(Photo: Sorry, did I wake you? Everyone knows better than a local resident on downtown Chicago noise.)
It’s a train that enters the station with Swiss Rail precision. Whenever a downtown Chicago resident complains about neighborhood noise, some local wag tells us to grin and bear it. Among the comments on yesterday’s post about the The Joys of High-Rise Living, we have this gem from “Jim”:
Seriously, where did you come from? You live smack-dab in the middle of one of the biggest metropolitan cities in the WORLD. Yes, you are going to hear noises. Yes, you live in a high rise. So quit complaining about it or move into something that doesn’t have more than three floors. Your whiney post is just about as bad as people that move near an airport then complain about the noise.
As Kathy Griffin might say, comments like this are like a gift from the baby Jesus to me. Jim, in answer to your question, I come from New York City, where complaint and disagreement are civic art forms.
In that vein I thank you for your comment which under other circumstances I might take to be a love letter. Fan mail, even. Five years ago, when I was still full of the piss-and-vinegar of my New York upbringing, it’s entirely possible I would have had a different reply to a reponse such as yours.
Talking to my friend, Back of the Yards baby Rich, last night, we pondered the differing abilities of Gothamites and Windy Citizens to wage and weather campaigns of verbal rebuke against each other. Were money to be lain on the winner, I’d bet mine on the New Yorker.
Six months into my Chicago tenure, fleeing my ‘L’-adjacent Wrigleyville apartment for quieter Logan Square digs (there’s a trend in that), a Depaul trixie too impatient to drive around the block sat on her horn for five minutes trying to get the movers to shift the moving van out of the alley. The surprised look on her face as I stood in front of her for my own five minutes telling her in intricate detail how, why, and how big an asshole she was for pulling crap like that (“Asshole. You. This big. Not this big. THIS big. BIG mega trixie asshole.”) was astonishing.
In New York, a city where we cut our baby teeth on snark like that, she might have thought I was coming on to her.
Then again, maybe not. I’m reminded of a 1980s short-cut taken through Bloomingdale’s with my best GLYNY pal, Peter. Shortly before mother’s day, the perfume nazis were out in force at each entrance, mercilessly spritzing scents on those poor souls without the good sense to steer clear. That included me, as somehow I managed to walk straight into one woman’s pitch.
“Try some, sir! It’s a great gift for mother’s day. And after all, everyone has a mother!”
Peter visibly stiffened. He knew what was coming.
I looked her straight in the eye. “My mother’s DEAD!!!”
It wasn’t true at the time. But it was enough to send her jaw, face, and spritzer bottle falling to the floor and rolling, embarrassed, under the nearest sales counter. I think Peter bought me dinner that night.
I hope all of that helps give you some perspective of where I’m coming from, Jim. Now I have a few questions for you, which I hope you’ll be equally kind enough to answer.
Where exactly do you live? Also downtown, or as I more suspect in a far-flung, far-northern, arctic-circle neighborhood where contact with civilized company requires forethought and a full tank of gas in your snowmobile?
Does anything annoy you when you’re settled in on the homestead? Noises? Neighbors? Polar bears scratching at the back door? Hitting the dry bottom of your Wal-Mart-branded box of wine?
Do you think you have a right to complain about any of those things–things that impact your ability to enjoy a good quality of life in your own home? Do you think you have a right to that quality of life in the first place?
If your answer is yes, why do you think residents of any other neighborhood, downtown or not, don’t deserve the same rights to sleep through the night, avoid dismemberment by wildlife, and have enough storage space for a few boxes of wine that you think you do?
Your comment precedes you, you know. Back in 2005, as downtown noise was hotly debated in local print and online media, lots of folks from far-flung neighborhoods felt quite at ease telling downtown residents whether and how we should exercise any right to enjoy our lives in our own homes.
It’s a knee-jerk reaction that runs surprisingly deep in this town. A December 2005 Sun-Times editorial went so far as to suggest downtown residents stop complaining and wear earplugs to sleep through the night in their neighborhood of choice.
I respectfully differed in a letter featured in the paper the same month. I asked Sun-Times editors why they thought residents of downtown Chicago didn’t have the same rights as residents of less touristy neighborhoods like Avondale or Bridgeport. I’m sure Mayor Daley wouldn’t enjoy a drunken fistfight beneath his bedroom window every night. Would you, Jim?
Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. For all I know, you’d be out there, too, staggering and trading blows for all you’re worth. Not that I’m saying you drink too much.
But God knows I’d have to in order to live anywhere outside of downtown Chicago.
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.