Are you a Chicagoan? Not so fast

These rites of passage mark the way to full citizenship

Moving to Chicago does not make you a Chicagoan no matter what your driver's license says. There are rites of passage that must be endured before you can claim full credentials in the Chicago club.

This came to mind last week when a friend posted a photo of her car on Facebook. Her passenger window had been smashed and glass shards speckled the black bucket seats.

"Almost 7 years living in the city and it hadn't happened yet," she wrote under the photo, "so I'm considering this a delayed rite of passage."

Her post raised the question: What other rites of passage must a newcomer go through before attaining full Chicago citizenship?

Here's my short list.

1. You buy the wrong winter coat until you buy the right winter coat.

If you've come to Chicago from a warmer place, you'll buy a winter coat when the weather gets nippy. You'll discover it's a jacket. When the weather gets even nippier, you'll buy a real winter coat. You'll learn it's a fall coat.

It may take you a decade to get a coat that keeps you as warm as you deserve to be, and that coat will be down. In other words, it will be ugly, no matter how hard it tries not to be.

You become eligible for the Chicago club only when you give into the truth that in winter you can't be both warm and cute and you'd rather be warm.

2. You buy the wrong winter boots.

See "wrong coat" above. The right winter boots never involve high heels.

3. You get your first street-sweeping ticket.

You didn't see the sign warning you that your car had to be off the street by 9 a.m. Or you slept past 9. Or you scurried out to move your car at 8:59 only to discover the cop's clock says 9:01. Your first street-sweeping ticket will not be the last.

4. You learn how to pronounce Goethe, as in Goethe Street.

It is not the way the Germans say it.

5. You pick a baseball team.

You may never have cared about baseball. You will learn to care, or at least to fake it. You will choose the Sox or the Cubs. You will never say "Both" when asked which team you like. You will learn to live with the pride, thrill, insults and self-loathing involved with either choice. You will stop mentioning the team in the place you came from because nobody cares.

6. You learn the legend of the '85 Chicago Bears.

And you stop saying "Who?" when someone says, "Ditka."

7. Your car is towed.