Lake Michigan is the crown jewel of this fair city. Unfortunately, as swim advisories occasionally remind beachgoers, it’s also full of shit.
A whole lot of shit. It’s my shit. It’s your shit. It’s shit that floats up from Gary, Indiana, and it’s shit that floats down from Gary, a dude from Milwaukee who had a very large breakfast. And yes—Callooh! Callay!—in 1900 engineers made the river flush backward so now all our turds float to Saint Louis—unless there’s heavy rain. In that case, the city re-reverses the flow, diverting sewage into the lake and swiftly turning our freshwater fun into a feces fiasco.
Not sure how besewaged the lake is at any given moment? Fear not, the city of Chicago has solved its bacterial warning optics the same way the GOP has solved its actively hating America optics: with flags! Just check out a lifeguard stand and follow this little mnemonic:
If the flag is green, the water’s clean.
If the flag is yellow, you’re a fellow . . . who likes to gamble with his health.
If the flag is red, you’re gonna be dead!
The flag system is so easy to remember because it’s the same colors E. coli will turn your stool before all your organs fail!
To be fair, this year the city did expand its partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago to monitor 20 beaches with a new rapid test that analyzes levels of bacterial DNA in a water sample. This progress is great to see—or at least it will be, if the pink eye I got at Montrose Beach in August ever responds to antibiotics.
It’s worth mentioning that lake bacteria does have its upsides. After all, it wasn’t just that Arby’s meat slicer that took half of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s right middle finger. What really damned his digit was the infection he got after swimming in the lake before getting stitches. So while Rahm’s spent years fucking up a number of Chicago’s treasured institutions, the lake remains the only one that has irrevocably fucked up him. v