Chicago has been cold, gray and unwelcoming for the better part of three days now. I took advantage of a break in the constant rain this morning to go for a short walk. It is one of those days where the temperature is highly dependent on the wind. With no wind my light jacket was fine, but then one of those brutal Chicago gusts would howl down the street. I almost lost my hat on multiple occasions. I definitely let some expletives fly behind my Cubs mask.
I was heading home with a well earned cup of coffee when I saw them: A group of five people in their mid-20s clearly all walking together with no masks.
I wasn’t even upset about it, I was bewildered. This is the first group of young adults I’ve seen together in weeks. The only groups I’ve seen of more than two or three people have clearly been families. Rarely, I’ve seen a couple out on a walk run into another couple they clearly know — but they’d stay far apart from each other — obviously social distancing because they don’t live in the same house and you can’t even be sure your friends aren’t carrying the novel coronavirus right now.
The questions kept running through my mind. There is no way this is a family, this is clearly a group of friends. Five seems like an awful lot of people to live together in this neighborhood, but maybe they have a house they all share. Maybe they are the 2020 equivalent of “Friends,” but living in Chicago.
It wasn’t until they started crossing the street towards me that I got upset and, I’ll be honest, a bit panicked. After all, I have no idea what brought all five of these twenty-somethings out at the same time, but I wanted no part of their crowd on my little area of the sidewalk. I started looking for alternate routes to avoid them.
Once the panic subsided a bit I started to reflect on how quickly a small group of young people in Wrigleyville became strange. After all, this is one of the busiest neighborhoods in Chicago during the spring and summer. There is almost always something to do, or somewhere to go, and lots of people wanting to do the same thing. It’s almost May, there should be small groups of young people laughing on their way to Wrigley Field, barhopping down Clark Street, or heading to the lake.
It is truly Kafkaesque that it took fewer than 50 days for a small crowd of young people in Wrigleyville to be an oddity.