I get the same exclamations from tourists quite a bit:
“Your city is so clean!”
“Your city is so pretty!”
And of course, “you’re all so nice here!”
I’ve been hearing this last one quite a bit lately. Almost every time I give a tour I hear this statement. And it makes me wonder, are we really THAT nice? What is that? Aren’t people nice in other cities? I’ve always thought that bit about New Yorkers being rude was a myth. They were always really nice to me when I lived there for a stunted amount of time – are we really nicer here than other cities? And if so, why?
Well, I think I have an answer.
When tourists are standing on the corner of Michigan and Wacker with a huge pull-out map in their hand and they’re looking up at skyscrapers like somehow this is going to help them, I think it’s a natural reaction to stop and ask if they need help.
This is not what makes us so nice, the stopping. I think most people in any city will stop and ask if they need help.
Also pretty standard, we will give you the directions you’re looking for, just like any other urban native would.
Sure, we’ll tell you how to get to The Billy Goat underneath the street. But the thing about Chicagoans is, while we’re telling you just how to get to the Billy Goat, we’ll tell you about all the stops along the way:
“Okay, well, you can go down to the Goat right in front of the Wrigley Building. Across from the Trib Tower – that was a design competition see, they wanted to build the most beautiful office building in the world. And if you walk around the base of it, you can see the journalists brought back pieces from other structures all over the world, so there are pieces from the Berlin Wall and the Alamo and the World Trade Center. You can spend hours doing that.”
Excuse me, how do we get from here to the Bean?
“Oh just walk east here on Madison, see you’re at Madison and State, this is zero/zero on the grid system, so the numbers go up north and south and east and west from here. The grid system makes everything so much easier. So, head east, see the lake is east, so head east until you see The Bean, it’s actual name is Cloud Gate, but we all call it the Bean, make sure you walk underneath it and then head to the Pritzker Pavilion, that crazy, silver ribbon thing, because we do free concerts over there. It’s really cool. They have quick drying grass”
How do we get to Wrigley?
“Well you could take a cab, but that doesn’t make any sense, what you might want to do is take the brown line to Belmont because the ride is so pretty and you’ll get to cruise through some of our prettiest neighborhoods and the view of the city is extraordinary. Once you get to Wrigley make sure you check out how cute all the girls are before the game and then check them out a couple hours after – total 180. And beware the curse of the goat, hoo boy”
Okay, maybe we don’t say “hoo boy” but you get the idea.
See my point?
I think in some cities, a one sentence explanation will do when giving someone directions. But I think here in Chicago, we get so excited that people are here and we want them to enjoy themselves. Because we love this city so much – and I’m not saying other people don’t have civic pride of course – but I maybe it’s our Second City-itis that leads us to push for the upsell, we know how awesome it is here and we want you to know it too.
So keep going like you are Chicagoans, people are noticing how awesome and helpful and knowledgeable you are.
We are all ambassadors to Chicago. We are all tour guides of this fine city. We are all invested. And shoot, we are totally nice about it.