The Chainlink

I'm laying in bed with my laptop right now, in my old bedroom, in a city where I know few people any more, and no longer have a bike in the garage. I'm perusing the internet out of boredom, looking for things I might do over the next week while I'm here. I'm also looking for a place in ST. Louis wehre I might find Intellegentsia or Metropolis coffee. I came across Velocity Cafe and was looking at their events calendar from the summer when I found this posting:

"...The idea that travel requires courage is a myth; too often we leave our comfort zone only to try and recreate it in a new place. Real bravery comes when opening our hearts and minds to the strangers that we meet along the way. For most Americans, who are taught from an early age "Don't Talk to Strangers" building these relationships requires a great deal of courage..."

That touches on something that I think about more and more- the whole not talking to strangers aspect of our culture. Having grown up visiting family on both coasts, the south, and the midwest, I very much see that the particular blend of both Midwestern and big city cultures makes Chicago a place where, generally speaking, people just aren't that open to strangers and to meeting new friends. And I am probably one of the worst offenders, too. I'm an introvert to the highest degree, as well as a lifelong Midwesterner. And I'm started to think about all I've probably missed out on by being closed off to new people, and the loneliness that it's probably caused me from time to time. I don't know if other people have the same thoughts or feelings.

There are a lot of fellow cyclists around Chicago who I think kind of counter the general keep-to-yourself culture here, and I really like that. It's still hard to strike up a conversations with someone who rolls up alongside me and, for example, tells me that my rear light is hard to see. I usually mumble a self-conscious "Thank you" in the voice of Selma from The Simpsons, or something. But I am working on it, and I appreciate the friendly cyclists out there so much.

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I grew up here. For a while after college, I lived in other states, but I've been here most of my life. One of the things I appreciated a lot more after living away was the friendliness of this place.

I've had lots of good experiences from striking up random conversations with people on the El, waiting with other cyclists for a light to change, while on my bike at a south side grade crossing waiting for a train to pass, etc. I've never considered Chicago a "keep-to-yourself" culture. (That's New England, as I can tell you from experience.) When I've moved to a new Chicago neighborhood where I knew no one, it's never taken long to start meeting people there. In some places, I've had neighbors come and introduce themselves on moving day. It does vary quite a bit by neighborhood.

It sounds like your experience here has been very different than mine. If you've remained an extreme introvert into adulthood, it's more challenging to change that pattern. I was shy as a kid. Finding ways to connect with other people opened the door to many possibilities that would not have found me otherwise.

Thanks for posting. Here's to a year of positive experiences in 2010.
Oh, maybe it's because I'm comparing to Dallas & Los Angeles, where most of our relatives & family vacations are. I guess that in comparison to New England Chicagoans might be pretty extraverted.

Anne Alt said:
I grew up here. For a while after college, I lived in other states, but I've been here most of my life. One of the things I appreciated a lot more after living away was the friendliness of this place.

I've had lots of good experiences from striking up random conversations with people on the El, waiting with other cyclists for a light to change, while on my bike at a south side grade crossing waiting for a train to pass, etc. I've never considered Chicago a "keep-to-yourself" culture. (That's New England, as I can tell you from experience.) When I've moved to a new Chicago neighborhood where I knew no one, it's never taken long to start meeting people there. In some places, I've had neighbors come and introduce themselves on moving day. It does vary quite a bit by neighborhood.

It sounds like your experience here has been very different than mine. If you've remained an extreme introvert into adulthood, it's more challenging to change that pattern. I was shy as a kid. Finding ways to connect with other people opened the door to many possibilities that would not have found me otherwise.

Thanks for posting. Here's to a year of positive experiences in 2010.
I would agree most people around here keep to them self. I try and push people out of that and sometimes it works and there are times it doesn't. for the most part though all it takes is those first few words. Im sure most people like to talk ;-)
It is hard to make real connections. I am a friendly person, but have few friends really. Thank God for family and for the ability to enjoy the small everyday sort of connections that I do make. Hello's and small talk keep you less isolated, but a feeling of belonging is elusive.
If you were to see me in action you might think that I have the world on a string. I'm loud and outgoing, have fun easily, the life of a party. But in truth we are all alone, and I feel that too.
Enjoy the friends you have, respect, even love the strangers out there, keep close to God, and Get A Bike! With Winter here, can Spring be far behind!
I've had great experiences with strangers all over this country. I always try to give a small and emit some genuine warmth when I come upon a stranger. Try just giving a little grin, you'll see, even Chicagoans will smile back most of the time.

Having said that, I've had many more friendly interactions with strangers in the south, and farther north in Wisconsin and Michigan, than I have in Chicago. But I wasn't traveling in Chicago, and the pleasantest strangers always seem to show up when you're looking cockeyed at a map :)
The more bike culture takes hold, the more stuck and and stupid they become. I'll say 1/4 of the people who ride in Chicago are friendly, confident and not too full of themselves. The others, well they suck.
Amen.

cutifly said:
The more bike culture takes hold, the more stuck and and stupid they become. I'll say 1/4 of the people who ride in Chicago are friendly, confident and not too full of themselves. The others, well they suck.
I personally believe it's what you make of it....but I enjoy talking to strangers.
Clark, that is an interesting point. I had used a picture, then felt an odd pressure to change it to the "cute." Look for me to change it back to a real picture. Why hide indeed.
There, can't hide with a big head like this!

Ken Gray said:
Clark, that is an interesting point. I had used a picture, then felt an odd pressure to change it to the "cute." Look for me to change it back to a real picture. Why hide indeed.
I am one of the most extroverted people you could ever meet in your life and my feelings on meeting people in Chicago are the exact opposite. About a year ago I was living here and going through a divorce. I had just moved here within the past year from Detroit so all of my childhood friends were back in the D. I worked out of the house so didn't even have that social network going for me. Needless to say life was grim last winter. Then I started riding - ALOT!@

I had always ridden in Critical Mass with my ex and really enjoyed it; I had biked a ton in Detroit but the culture there was minuscule compared to this fine city. So last February I started riding as much as I could. My first ride consisted of riding up to Evanston to ride in their Critical Mass. The ride consisted of myself and the fine Mr Vic S. We rode down to the Mercury Cafe for the CCM Art Show. There i met the lovely Ms. Hochstadter, Mr Yellow Jello, PJC, JJ, Melissa, among others....and went to the castle for the first time.

The rest is kind of a great story for me personally. After an annoying month recently, similar to what I went through last winter, I have a huge social network that has been supportive, welcoming, friendly, kind, and most importantly there.

I have huge respect for the cycling community here in Chicago. So many wonderful people and the past year has been a stretch that makes me pine for summer since the rides are so much fun.

Here's to next year, bikes, bikers(cyclists) and Chicago - I love ya'll!
Look on the rest of the profile. I need to pee.

Clark said:
cutifly said:
...1/4 of the people who ride in Chicago are friendly...
Could be...just look at the photos people have chosen for their Chainlink ID... My informal survey shows that less than 1/4 of the people who post on these Chainlink discussions appear to have chosen a real photo of themselves. The rest have some cute or incomprehensible logo which reveals nothing. What's up with that? I don't consider hiding from the rest of us very friendly...

C'mon folks! Let's use more close-up mug shots. Otherwise we're all just talking to strangers.

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