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When it Comes to the Contentment Quotient, New Orleans Is Doing Better Than Chicago

By       Message Martha Rosenberg     Permalink
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(Article changed on April 5, 2014 at 17:08)

(Article changed on April 5, 2014 at 17:03)

(Article changed on April 5, 2014 at 14:52)

New Orleans

As a Yankee I fell in love with the City that Care Forgot (aka the Crescent City, the Big Easy and the Birthplace of Jazz) in my twenties and, like many a Yankee before me, moved there. (It was also called the Land of the Lotus Eaters because we forgot where we came from.) Like many a Yankee before me, I learned that a bald egg is a boiled egg oysters are ersters, oil is erl and the plural of yall is yall's (not your). Who knew?

With apologies to F. Scott Fitzgerald, New Orleanians are different from you and me if you and me are Yankees. Difference Number One is--they socialize! They sally forth. They mingle. In New Orleans, unlike in Chicago, when you talk to your neighbor on the street, on the streetcar or in the park-- they talk back! In Chicago your neighbor will first scrunch up his face, then move his seat or chair and then actually call security because you are obviously panhandling or mentally ill. Welcome to Chicago.

Open windows allowed by

Contrast that with New Orleanians who actually say "hi Yall" when they get on the bus and the other New Orleanians actually hear them because they don't have ear buds stuck in their ears!   Hello! This week on the St. Charles trolley and the Magazine, Franklin and Elysian Fields buses I saw one, maybe two iPhone addicts. This includes college kids, people on their way to work, tourists and all age and ethnic groups. It would be a little unseemly if not outright rude to ignore your neighbor in favor of--a phone.

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And speaking of the St. Charles trolley, it serves as a metaphor for how New Orleanians are different from you and me. The seats are as old and comfortable as a church's pews--and made out of the same, unforgiving ancient wood. There is no air conditioning or heat. "Lighting" is courtesy of bald light bulbs which are screwed in. The trolley goes so slowly that bicyclists and joggers outrun it. Probably fast walkers, too.

This month they are repairing some of the trolley tracks and we riders are expunged at Louisiana street where we get on a bus. There is no announcement from the operator or in fact a PA system if he wanted to announce something. You just follow your neighbor who you have been talking to anyway and get on the bus. Then you follow your neighbor off the bus and back on to the trolley. The changes in public conveyance do not even stop our conversation. Unlike Chicago, no one is angry or indignant.

Almost twenty years ago, the city of Chicago phased out open windows on its commuter trains. Certainly open windows, when heads and arms protrude, can cause accidents. But another reason for no more opening windows on Chicago's trains is that low-level criminals would reach in and pull off people's gold chains as the trains were pulling away.

The St. Charles trolley is nothing but open windows. The windows open so wide, you could grab some of the Carnival trinkets still hanging from the wires, live oaks and magnolia trees we are passing. And lest anyone fail to realize that this is a city that is not litigation orientated, the trolley tracks are full of runners and dog walkers and sundry groups of adults and children out getting their air. There are no "get off the ^%$#@ tracks" snarls from the operator. There are no "Keep Off The Tracks" or "Joggers Run At Their Own Risk" signs. Nor are there ads on the local news asking if you have been "injured while running along the St. Charles trolley."

Here's something else that would never happen in Chicago. This week I was walking down a country road in the hot sun with no shade or water close by, returning from a bird watching trip. It was a several mile trip. A car stops. The driver says "Get in"--and I do. Imagine a motorist in Chicago stopping for a pedestrian who was walking in the hot sun for no other reason than the motorist had a car and the pedestrian didn't. And imagine the pedestrian getting in! Another example of how New Orleanians are different from you and me.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)

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