Is it just me, or are the 30-and-under people who’ve moved into the city in recent years some of the most unresponsive, unfriendly little dinks you’ve ever seen? Maybe it’s just in my neighborhood, or maybe it’s just my neighbors, or maybe it’s my “I Choked Linda Lovelace” t-shirt, but I swear, holding a conversation or just nodding to a stranger on the street brings an expression to their faces that makes me think they just watched a “Stranger Danger” video before venturing out onto the mean streets of Lincoln Square.
Now, maybe I’m old fashioned, but if you live in a city, you’re going to brush up against people you don’t know, people of very different backgrounds, people with very different views of the world. And that’s the reason WHY you live there, not because Chicago has more late night sushi than Bloomington or Carbondale. The Windy City is also a friendly place, so you should nod once in a while when you pass a stranger on the street, just to indicate, “Hey, what a life, huh?”
But do that to some of these whelps and you’d get a look like you’re trying to steal their parking space.
An example: Next door to me, the landlords have an exquisite talent for renting to 20-somethings with no discernible personality. The man is usually skinny and bookish, and the woman overweight and in charge of the relationship. (This was not the rule when our friends Wendy and Lawrence lived there, I’ll point out. They was and are good people.) One couple lived there three years, and resisted any attempt to chat over the back fence, which is a pretty difficult trick when there’s only five feet separating the buildings. Then, about three days before they were to move, the man came up to me all friendly and said something like, “I learned from someone that you wrote this funny book, will you sign it?” And he had a copy of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories in his hands.
Gosharooties, how sincere! One of my most ardent fans! What could I inscribe to reflect my deep connection with this dink? (Go ahead and imagine what I wanted to write, but I was dutiful and polite in my inscription)
These days there’s another couple living next door. I call the man Chunky Butts because he has to stand in the back yard to smoke and talk on his cell while wearing football pajama pants. I see him almost every morning walking my dog. We’ll be the only two people on the sidewalk in a three-block radius, and four times out of five, he won’t even raise his eyes to say good morning. Literally the longest conversation we ever had was last summer, when I told him we’d been broken into while on vacation. That got his attention, however briefly! Then when the immediate danger to HIMSELF was passed, he went back to his usual communication pattern. I think he was worried for his football pajama pants more than anything else.
With their hangdog looks and their stupid thrift fashions, these young mopers are making the whole hood seem like Wicker Park, or worse, Hyde Park. Lighten up, people! You look at me like I’m some kind of middle-aged oppressor, using up all your beer and oxygen while keeping you enslaved in some phone-bank job. Or I’m the cautionary tale of what you’ll look like in 20 years (dude, with your lack of joie de vivre and your addiction to energy drinks, you’ll be lucky you’re not dead in 20 years).
We’re neighbors, get it? We ain’t the best of friends, but we’re all in the same boat. We’re Chicagoans, bound by a hatred of the weather and a secret envy of New York and Wisconsin. We can meet recent immigrants from every nation on earth and eat a banquet of their food specialties for $6. We’re getting screwed over by politicians and developers and Olympic boosters–doesn’t that give us something to talk about? I kinda hope for a huge power outage in a heat wave so you’ll have to get your asses outside and actually communicate with someone other than your BFFs on Twitter.