2004, April 29 · The streets of Chicago are a Jungle of Symbols

The streets of Chicago are a jungle of symbols and we all seem to have adapted to this kind of survival game. Many have rituals when they enter the forest of steel and concrete, and unlike the real jungle we don’t show our fear and we don’t look around as if the danger could be lurking behind every tree. Rule number one: never show your fear. Rule number two: when on the streets, you don’t care about other people. Rule number tree: don’t talk to strangers. Rule number four: if possible put on your poker face and most importantly, trust no one. We don’t need to say hello or smile when somebody is passing our way. We’d have a very hard time reaching our point of destination every time we’d leave our homes.

The rules mentioned previously may seem to generate a sceptical view on life in the city but that is how most people think, I might say that some don’t think at all. I sometimes feel the urge to tap somebody on the shoulder as they are walking in the flock and ask them: ‘Do you know where you are?’, ‘Do you know you’re alive?’ It seems as if they have their computerized vision locked on an eternal point and they don’t care about things happening around them. It makes me wonder if 1984 is happening right now.

I wanted to figure out how many people were actually talking on their cell phones on one block on Michigan Avenue. The result was unbelievable. What had all these people to talk about? The one thing that really pisses me off is when people are chatting about nothing on their cell phones, especially when you’re forced to hear the monologue, like on a bus or any other small space. Putting aside that thought I was thinking in what way cell phones are changing people in cities in general, how much it feeds the anonymity and the loneliness. Why would we begin to talk to a stranger about the weather, about life in general if we can talk to somebody we know with just one push on a button.

The more I walk on the streets, the more I look at people trying to get somewhere on time, the more I realize that the big cities are one of the few places were lonely people are so concentrated. You can walk through any street, at any time, and no matter how close the crowds are, you’re still alone. They all have their own lives, and go on about them without interrupting yours. It's a facet of individualism that makes the agenda of the guy next to you on the bus as distant as though he were on the moon. If only lonely people could discover a way to find each other.

One day we might wake up and we will have lost contact with the people in the world “out there”. I hope that day will never come; I want it to stay a bad dream.