Chicagoans' insufferable whines about "dibs" and unplowed side streets and alleys.


An upholstered chair sits in the sun, saving a parking spot in the Southwest Side as people dig their cars out of the snow all over the city. (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune / February 3, 2011)

Part of the whining is the grim debate over the morality of shoveling out your own parking space and, like a dog marking its territory by pissing on a tree, claiming dibs with your junk.

Just stop your grousing. Give the rest of us a break by accepting it as the price you pay for living in your fabulous, better-than-the-suburbs city. Be realistic and accept the idea that you can't always have instant gratification.

As a former city resident--here and in Milwaukee--and now a suburbanite, I'm struck by the excessively high expectations Chicagoans have about what should be done for them . Never stopping to think that living in a city as big as Chicago entails some sacrifice.

I'm reminded by some readers that urban living is more fun than living in the suburbs. That urbanites are more environmentally conscious, cosmopolitan and appreciative of the finer things than rube suburbanites.  Yeah, well, you think that it doesn't come at some cost.

Namely, the side streets weren't designed for all those cars. And the alleys were not designed to be plowed. The streets were designed for city living, meaning that you would walk to the streetcar, bus or L that would take you to your destination. City size and form were defined by how far of a commute was needed to reach work. First by walking or horse-drawn streetcar. Then by electric streetcar, L line and later the bus and commuter railroad.

How do I know this? Because as I grew up during and just after the war (that'd be World War Two) that's what everybody did. Grab a wagon, stick the kids in it and walk to the grocery store down on Devon Ave.

We didn't have to play in the alleys, as described in this fine Tribune story by Ron Grossman and Dawn Rhodes. Our skimpy front yards, slivers of sidewalk and parkway as well as the side street itself constituted a broad, almost carfree expanse in which to play.  (It also was dog-dropping free, because their owners would walk their dogs in the alley, leaving the treats for those green flies there and not in the street.)

Not enough cars were parked along the curb to constitute a significant barrier to a ball game. The occasional car could be spotted coming way down the block, providing enough time to clear out. That began changing after the war, as more and more curb spaces became occupied. Then came the 1950s, with its explosion of creativity and mass migration into the suburbs. There people with cars found contentment. And those who chose to live in the city started bitching about not enough space for their cars.

Live with your choices. If city living is so virtuous and superior, putting up without a car for a few days shouldn't be such a big price to pay. Not in a place that was not designed for cars. 


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  • Better title would have been "Insufferable Suburbanite Whines about City." Keep up the good work, though, I have to check this blog every few months just to remind myself why I never, ever will move to the burbs. You don't live here any more and you still incessantly complain about us all the time? Pathetic like a 15-year-old who just got dumped for the 1st time, except there's hope for the 15-year-old.

  • In reply to NativeChicagoan:

    Matt, the difference between you and me is that I never say that I would never live in the city. I regard Chicago with great fondness. As I do with the idea of cities (My masters degree was in urban affairs.) I love both the city and suburbs, for their qualities and even their scabs. So, here's a question: Does your whining about my whining about Chicago whiners constitute whining on your part?

  • In reply to NativeChicagoan:

    Also, Matt, are you one of the city residents who invokes the God given right to put junk in the street? Or ever rides the CTA?

  • In reply to NativeChicagoan:

    Matt, nobody really cares where you do or don't want to live. You, like so many others, seem so set on expressing your desire to never move to the burbs. Here this, we don't care. But, I suggest you go back and reread the parts you missed on the blog (most all of it). Maybe this time you'll put the pieces together.

  • I remember, about the late 70s, my father wondered why all the cars in Chicago were beat up, but when I visited my sister who then lived in Lakeview (with a view of the former bus barn) and saw that the only way to get into an on street parking space was to bang the bumpers of the cars fore and aft, I figured that out.

    Of course, since the city was not made for cars, its residents should use the CTA that its bosses expect suburbanites to subsidize. Where are all those eco-aware city denizens?

    Also, they, and the residents of Evanston, shouldn't be driving on LSD. There are CTA and Metra. For one thing, I won't drive into, nor pay the exorbitant parking rates in the city. Not that I am using Metra for that purpose that much either.

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