Gwynne Monahan


4 Months In

Seems like a rite of passage to write about living in the Bay Area after three months has passed. Everyone has an opinion, and it strikes me that everyone addresses the same pain points but little is done. I don’t know enough about the local politics or the history of San Fran (yet). Then again, I’m from Chicago, which got burned to the ground and rebuilt in a sensible, logistical manner, so my viewpoint is skewed.

Let’s get to it then.

The Weather

Hands down, the most obvious distinction between the Bay Area and Chicago, especially this time of year. I have yet to turn the heat on in my apartment, and often sleep with the windows open and the ceiling fan on. It took me a few trips in and out of my apartment to realize I’m outside until I enter my apartment.

The morning may start out overcast, but by the time I disembark from the shuttle to walk home, it’s clear skies. Walking from the Palo Alto stop to Stanford, I can even see stars! Orion’s Belt has been most prominent. How anyone can study out here eludes me, and I can only guess professors feel like they have to compete with the weather so their classes have to be engaging and incredibly interesting.

Temperature in the 40s or 50s every day. Even the rain is warm. How anyone can study out here eludes me, and I can only guess professors feel like they have to compete with the weather so their classes have to be engaging and incredibly interesting

On the weather front, I have no complaints.

Sticker Shock

The other obvious difference between Chicago and the Bay Area. Granted I did my research, and felt prepared for the striking difference in cost. Still, it’s eye opening.

Most point to housing, and that is definitely understandable. I spent two years living and working in Vancouver, and rental prices aren’t as ridiculous. It’s useful that I prefer not to live in the city proper, regardless of city. I didn’t live in downtown Vancouver, I didn’t live in the Loop or in downtown Chicago, and I don’t live in San Francisco proper. Where that was a big money saver in Vancouver and Chicago, its a time saver in the Bay Area.

Speaking Of Time…

Strangers and homeless people in San Francisco have told me I walk too fast for the West Coast, and with too much purpose. I need to “chill man. You’ll get there when you get there man.”

The concept of time is contradictory out here. The tech sector dominates so there’s this need for speed and efficiency, before someone else beats you to the product or to the market. Yet getting around the Bay Area takes an inordinate amount of time. Traffic is horrendous, and while I’m glad I don’t have a car, transit doesn’t necessarily make getting around easier. Either way, it cannot be rushed. You do, literally, “get there when you get there man.”

This is proving to be a difficult aspect for me. I am one who arrives early, and absolutely hates being late. I will arrive at the airport 2 hours early, and roam the terminal until it’s time to board. So this “get there when you get there man” mentality is a challenge.

Spoiled By The CTA

There are many things one can complain or criticize about the Chicago Transit Authority, but not about its reach, nor its reliability, even in bad weather. In fact, it is amazing the CTA can operate at all in blizzards.

I did not fully appreciate the CTA until I moved out here. Transit in the Bay Area can’t compete, nor compare.

I am completely spoiled by the CTA, and am learning my “normal” expectations are impossible. No transit system in the Bay Area can “over deliver” so I’m left with accepting its mediocrity, using it to get to a hub, and then walking to my destination.

From this I have learned that a 4 hour roundtrip commute for one hour of playtime (in this case it was basketball) is not worth it. Lesson learned.

Final Thoughts

There is much to love and enjoy about the Bay Area, and much to dislike, find annoying, or just throw up your hands in frustration or disgust. Then again, every city is like that. Vancouver turned out to be too small for me, Chicago has its politics, absurd tax structure (cloud tax anyone?), and whacky weather.

Vancouver had mountains, though, and mild winters. It’s chill, people not in a hurry, and a very active city (Ultimate Frisbee in the the rain in February is an experience). It’s also a friendly city. I was the only one on my floor in my apartment building that locked my door.

Chicago is home, with great museums, entertainment, easy access to so much and a wonderful river walk and lake front with a fantastic skyline. Also friendly, though it can be easy to see it otherwise if you only read news headlines. Recreational sports are organized and easily accessible via transit.

The Bay Area, well, it has good things too. Though it’s surprising recreational sports aren’t more organized, there are options, and pickup games. The weather is amazing. The people are also friendly, many of them transplants themselves and remembering what it was like their first few months.

Not ready to write it off yet. Things fell into place for this, so I’m curious to see how the year unfolds.

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