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Lyons: No app? This cab is ‘Not for You’

Suburban guys over 40 don’t need to be reminded that we’re not hip. We stopped caring some time between the second Monkey Joe’s birthday party and buying our first gas-powered weed trimmer.

But we’re a little insecure about our urban survival skills compared with our carefree days of cruising through Wicker Park, Lincoln Park and Lakeview with ease. Sorry, Logan Square. This was 20 years ago; you weren’t even ironically hip.

There’s always the “El,” but one great thing about Chicago is cab availability. Chicago, like New York, is a cab town. When stumbling through other major cities, Rome and Phoenix come to mind, you appreciate cab towns.

Last weekend, I learned that something changed. If you’re under 30 and spend much time in the city, turn the page or keep reading and laugh at the old dude. But if you’re squinting to read the print or can’t name five new bars on Clark Street, this information could save your life – or at least a good pair of shoes.

Need a cab or black car? There’s an app for that. And at some point, you’ll need it.

We met friends Friday night in the Hard Rock Hotel bar for a pre-concert cocktail before Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field. Busy night in the city – Pitchfork Festival for hipsters and Phish for hippies.

As a gaggle outside waited for cabs, a friend summoned from his phone a car large enough to get six of us to Wrigley. He used an app called Uber, which will pinpoint your location via GPS and find you a nearby car that you can simply order via touchscreen.

While a crowd watched a frantic hotel employee hail cabs with a whistle and debatable success, a Lincoln Navigator swooped up to whisk us to the ballpark.

Fast-forward six hours after a storm interrupts the show, but Eddie Vedder – determined to keep his childhood dream of playing center field at Wrigley “Alive” – played until 2 a.m.

During a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Mother,” a thought hit me like a Stone Gossard riff: How are 40,000 people dumped out of Wrigley Field at 2 a.m. going to get anywhere?

Wrigley usually has a strict concert curfew of 11 p.m. Under that scenario, half of the crowd would have filtered into neighborhood bars for the privilege of drinking $8 cans of beer. But those spots went dark by 2 a.m.

So, you could queue up with 10,000 of your closest friends at the Addison Red Line stop or wander the neighborhood hoping for a cab. After two hours of quality rain delay time with thousands of other fans, we opted for plan B.

And wander we did. Through Wrigleyville, Boystown. Next stop, Lincoln Park. Hundreds of zombielike, involuntary walkers trudged along Broadway, trying to hail cabs that sometimes sped by empty. CTA buses were stuffed like Polish sausages.

Where were these deranged cabbies going? Zooming to mobile-ordered spots from customers whose fares were prepaid with a built-in tip via apps such as Uber or Hailo.

If you’re a cabbie, what do you do: Roll the dice on the drunken Ohio tourists stumbling along Southport or go get the prepaid, pre-tipped fare?

Our friend with the Uber app had a dead battery. The rest of us had a little juice left but no app. Suddenly we were among the weaker members of the herd, certain to be picked off by a cheetah or at least a mercenary knock-off T-shirt vendor.

Eventually, we actually stopped a limo in traffic and bartered a rate. Let’s just say acts of piracy were considered by each party.

The moral of the story is that when odd circumstances force you into searching for a cab in Chicago at off hours during a peak weekend, you’ll need one of these apps or expect to be left in some cab driver’s “Rearview Mirror.”

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH.

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