Not-So-Subtle Differences

“The years got harder with each passing day. We’re on our way back home, and when we get there we’ll be lovely. Lovely but not alone. We are the lovely and alone.” ~Chamberlain, Lovely and Alone

I’ve been living in Kansas City for 27 days now. I’m still adjusting and carrying the feeling of being an outsider, but I’m getting there. I haven’t made my first local friend to hang out with yet, but I’m sure it will happen at some point…unless this goes as well as my dating life. In which case I’m in trouble!

On an almost daily basis, I am perplexed and amused by the differences between Kansas City and Chicago. I don’t want to give the impression that any of these differences are negative towards one city or the other. They’re just differences, plain and simple. Some are easier to adapt to than others. Here are some of the differences I’m referring to:

  • Traffic. I absolutely hated driving in Chicago with a passion. A stalled car on the expressway would cause me to be in traffic an extra 45+ minutes. Sometimes I was in traffic and didn’t no why and then all of a sudden the lanes would start moving as if nothing ever happened. On a traffic report this morning in KC I heard, “There is a stalled car in the right lane of the highway. Plan for it to take you an extra 5 minutes if you’re traveling that direction.” My ears perked up when I heard stalled car. Then I looked at my TV like an adorable puppy. Five minutes? That’s cute, I thought. I drove 9 miles to work in Chicago. It took me 45 minutes up to an hour to get there. I drive 18 miles to work here. It takes me 25 minutes on a highway with construction. Traffic has been an easy and welcome adjustment. Also, they say highway vs. expressway like in Chicago. It took me almost my entire 13 years of living in Chicago to start saying expressway. Now I have to get back to my old habits. First world problems, am I right? (I know there are technical differences between a highway and expressway, but I just don’t care. Nothing was “express” on Chicago roads so…)
  • Cows. I have cows across the street from my office. While this is unique to where my office is located (KC is no cow town), I wanted to point it out because they’re adorable. Chicago is just tall buildings. I am enjoying seeing/walking around the green spaces. They’re small and few and far between in Chicago. The green space and trees do a lot for my mind. However…that Chicago architecture though….
They’re so cute!
  • Talking. There is a lot more chatter here in KC. My furniture delivery folks, colleagues, people at the grocery store…you name it. People just talk to me. I was in line at the grocery store and the man ringing me up was giving me recipe ideas based upon what I was buying. I thought that was odd until the woman checking out in the aisle over started suggesting I make fajitas! I don’t want to know what my face looked like. In Chicago, no stranger ever tried to talk to me. Passerby’s rarely, if ever, looked me in the eye to say hello. It’s not personal. It’s just a big city and people are always trying to get from one place to another. It’s just how it is. There’s a lot more impatient people buying groceries, so they just got you through and on your way. I told my sister about the grocery store and overall increased level of talking, and she said it’s called being friendly. OHHH!!! Got it. I need to stop looking around like I’m on Candid Camera when someone makes conversation here. (Did that reference just date me? No? Cool.) I need to get out of the mindset that anyone who talks to me is trying to distract me while their friend robs me. Thanks for the paranoia Chicago public transportation!
  • Walking. Other than obvious exercising, I don’t see anyone walking anywhere in KC. Everyone drives. I see people walking their dogs. I don’t see people walking as a mode of transportation. I enjoy walking as a mode of transportation. I walked myself to a bar last Sunday. When I left I saw the people sitting outside watch me walk out of the parking lot to see where I was going. This will be an adjustment I will fight. Although, my walking trips will probably be limited to solo outings or when I have Chicago visitors. I haven’t met anyone yet interested in walking more then .1 miles to get somewhere.
  • Accents. I have found most KC folks do not think there is an accent here. There is an accent here. Not everyone has it, but it’s here. It’s slightly southern but without the drawl. This may not make sense to you, but parts of the Midwest states bordering the southern states have them. When I moved to Chicago from St. Louis, everyone thought I had one. I did not think I had one…until I heard my own voice on my voicemail message. I had this slightly southern sans drawl accent when I said certain words. Living in Chicago for 13 years rid me of that. Chicagoans have an accent as well, except they know they have one. It’s heaviest on the south side. It’s essentially talking with short vowels in the tone of a jackass. Check out an old Bill Swerski’s Super Fans sketch on SNL if you are unsure of what I mean here.
  • House visits. In the 27 days I’ve been here, there have been four unexpected knocks on my door that I know of. Those are just from the days I’ve been home. I have answered zero times because, well, in Chicago I only had one person knock on my door that was unexpected. It was the police investigating a shooting across the street from my apartment. I hear knocking and automatically get in Dateline mode wondering who this scoundrel is knocking on my door scoping out my new place. Why? I don’t know. I need to answer the damn door one of these times.
  • Manners. When I ordered a pizza from the local pizza place in KC, the lady asked if I was new to the area because my number wasn’t in their system. I fought the urge to lie about my identity to this stranger. She had a motherly tone so told her I just moved here. She welcomed me to the neighborhood, called me sweetie and told me to have a nice weekend. What a weirdo! Just kidding! It was awesome. Once in Chicago when I called to see where my pizza was that was 30 minutes late they told me to hold on and then hung up on me. I thought perhaps it was a mistake, but they did it again when I called back.

I think it’s easier to go from a fast pace to a slower pace than the other way around. At least for me. You have time to observe, think and react to things. In Chicago I was mostly reacting to, what became to feel like, a rat race. I think you can find the peace and serenity in Chicago I was craving, but I needed to make a lot more money to afford it. I’m curious how I will feel about these things in another month. In my 27 days here, I noticed a few things I need to work on socially. In addition to relearning patience, I need to start talking. In Chicago, I felt patient and nice. I talk A LOT, but apparently only to people I know or friends of friends. I see here how that fast-paced life became part of who I am. Time to relearn that Midwest hospitality that waved bye-bye to me after years of sitting in pee and getting sneezed on by strangers on the trains and busses in Chicago.

Author: Penny Lame

I can find humor in almost everything. These are my stories.