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« Local Director Brings Dreams to Chicago Anybody and Everybody: An Interview with Jason Hodge »

Bucket List Wed Nov 21 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Waiting in Line for a Hot Dog

Previous Entry: My Chicago Bucket List: Standing on My Head to Feel My Heart
Next Entry: Gambling and Hangovers

HotDougslogo_medium.jpgMy mom has this annoyingly cute habit. While she is watching "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" she likes to text me anytime the show features a Chicago restaurant. This means at least once a week I get a quasi-cryptic text that looks something like this: "Inas 4 Breakfast? good?" "Genes, I think in your neighborhood?" "Frosted Mug in South Chicago? Is that far?"

Usually as least once a month, the featured restaurant is a hot dog place. My mum loves a good Chicago-style hot dog. And yet every time she comes to visit we end up going to the same Greek restaurant just out of sheer lack of creativity.

But I decided this fall's Mama Fritz Chicago visit would be different. This visit we would be adventurous, we would go beyond flaming cheese and gyros and we would courageously endure the line at the infamous Hot Doug's.

To be honest the only thing I really knew about Hot Doug's was that the line was insanely long. But in Chicago a line is reason enough to be to wait in line, as cupcake food trucks prove. When my mom and I pulled up to Hot Doug's at 10:30am on an unfortunately blustery October day, the line was shockingly deep considering the joint just opened.

My mom's adventurous spirit quickly waned and she begged for us to turn around. But I knew this was something we had to do, for the sake of the bucket list, for the sake of Guy Fieri. My mom bravely hopped into line, squishing up to try to stand in the small patch of sun on the sidewalk.

And then it happened, that thing you dread happening in the Midwest when faced with a wretchedly long line. Someone butted -- which brought immediate humphs of displeasure by both my mom and I. But our Midwestern manners restrained us from actually vocalizing any displeasure other than through basic guttural noises.

But then someone else cut, and then someone else. Through the course of our hour and a half wait, eight total people butted their way in front of us. And that was only what we could visibly see. My mother and I were outraged (although still non-confrontational, as our Midwestern vows demand.)

For lack of a better word, my mom and I began to bitch about the current situation, about proper line etiquette, about how if they were going to butt in they could at least pass us back one of those Bud Lights they were drinking out of their purses. (Little known Wisconsin fact: you can cut in line if you rectify the offense with liquor.) Clearly these folks were not traditional Midwestern people and clearly my mother and I had issues with patience and fairness.

And this is where I have to say thank you to the Hot Doug's line. For an hour and a half my mother and I talked, like really talked, about our faults, our impatience and our desperate need for fairness. It was one of the first times I realized how similar my mom and I really are. Since the age of about 14 on, I have stubbornly denied any similarities between my mother and me. She is stoic; I'm a bundle of emotions. I'm a chatterbox extrovert; she is a reversed dinner-party-cleaning-up-in-the-background introvert. She is classic; I am modern. I'm a liberal and she is... well, let's not talk about that.

And yet in this crazy long line I realized this common bond we shared in life -- a need for fairness and an impatience to obtain it. My mom, the dedicated social worker and I, the overly empathetic nonprofit worker/writer, have always wanted fairness in our lives and in our communities. We have struggled, often stubbornly, for fairness, despite both of us knowing deep down "life isn't fair."

Life is a long line, but in the end, that venison hot dog and duck fat fries are totally worth it. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a hot dog more in life. And I hope this is how my mom feels, too. A few years ago she retired from social work after more decades that she will allow me to write. She is done waiting in line and now gets to enjoy the hot dogs of her labor.

As for me, I'm still in that line, getting annoyed with unfairness, bitching about life but knowing it is totally worth it. Duck fat fries are always worth it.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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