Places I'd like to avoid in Chicago.

Chicago is a great city. So much to do, so much to see. However, after living here, well, forever, there are a few places I'd rather not be if I can help it. The list below just begins to describe some.

1)   The Comcast “Service Center” on North Ave. This place is like entering the depths of hell.  I’d rather listen to a radio from 1988 than sit here and wait for my turn for any sort of help with my fancy services. I know anyone that has been here will agree.

2)   The Howard Red Line “El” Stop.  I don’t know what it is, but this stop is just particularly looney tunes. Not saying that all of the red line is basically a compilation of crazytown, this particular stop is just unreal.  I don’t think I’ve ever  A) Gotten offered a job as a “promotional model” (very legit) B) Almost gotten run over by a skateboarder and C) Got told by a guy that the world was going to end in 12 days within a period of four minutes.

3)   This cab:

The cab of

4)   The pickup “circle” at O’Hare. I guess shame on me for being a nice friend and offering to pick you up, but your flight is always delayed. And then I wind up, literally, driving in circles for 45 minutes while getting berated by Traffic Management Authority workers if I stop for 13 seconds to look for you.

5)   Michigan Avenue on a Saturday afternoon. I love my city, I love shopping, but look, you CANNOT stop in your group of twelve in the middle of the sidewalk to discuss whether you are going to Ed Debevic’s for lunch. Please move.

6)   The DMV at the Thompson Center. Ok, yes, is it my fault that I lost my identification last night? Yes. Is it my fault that I show up and I am given number A465 when they are on number A234? Probably. Do I need to be berated by the employees there while waiting? Probably not. Do I need the guy sitting next to me while I wait tell me “I smell good?” Absolutely not. It’s called a shower, it works. Miracles.

7)   Any fast food restaurant in the Loop during the lunch rush. Dude,  it’s not that hard, pick the turkey club or the tuna fish and let’s not keep us all waiting for 3 hours. Thank you.

8)   Any new trendy restaurant in River North where you do, in fact, have a reservation, yet you are confined to the bar for 45 minutes drinking the latest version of some pomegranate martini. I called ahead for a reason.

9)   The tow lot on California. I have a friend who legitimately heard a guy say “Keep the car, it’s worth less than what I’m gonna pay to get it out.” Should have called Victory Auto Wreckers.

I love my city, but I don’t recommend any of these locales. More to come. Anyone have any suggestions?

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  • Anywhere in Wrigleyville on a Saturday night (or many other nights).

  • In reply to tooter2:


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    The Ike. ALWAYS backed up, whether it's rush hour or middle of the night on the weekend.

  • In reply to Katie Levin:

    Katie- absolutely. I don't know HOW I left this off of the list. I used to do that drive every day. It is just ridiculously awful. Please tell me you weren't also commuting on it last Labor Day weekend when the body bag was situated at Mannheim. That about did it in for me.

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    The Ike. Seems to ALWAYS be a parking lot, whether it's rush hour or in the middle of the night on a weekend.

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    The intersection of Fullerton/Damen/Clybourn. Just awful.

  • In reply to Michael Reynolds:

    Completely. As is North/Clybourn.

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    The UPS center on south Jefferson...especially on a Saturday!

  • In reply to flobear100:

    or anytime in December.

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    What is wrong with music from 1988? I would add the Adams street bridge heading east during the afternoon rush, and the concourse at Wrigley during a rain delay as the most unsavory places to be in Chicago.

  • The clerk of court's office at the Daley Center. I'd call it the ninth circle of hell, but I imagine that hell is better organized and staffed.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    You're probably right.

  • 2. Howard was worse before it was rehabbed. The modeling job was real? Based on the CTA Tattler, basically stay off the CTA.

    4. They have a cell phone lot to mitigate this problem. You are supposed to stay there. The alternatives I have used include "call me when you get off the plane and it'll take me 20 minutes to get there" or "meet me at the Kiss and Ride or Jefferson Park."

