in front of you. It won’t ruin your life. 

How to Drive Chicago: No Texting in Turn Lane

14. Drive.   Ok. We are all going to check our phones when stopped at a red light. Better than doing it while moving. Listen for the honk behind you to let you know the when light goes greeen again. 

There is, of course, one exception. Waiting in the turn lane for the green, left arrow. There is no texting allowed in this lane EVER. 

EVER! 

The Chicago, left, green arrow is fleeting and like soldiers kicking in a door and entering homes in Kabul, we need to get as many troops through it as possible. Go. Go. Go. Any delay will result in several cars not making it through the light and I just can’t bear the thought of that. 

Do not grab your phone when stopped in the turn lane. 

How to Drive Chicago: Road Rage

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Rendering by Owen

13. Survive.   All of this city driving can be exasperating.  Emotions can run high. I’ll admit I have been prone to verbal altercations in the past. Maybe even some road rage. I’ve changed. I’ve watched enough “First 48” to know that innumerable murders occur during heat of the moment exchanges. Last December in Arkansas, 3 year old Acen King was shot and killed when a man fired into a car that he thought had been following him too closely. Holy shit !

Throw a bird to someone and they could absolutely get out and shoot you in the head. It happens. Holler at somebody for tossing trash out the window and you never know if they’re packing a Glock and having a bad day. Just let it go. It’s not worth it. Meditate or something.

Nevertheless, if you absolutely must express yourself physically and/or verbally to a moronic motorist, pedestrian or elected official, instead of the trite “fuck you” and tired middle finger try blowing them a kiss. Get creative. “Jesus loves you” is way more weird and amusing and usually gets under your foe’s skin just the right amount. You’ve been warned, however. You may be shot in the head.