by Shelley Stephenson
Robinson, Illinois, is a small and friendly town, about four hours directly south of Chicago. When many people here think of Chicago, they think of a cold, unfriendly city where everyone is a stranger in a hurry, and no one has time for anyone else. That’s how I used to feel. You have to realize, though, that the population of Robinson is about 7,000. It seems as though everyone knows everyone else (and their business!), and if you don’t know someone, your parents do.
When the business club at Lincoln Trail College, the local community college where I am a student, decided to take a trip to Chicago, I was excited — but also a little apprehensive. The plan was to take an Amtrak train and then rely on city buses for transportation. In Robinson, we’ve only had taxi service for a few years, so thinking about riding on a crowded bus with Chicago strangers was a little scary. I guess anything unknown can be.
There were 13 of us: 11 students and two teachers. We got into Chicago at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, April 26, 2002. The first thing we had to do was figure out what bus would get us from Union Station to our hotel. As we left the Union Station and approached a bus stop, we read the list of stops aloud. Someone asked us where we were headed. We answered, and one gentleman kindly told us what bus to take and where to get off the bus, as it didn’t go directly to the hotel.
Once we were on the bus, one of the teachers asked the driver if he would tell us when to get off so we would have the shortest walk to the hotel, and he said he would. When we got off the bus, we again had to ask directions, and again, someone pointed us in the right direction.
We were in Chicago from early Friday morning until the middle of Saturday afternoon, and we took several buses to different places, and we walked to several places, including the Federal Reserve Bank and the Chicago Board of Trade. Each time, someone helped us by telling us when it was time for us to get off the bus, or how many more blocks it was to get where we were going. We were all impressed by how helpful and friendly people were.
I will never again think of Chicagoans as cold, rushed, and unfriendly. If someone had told me before our trip that I would be walking down the “Magnificent Mile” at 11:30 p.m. with three other people and not feel afraid, I would have said they were absolutely nuts. But that is exactly what I did! It was a wonderful feeling.
Even though I feared the worst, the people of Chicago showed us their best. It’s definitely my kind of town.