Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Downside of City Living

I know that I gush about how great it is to live in an exciting city like Chicago. But I decided that, to be fair, I should also enumerate the negative aspects of urban living. Most days I revel in everything the city has to offer, and in many ways it’s more palatable because we are retired and can navigate the environment on our own flexible schedule. We avoid public transportation during rush hours, we shop and run errands on weekdays instead of weekends, and have the luxury of staying home when the weather is bad. So I still love living here, but the following is a reality checklist for anyone who may romanticize the idea of living in a big city:

HIGH COST: Everything costs more in the city. Property taxes are high, parking is outrageous, and insurance is higher (auto, home, and health), and groceries are expensive. The city of Chicago has the highest sales tax in the country right now – 10.25%. For major purchases, we sometimes venture outside the city and county. With condominium living you have a monthly assessment, and not infrequent special assessments (new roof, new water heater, drainage work, etc.). The higher cost often seems worth it, but it will also be a reason we don’t settle here for the long term.

CRITTERS: Rats. They aren’t unique to cities, but they are a fact of life. We have to be very careful about garbage storage by making sure everything disposed of is well wrapped and can lids are completely closed. In a year and a half here, I have only seen one rat behind our building – but I don’t look too hard. Our building has Orkin come every month. When downtown after dark, you’ll occasionally see something furtive, dark, and furry scuttle into or out of a sewer. Gross.

MASSES OF HUMANITY: You can’t always escape being shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of other people. We avoid the lakefront on the weekends, because there are thousands of people clogging the bike and walking paths and green areas. Sure, there’s room for everyone – but it’s just not as enjoyable with so many people around. We make plans to enjoy most public places when the majority of people are working. It works for us.

THE THREAT OF CRIME: It’s a city – there’s crime. It’s just something of which you need to be aware. We have a security system in our condo, and always arm it when we are away and when we go to bed at night. I don’t go walking by myself after dark. I often don’t carry a purse. My good jewelry is put away and secured, and not usually worn if I am walking or taking public transportation. I’m not afraid, but I am careful. And I check the crime report for our neighborhood every week.

Those are the biggies. For me, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

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