With the advent of IBM BPM 7.5 I was invited to US for internal training in mid of June. So far Chicago was a connection point travelling to other places, this time I had one week to hang around. Most impressive part was that I could not easily predict short term weather conditions – one cannot see much of the sky covered by skyscrapers.Another immediate consequence of blocked sky was problem with maps to navigate through the city; GPS had hard time to get satellite fix since in most convenient place (crossroads) it sees only up to three satellites at the same time ;]
Comparing European and American cities is like apples and oranges. Despite pros and cons on both sides, I noticed that regular grid structure of blocks is quite useful. Obviously the navigation is easier: you instantly know where the given place is if I tell you X-Y coordinates specifying number of blocks from zero point in the middle of downtown (OK, it does not apply to Chicago, they use old-fashion street names). Regarding automobile traffic, if you consider complex road structures in Europe, especially in cities (narrow streets, different angles of roads in intersections, complex lane changes) you can easily spot that the only hard part in grid-like streets structure is left turn on two-ways road. They even make it easier because most streets in downtown are one-way. That is why you get driving license if you virtually can start and stop a car. Add automatic gearbox to it and most incapable people are eager to drive (do not feel offended, I like automatic DSG gearbox in my car, too). Since both site lanes are designed for parking, shortly in rush hours to let passengers get out, you do not block the traffic on the way to office from suburbs to downtown and the way back.
Another interesting aspect is street lights tuning; average person can use zebras one by one going ahead uninterrupted by the red light. I would say it is “green wave” for pedestrians but actually they use white light as “go” marker.
Municipal services on top of road infrastructure is another point in checklist Chicagoans can be proud of. I have seen an accident, when turning taxi cab hit the cyclist on zebra. Even though nothing really happened, both just pulled over and in roughly 2 minutes big red firefighter’s truck appeared, minute later another smaller one popped up along with police. Just for a contrast, when I my car was hit by irresponsible driver that did not yeld, I called emergency center only to be told I need wait 3 hours for police to come, due to massive traffic jams and lot of collisions that day.
Local coffee sucks. OK, it is average, agreed. I expected however that Starbucks, famous all over the world, will offer something more in strict downtown. Caramel Macchiato was the last-ditch after I felt disappointed by Cappucino. I guess I am too addicted to generally stronger esspresso and thicker milk served in local coffee shops. Pepsi Cola substitute did not work well either: it is much sweeter that in Europe and here comes funny part – I compared nutrition tables of Pepsi from US and Europe. In US cola has 28g sugars per 8 fl.oz. (which is 29,6g in 250ml) comparing to 27g per 250ml in Europe. Meanwhile former is marked 100kcal (106kcal per 250ml) while the latter is 118kcal. We have less sugar (by measure and taste) but more calories, wow… who is lying?
Tired of walking and drinking far too sweet coolers, I managed to ommit dozens of McDonalds and go for a steak. Morton’s Steak House made me dizzy with choice of different meat types and cuts (named differently of course). I got almost smallest 16-ouncer (almost half kilogram) tasty medium-rare steak I was really delighted. Taste and atmosphere of the place was worth of $80 but the other evenings we have chosen different places with smaller portions and lower prices.
What would be a high spot for first timer in Chicago? Sears (Willis) Tower of course, highest building in US, 3rd in the world. Watching the from 103 floor is impressive. It is even thrilling when you are staying in full-glass cage extending from the building, and watching through the glass floor streets 443 meters below. While some people were resistant to step in, being affraid of quality of glass floor, I intensively tested it jumping inside the cage :]
Leaving Chicago I was surprised I did not meet any Polish man. Biggest minority of Chicago is over 1.1 million of immigrants from Poland and I could not hear anyone (except for airplane full of Poles). It only confirms sad true that most of immigrants there keep busy with simple physical jobs due to education or illegal stay. Mr Obama, maybe it’s time to revise visa policy?