Wilder in Real Life: The Residential Tourist

by Lauren Wilder

I think I’ve done pretty well for myself for being here a month. I’m still a newbie in town but I’ve been fortunate enough to land a job; it’s part time and in retail, but at least its downtown. Also, I’ve attained a library card and mail at my family’s house; I’m so on my way to being a Chicagoan, but I haven’t left the South behind.

My fellow Southerners have always thought of me as an urban transplant. For one, I don’t have a distinct accent, but it appears miraculously when home is the topic of discussion. Now that I have come to the city, I seem to fit right in … sort of. I must admit that I’ve gone out of my way to blend in.

I have exchanged my courtesy greetings to strangers for the blank and determined look to make the 4:45 train home. I pull it off pretty well. But you can take the girl out of the South but not the South out of the girl. No matter how crazy I look (to the typical Northerner) I have to smile and say hello if my eyes meet with a stranger. I do it everyday and sometimes I get a stone face, a faint smile, and maybe every other day a smile. I have yet to receive a ‘hello, how are you doing?’

On my first day as a residential tourist, I missed my bus stop for my job interview. I didn’t miss it by a couple of blocks, but the expressway at 45 mph for about 10 min. No worries, I walked across the street and took a bus back the way I came. Nice save.

As a tired and real Chicago commuter taking the Metra home after working all day, I tried to catch up with a friend of a friend (it didn’t work out) after work. I hop the last train for the night. It was really sketchy because it was 12:30 a.m. (I missed the earlier train so I had to wait). Alright so I make it on the train and bike riders get on. The doors to the train only open for a few seconds (it’s late and who knows who’ll hop on). I get to my stop and the bike riders are in the way. Why didn’t I walk around?

Well, one of them was wheeling their bike at an unacceptable pace. I get to the door and it slams in my face. I push buttons hoping the door would open because I needed a key. The other bike rider, a guy, suggests that I pull the doors. At that moment I’m thinking ‘he should be the one pulling the door, not me.’ I look back at him and all he could mutter was ‘Sorry.’ So now I have a vendetta against bike riders on the Metra. Ride your bike home, thanks.

So what really makes me a tourist? On my way to the bus stop and after work I constantly stare up at the buildings. I don’t know the names of over half the ones I walk by, but I’m just as in awe as the middle aged woman with the fanny pack.

As a resident, I still don’t know where the local hot spots are, but that doesn’t matter when you’re new in the city. What matters is that you’re enjoying something brand new to you and no one else. Also, you get to find things you’re truly interested in.

What’s a tourist? A person who is visiting a place they do not live and participate in events to explore their surroundings. And a residential tourist is someone who lives in the city and is going to enjoy everything it has to offer.

Lauren Wilder is a native North Carolinian and recent college graduate making her way through the big city for the first time and sharing her experiences with P3 readers.

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