    6. Any Secretary of State Driver's License Facility (Illinois DOES NOT have a DMV) uses this system. I can't figure out why 5 D's get called before one B, but maybe it is because once one gets old enough, you have to come in every year, while for the rest of us it is once every 8. In any event, the SoS's office is much better run under Jesse White than under that crook, George Ryan, or any of his predecessors.

    8. There is a reason for that, which is "we make more money at the bar."

    To add:
    Traffic Court has been and always will be a zoo. So, don't drive in Chicago.

    Just about any other court in Chicago is a zoo, too. You have to show up for jury duty eventually, but otherwise try to stay out of the city.

    90% of the city is covered by red light cameras, and at the rest of the intersections, people blow through the stop signs. Stay away from them.

    The merge from the express lanes into Hubbard's Cave isn't much fun. But I don't know if Ohio St. to LSD is worse.

    Due to the high sales tax rates, no reason to shop or go to a fast food place, either. Get your bottled water in Niles and gasoline on Milwaukee Ave. north of Lake Cook Road (unless you are on the south side, and be like Beavers and buy in Indiana).

    Search a newspaper for "shooting" (sometimes plugging in the neighborhood) and stay out of those areas.

  • In reply to jack:

    Glad you posted about the Cell phone lot. They have had them at Midway and O'hare for several years. (who still wastes gas by circling around anymore).

    Here's another tip regarding O'hare - There's a Chipotle, Starbucks, Potbelly, Steak-N-Shake, IHOP and a Target on Mannheim road - a few blocks north of the cell phone lot by the Allstate Arena. If you get to the airport and don't feel like sitting in your car while waiting to pick someone up - you can hang out there.

  • Once upon a time, I'd have listed the Cardiss Collins post office. Or the post office inside the Thompson Center. Or the Loop post office on Clark. Or probably any post office downtown. I used to think those postal employees were the most hate-my-job folks in the city.

    Then one day I visited the IRS office in the S. Dearborn Fed building. The wait time was awful. When I finally got to see an IRS rep face to face, I regretted being unable to figure out my tax issues on my own. It was the circle of hell too terrible for Dante to write about it. Ugh.

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    I once went to that tow lot. It reminded me of Kurtz' compound in the movie Apocalypse Now.

    When I lived in Chicago there were two ways to avoid traffic court entirely. At that time a Twenty would do it, as would a donor card to the Cook County Democratic Party.

    There used to be a place where the IL-5 toll road and I-294 both funneled into one lane on the Eisenhower.

    As to ordering fast food, the secret is never to stand behind the person in front of you. It is always the person in front of you who can't decide whether he wants one, two, or three cheese burgers and whether they should have catsup or mustard or organic barrel-aged soy sauce.

    As for the Cook county Impound Lot, I knew a fellow who went to get his van there, saw that it was in pristine shape, and tried to take it. He was told to come back Monday. When he returned Monday the van was without seats, stereo, and chrome trim, including the bumpers. When he complained he was told he could either take the van "as is" or get arrested. He took the van and left.

    When he turned on to the public roads he was arrested for having no bumpers which, having been fancy and chromed, had been stolen at the impound lot.

    This is why I live on the Finger, and not the Great, Lakes.

    Also, don't claim to be observant. For a writer this is just asking for it. See the Graham Greene story "The Japanese Gentlemen.".

  • Taste of Chicago

  • Anyone have any suggestions?

    Yes, move out of Chicago and never go back.

  • Either way on the Stevenson between Midway and McCormick Place

  • The tow lot on California? I'm guessing that ANY tow lot would be a craptacular place to visit.

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    I make fun of people who drive in circles at O'Hare (or wait on the shoulder of the 190 for that matter!). Sign up for a flight alert, if your friend's flight is delayed you'll know. Also, park at the free cellphone lot and ask your friends to call you when they get to baggage claim, you'll literally be there in 5 mins.

  • Well, the Howard red line stop used to be much worse, but I can say I saw a guy PEEING under the heaters on a weekday morning, around 8am last February. I wanted to know karate, I swear I would have pinned the bastard down until the police arrived, but guess what? No one showed up, no cameras helped security see anything, so he just left on the next train...

  • First, use the cell phone lot instead of driving around the terminal complex. Or check the airline's website or to see where the plane is in relation to ORD to estimate when to leave for the airport.

