A Scandal in Suburbia

[Note: This article contains no scandal. I was just trying to be what is known as clever.]

It is one of my deepest fears that someday, life situations will force me to live in the suburbs. While I grew up quite nicely in a suburb with a family that seems to enjoy staying in the suburbs, I fled to the city at 17 and have never looked back.

Which makes it sort of strange that my Sunday adventure took me to the suburbs. To one of the most suburban of all suburbs, Naperville, Illinois, extremely wealthy and clean and nice and… ugh, I’m feeling a little crawly thinking about it.

It was meant to be hilarious. Naperville’s Final Fling, a town festival celebrating the end of summer and with it happiness, takes place each year on Labor Day weekend. They’ve got the standard carnival rides and games–although the rides seemed suspiciously well-constructed and the games run by oddly well-behaved barkers who didn’t so much bark as suggest, thoughtfully, that you might like to try to fish a frog with a magnet. They had the typical fair food but also frozen yogurt and crab cakes. But the highlights were supposed to be 1) eating contests of all kinds and 2) mainstream alternative rock darlings of our youth the Goo Goo Dolls.

However. We woke up too late (thanks, VFW karaoke) to make it to Naperville to witness the gluttony of the eating contests, and there wasn’t actually enough to do to keep us busy until the Goo Goo Dolls played, so none of that hilarity was had. We wound up reenacting Before Sunrise (I’m going with Before Sunrise vs. Before Sunset due to the lack of bitterness in the conversation), but in the mid-afternoon, and in Naperville, and without the angst of impending semipermanent separation. So, a little less cinematic. Basically we just walked around and talked in a way that’s not interesting to report back about.

That said, I do have a few lessons from my trip to suburbia to impart.

1) Don’t jaywalk. They seem pretty serious about their right-of-ways out there, and when you travel, it’s wise to do as the locals do. There were even cops out to help people cross a few of the busier streets. Without thinking, I almost stepped out into traffic a couple times. It’s a whole different system of walking, but you have to respect it or you’re going to get smooshed.

2) Watch your language. There are kids everywhere out there, and they’re listening, and more importantly, their conservative parents are hovering nearby listening. I feel like we had some conversations that I felt bad about having near kids in retrospect. When traveling, try to blend in and be respectful of the local culture.

3) OK, some of it is nice. It pains me to say this. But Naperville is actually a very clean city with a thriving downtown with lots of shops and restaurants, both chain and local. The people were very polite, giving us directions and just easily making conversation the way you do if you don’t immediately steer away from strangers with a wary look in your eye. And their Riverwalk is very pretty.