When I was a young boy, we took many family vacations around the country well out of the Midwest, far from Chicago. On these trips, my siblings and I used to make fun of was how our dad, at every conceivable opportunity, would tell anyone and everyone "We're from Chicago!"
We were quite embarrassed by these Chi-nanigans. We didn't think anyone cared and that telling everyone was just annoying.
But here's the thing: Time has passed. I've grown up. I've lived in Chicago proper now for almost six years and somehow, when I'm on vacation, at the great expense of validating my dad, I now absolutely love telling people, "I'm from Chicago!"
This love has truly grown, because I've learned that being from Chicago is a very advantageous conversation starter. People LOVE this city. And not just a little bit. Massive hyperbole is required to explain their gargantuan, colossal and unending love for Chicago. And frankly, it makes me quite proud to live here.
What's good about being from Chicago is that everyone knows of the city, even if they don't know where it is. And it's fun to clue people in on some of Chicago's unique features, like how we can have multiple season in a single day. Or that there are other deep-dish pizzas than the one pizza that they tried. I especially like when people try to remember which pizza they had because it usually results in exchanges like this:
"I was there for a conference once and tried your gargantuan, colossal, delicious deep-dish pizza."
"Oh yeah? Which one?"
"I think it was something like Gio….or maybe Gino…something with a G …"
"Oh!….it was Lou Malnati's!"
But one response to hearing I'm from Chicago that really baffles me is how excited people will get for things I had absolutely no influence over. Like Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the '90s. I mean, I'm glad they're excited about that but I had nothing to do with it. The whole time I was on the bench.
I also love telling people that I'm so comfortable with taking public transit, because they all think that's where people go to die. I just tell them that's where you go to get a commute and a show.
I tell people that Chicago has made me patient. I now feel like getting anywhere under 15 minutes is amazing; getting anywhere around a half hour is the norm; getting anywhere around 45 minutes just means it's for a good friend on a weeknight and getting somewhere in an hour means I've abandoned public transit because I'm driving to my parents' house in the suburbs.
Some of the most fun I have on the road is when I run into other Chicagoans. That's because we get to see if we live near each other and then I inevitably get to say with as straight a face as possible, "Turns out it IS a small world after all! Ha ha ha! I slay me!"
On top of that, it's fun for me to test them, to make them prove they don't just know Chicago, but that they are Chicago. And since you're wondering, here are the questions and answers for my "Chicago Test:"
- Is ketchup forbidden on a Chicago-style hotdog: Yay or nay?
- What is your favorite deep dish? (If I have to clarify, you lose points.)
- Have you ever held up a bus asking if it goes to Navy Pier? Or worse, a train?
- Do you look up at the buildings for more than three seconds?
- Do you know the real name of "The Bean?"
- What is your walking speed?
- Do you know which direction Wacker Drive goes?
- If you say "nay" I'm assuming you are speaking "Horse" and are in fact saying "yay."
- Anything that is unique to Chicago will count, though these days you can get Giordano's in Florida and Las Vegas and Lou Malnati's in Phoenix.
- If you said "yes" to either of these, you have to leave the Chicago immediately
- If you said "yes," you're clearly from out of town, or a suburb. Special concession is made if you said "yes" because of an architecture tour, but only the boat ones.
- It's Sir Beansy McTooty Face.
- Anything under "making great time" is unacceptable
- Trick question, it's is all of them.
If you got at least 4 out of 7 correct, congratulations, you have passed my completely biased and superfluous version of the "Chicago Test."
The truth is, if you're actually from Chicago or the suburbs, it's always cool to run into you on the road. Because in some form or fashion, you get it. And what you get is that winter is the bane of all our existences and we all forget about it the first moment it gets warm, but that's how it goes in Sweet Home Chicago. Also, dibs.