Once during a cold February in Chicago, I was peeping out of my hood to find a path through the snow – wondering why those women were wearing bikinis on a day like this. Everyone around me on the sidewalk was wrapped head to toe, hunched against the biting wind, and transfixed by the beach tableau rolling down Clark Street. On the back of a truck was a glassed-in room filled with sand, a volleyball net, and two beach babes. Our heads swiveled, following the glowing, reverse snow globe down the block, and then it was gone.
This time of year, Chicagoans are teased by travel ads for warmer places. The entrance to the L station is wrapped in pictures of a sunny waterfront, the interior of train cars promote green getaways in Texas. Even Montana boasts more beauty than the frozen streetscape. I’m sure many Chicagoans opt to get away to Disney World or a tropical island, but we earn our badge of honor by managing through the winter. I was once told, there’s no bad weather in Chicago, only poor clothing choices. And it’s true. Have a good coat and boots. Wear a hat. Protect your ears and fingers. But a critical part of surviving being outdoors in the winter is to plan your path to minimize the number of minutes outside. And if you have to stop for a traffic light, step back into the nearest building’s shelter to avoid the wind.
I commute into the Loop for work and have recently been introduced to the underground Pedway – a maze of walkways and shops under the street that connects a surprising number of buildings. It is possible for me to go between the train and my office building and never be outside. On cold mornings and wet afternoons, the Pedway is a welcome option – bright and bustling with the smell of fresh coffee. But some days I’ll stay above ground to see the sun coming up over the lake, or the new window displays at Macy’s. Proudly bracing against the cold, waiting for the green light, I know winter will pass. On a bus somewhere in 110 degree Arizona, there’s a picture of Lake Michigan – promising 75 and breezy – luring visitors to our beautiful July weather.