    I also find the TMA people are clueless, when it comes to directing traffic, let alone knowing when to suggest moving along. I got told to move once, while the traffic was at a standstill. What, did you want me to simply start playing bumper cars at Kiddieland?

    Bring back the real cops from CPD. They are a lot smarter.

    Second, I agree about groups stopping on the sidewalk on North Michigan, or any street in the Loop during morning, noon, and afternoon rush. Step out of the traffic pattern to talk.

    Third, also agree about fast food joints. If you don't know what you want, find some place out of the traffic flow to ponder you lunch choices.

  • I think Howard is fine if you're transferring trains in the daytime. It's better than Wilson even if you set it on fire.

    PPL coming in from O'Hare should find the cell phone lot OR get acquainted with the Blue Line for at least a stop or two. This would make pick ups a lot easier and alleviate much of the traffic.

    When I walk anywhere downtown from Jackson to Chicago, I practice walking like I'm skiing around trees. I just look at the people ahead of me and think about how to avoid them. It's all you can do to not scream.

    Also avoid Navy Pier unless it's crappy weather out because you'll get nowhere otherwise.

    Northside Chicagoans should keep a Cubs schedule around at all times just to avoid post game Cubs Red Line crowds.

  • In reply to docmidnight:

    Agreed about Howard and O'Hare. I used the Howard stop for 2+ years, without many problems. Sure, this was this creepy stalker guy, but he actually had been stalking me from a different stop during previous weeks, and then out of nowhere, he was there, so I can't really blame Howard.

    Though I never used the O'Hare cell phone lot (as it is actually not even located AT O'Hare - which is where such lots usually are, to encourage people to use them), that is what they're intended for. And though it may be illegal to talk on the phone and drive, please don't claim you don't have a cell to speak to whomever you're picking up..

    Finally- TOTALLY agree about Cubs schedule. Worst Red Line travel day ever - Hawks rally (somewhere in the loop?) plus Cubs/Sox game at Wrigley. I wished the express was running then... Personally had to wait 4-5 trains just to be able to cram in.

  • “Keep the car, it’s worth less than what I’m gonna pay to get it out.” Should have called Victory Auto Wreckers. Great write up! I HATE that place, and you know you are screwed when "that" happens!" By"that," I mean being towed!

  • That city lot is on Sacramento. It's a nightmare.

  • Let me also say..the parking meter costs are insane.

  • chicago meters .. the parking meter cost is a nite mayor .. mayor e should kick those brit bandits out of our town and give the meters back to the chicago car drivers @ a reasonable cost.

  • The Grocery store on the 1st and 3rd of the month. Everyone is shopping with cash, or a Link card. I was in a line so long that I started eating some of my groceries. Believe me, if you haven't experienced these shopping days of the month, DON'T!!!

  • There's a pattern to the comments - most complaints about the city involve car ownership. From meters, to parking, to towing, to DMV, my love of Chicago exponentially increased when I ditched the car.

    On my list of undesirable places: Cook County (Stroger) Hospital - the NEW hospital is already filthy in places, but I had the fortune of having to visit the intake clinic where dust balls literally rolled across the chewing gum filled floor, no soap or toilet paper in the bathroom, an 8 hour wait, to name a few of the issues.

    On the red line during the Chicago Marathon. There should be a sign for train riding beginners with simple instructions: 1. please hold on to something fixed to the train rather than falling on other passengers. 2. You're going to eat the bag of stinky fast food in this crowd right now? Really?! 3. Please leave your double-wide stroller at home, invest in a back-pack carrier for your infant and make your 3 year old walk for a few blocks.

    Anywhere in Englewood and most places in Lawndale. I've worked in social programs in nearly every neighborhood but these two neighborhoods feel electric with impending doom and everyone on the streets is tense about the violence they've experienced. Humboldt Park/ Logan Square at night, when the hip scene has quieted down - it is trendy to live there but Humboldt is still the center of Chicago's heroin trade and has MORE gun homicides than Englewood, not to mention a ridiculous number of drunk drivers.

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