Daley settles (not entirely) into life as a regular Chicagoan

In the Katten cafeteria, he lines up for lunch with the other lawyers — as mayor, he was always served — and buses his own table. He is said to be a meticulous busser. On his way out of the building, he obediently swipes his ID card past the reader, a rule others tend to ignore.

He has had to reconfigure his social life, too. "Are you dating?" friends constantly ask. Everyone he knows or meets, it seems, wants to fix him up.

But while Daley's life has changed — no more parades, no security detail, he hops into a cab alone, he cooks some, he has more time for movie nights with the grandkids — he hasn't had a personality transplant.

He's still Rich Daley, passionate about big ideas and Chicago's place in the world, strategically evasive, quick to laugh and to argue. "No" remains the preface to many of his responses.

Ask about his successor, Rahm Emanuel.

"I don't try to comment on Mayor Emanuel," he said. "I live in the city. Former mayor for 22 years. I respect the office. He's going to handle the job. Let him make decisions. For me to get into that, it's unfair to him. You know, I know him well. I don't want to get into the issues."

Is it difficult to hear the personal criticism implicit in Emanuel's public remarks about the messy state of the city he inherited?

"No. No. I don't want to get into that. It does not affect me at all. I'm pretty disciplined about it."

Ask about his legacy.

"I don't get into this, this idea that you have to think about your legacy."

But let's say you do have to think about your legacy.

"But I'm not!"

Then let's not call it a legacy. What would you like people to remember about your time as mayor?

"I was a public servant. I enjoy public service. I was not a political servant."

Daley started the interview sitting primly at his uncluttered marble desk, hands clasped in the style of generations of Catholic schoolchildren who learned that clasped hands keep the devil at bay.

But within a few minutes, he was leaning into the desk, peeling the paper off his Evian bottle and clacking the bottle top on the marble while he talked.

Schools, he said. He'd like people to remember the ones built and remodeled while he was mayor. Police stations, fire stations, block clubs. Libraries.

"Some people say libraries are old-fashioned, they're lost in a new society. No. It's all learning in a new environment."

Meigs Field?

He needed no prompting beyond those two words, no long question about the infamous midnight raid that, on his orders, closed the lakefront airfield.