In the suburbs, we do a little something I call “maximizing our advantage.”
That means even though we’ve pretty much got it made already—nice houses, generally; good jobs, often; and our kids pampered at top schools, frequently—we still can’t help going that one extra step into the ridiculous, the whole pump-Mozart-into-the-womb, sit-waiting-in-the-SUV-in-the-fire-lane-instead-of-parking, gild the lily and scrape out the last drop of privilege we are convinced is our due route that leaves some—or at least me — wishing we’d leave well enough alone.
Sunday, just after noon, the robocalls and texts flooded in from Northbrook District 225, lighting up six, maybe eight cellphones and computers associated with our household, telling us in close harmony that school was canceled. After I got over my mild surprise that my two brainiacs were grinning widely and practically vibrating with glee (really, it was like seeing Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein pump their fists in the air and start woofing because the particle accelerator was down), I was immediately troubled that Chicago schools hadn’t done the same. They seemed intent on marching their kids like doomed polar explorers heading into the frozen wasteland of Monday.
Why? What did the suburban school districts know at midday that took the city until evening to figure out? Wasn’t the weather the same both places? Were the lives of city children not quite as valuable as our own babes? And in the northwest suburbs, going to school on a dangerously cold day means something very different than in the city. School on a subzero day in Northbrook means a line of Honda Odyssey vans delivering their precious cargo, Gortexed and Thinsulated and decked out in hand-knit wool Peruvian hats for the 10-yard stumble from the curb to the door. In Chicago, geez, who knew how many of the 400,000 kids, who risk being murdered on a warm day, would go astray in the 15-below-zero trek to school? Frankly, I suspected some federal finance was at the back of the CPS mind—losing one school day cuts X percent of money from Uncle Sam. Can't have that. Then Karen Lewis and the teachers union called for school to be canceled, and while I doubted their intentions, too—teachers demanding a day off, now that's unexpected—I gave them credit for being right. A few hours, then CPS finally lurched into motion and canceled class. Well glory be to God. Still, it's scary how long it took.
Yes, it's more complicated than that. You could argue that, for a lot of kids in the city, it's safer to be at school than at home, warmer with more food and less chance to get into trouble. On the other hand ...
OK, let it drop. Bad enough to be cold without being frenzied, too. Reading coverage of Rahm Emanuel's fresh-from-Indonesia, I'm-in-command Monday tour in both papers made me think everyone had gone a little cabin crazy. In the Tribune, he was tanned. "Nice tan, Mr. Mayor!" opined one of their columnists. The editorial in the Sun-Times noted, "He didn't even look especially tanned." Which is it? To me, Emanuel always looks tanned. His father was an Israeli, remember, and he has the olive-complexioned Sephardic Jew thing going on.
Besides, complaining about his vacations is silly. It's begging him to deceive us. He's a rich guy. You think New Yorkers were twitting Michael Bloomberg for having his own jet? Rahm goes on the nicest vacations he can, just like you do. His only mistake is not being upfront, not saying, "Hell, I'm off to Indo-freakin'-nesia!" Sure, the Bungalow Belt, with its envy-based view of the world, is going to hate him. Bulletin: They'll hate him anyway. Had Rahm taken his family to Noah's Ark water park in the Dells for Christmas, he'd be slammed for that, too.
There are two bedrock truths about the mayor that cut through this silliness: A) he's doing the right stuff to fix Chicago's horrendous problems, basically, and B) nobody's going to run against him in 2015 anyway.
Pensions, crime, schools. People complain about how his solutions affect them, specifically - sure, unions don't like losing pension perks; I hated losing mine, too—but you can't say he isn't making the right decisions.
Given the lack of an opponent in 2015—the most significant figure contemplating a run some 13 months from the election is Ald. Bob Fioretti, a nice enough guy, but more buzz-saw fodder than buzz saw—Rahm could have stayed in Indonesia Monday, Instagramming back photos of himself on a beach, flipping his famously truncated right middle finger at the camera and telling the suckers stuck at home to stay warm, and it wouldn't really affect anything.