A Tale of Two Citizens

(You’ve just stomped on their foot…New Yorker or Chicagoan?)

Being a transplanted long-term Brooklynite now living about as far into Chicago as you can get, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to muse about the peculiarities of Gothamites vs. Chitowners. New Yorkers take Chicagoans for pushovers. Chicagoans take New Yorkers for rude. I think on the inside there’s not one whit of difference between the two. The real discrepancy lies in the domain of anger management — and it all comes out in the foot-stomping test.

Step on the foot of a New Yorker and what’s the first thing that the New Yorker thinks? Likely a fiery diatribe beginning with “You asshole,” and continued with some variation of “what are you, blind, why don’t you watch where you’re going?” Possibly followed by a “Why don’t you go back to New Jersey” for good measure.

But what does the New Yorker actually say? Well, likely a fiery diatribe beginning with “You asshole,” and continued with some variation of “what are you, blind, why don’t you watch where you’re going?” Possibly followed by a “Why don’t you go back to New Jersey” for good measure.

Then a curious thing happens. The New Yorker goes on about the rest of the day, lets the incident go, and gets on with life.

Meanwhile, step on a Chicagoan’s foot and what’s the first thing that the Chicagoan thinks? Ah, the big Midwestern secret, Chicagoans have as haughty a sense of hubris and as deep a well of anger as do New Yorkers. Foot stomped, a Chicagoan likely will think the very same thing as a New Yorker would. Except, of course, replacing “asshole” with “fucker” and “New Jersey” with “Indiana” (though I digress).

But, what does the Chicagoan actually say? Well…

“Sorry.” “My fault.” “Oops, my bad.” “How could I be so thoughtless as to possibly have let my foot slip under there like that?”

“Excuse me.” (Rumor has it that some Chicagoans resort to the use of this phrase even when colliding bodily with inanimate objects such as baseboards and table legs).

“Are you absolutely sure you’re OK?”

With social graces thus firmly upheld, the Chicagoan goes about the rest of the day. Seemingly happily. Seemingly innocently. Seemingly over it.

And then proceeds to complain about the incident to everyone in human existence that they come in contact with for the rest of the day/the week/the month/their life — (your mileage may vary) — who will willingly or can be forced to listen. At length and repeatedly.

And they say New Yorkers complain.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Though from Atlantic shores, I’m all for maintaining public politesse. But I don’t see what it serves to drive your friends crazy retelling them for the umpteenth about the guy who body checked you out of the way to get to the last seat on the rush-hour Brown Line train, instead of telling off the guy, himself, when it happened–thereby keeping your friends (or if nothing else, keeping them awake) in the process.

I mean, I love Chicago. I’ve been here for three years instead of anywhere else for a reason.

But the next person who begins a sentence to me with “Let me tell you about this total fucker I ran into at the bank last week” I’m going to follow around for the rest of the day, at length and repeatedly reciting Green Eggs and Ham from memory.

And trust me, that’s far more annoying.

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