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Chicago IML 2011—Day 1

~Friday~ When I turned on my phone by my nightstand while still in bed and the voice mail indicator sounded, I knew it wasn't good news.

As calls in the middle of the night go, that was the case, although in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't anything catastrophic like a death in the family, but notification that my direct flight to Chicago leaving Raleigh-Durham International (RDU) at 9:10 had been canceled. You know trying to book another flight on the Friday of a holiday weekend was not going to be pretty. And it wasn't.

Thirty minutes later, I got off the phone with American Airlines having first been re-booked on a 2:20 flight out of RDU arriving in NYC around 4:00 and then departing at 5:15 to arrive in Chicago at 7:15. By the time we'd hung up, though, I was on a 5:50 RDU direct flight to Chicago, arriving there at 7:05.

The bad news was that I essentially wasted a day of vacation and I pretty much lost a day in Chicago, since I would have originally been there at 10:20 and had the whole day there. The good news was (I tried to desperately to find some) was that I was upgraded to First Class on the new flight.

I actually logged into work and took care of a few things in my inbox in the morning.

Late in the afternoon, a horrendous storm moved through Raleigh, and this email news alert arrived in my inbox: "BREAKING NEWS: NO FLIGHTS WERE TAKING OFF OR LANDING AT RALEIGH-DURHAM INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AS A BAND OF HEAVY RAIN BROUGHT FLOODING CONDITIONS TO THE AREA."

My friend Jen took me to the airport (Thanks again, kiddo!) and when I stepped inside there were 75-100 people in the check-in line. Sighing, I walked toward the end of it, and then I remembered that I was in First Class for this trip, and there was only one couple in the First Class line. They got called up as soon as I got behind them, and a minute later, I was helped.

As the ticket agent handed me my boarding pass, she said, "The Chicago flight is on time? That's the first one I've seen in all this mess that's still on time." Although she was trying to be nice, I think, I didn't find that comment particularly comforting.

After I got through security and got my phone back out of my laptop bag, I had an alert email from American Airlines saying that my 5:50 departure time was now 6:30.

I took a seat at the gate, and after a couple of minutes noticed the girl sitting next to me, whom I'm pretty sure was someone I worked with at IBM, oh probably, 25 or so years ago. After several more minutes her name came to me, which was Chris. I worked with her back in the days of NCP Development in the mid-to-late 80s. I didn't say hello to her, as she didn't seem to notice me, and I'm not sure she would even recognize or remember me if she did.

I had two more delay emails while I sat at the gate—one changing the departure time from 5:30 to 5:40, and then another—laughable—one that changed it from 6:40 to 6:41.



Aboard the flight I listened to the "This Week" podcast episode of This American Life. It wasn't this week's episode, but the name of the episode was actually "This Week," in which instead of having a theme and bringing you three stories around that theme like they usually do, was put together as described here:

This week we're trying something we've never tried before: An hour of stories about...this week. We take a crack at major news events, like what's happening in Egypt; and at the most minor, like an 8-year-old who's finally taking the training wheels off her bike. The stories are united by one thing: They all happened in the seven days prior to broadcast.

I've traveled many, many, many times in my life, and so it's not like I haven't seen clouds from a plane window before. But today's were exceptionally visually interesting to me, perhaps because there was no break in them for as far as you could see and for many, many miles. I started to imagine that it was the surface of another planet that we were scoping out.

I've Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now
Clouds out of the plane window


As I posted in a Facebook status update, "Let it never be said that I don't have hot, first class nuts":

Small dish of nuts that had been heated in the microwave


As soon as drinks were offered, I ordered a bourbon and Diet Coke. "Would Canadian Club be okay?" the flight attendant asked. Which was perfect, as that's my preferred bourbon in the mid-price range. I didn't say this, but I thought it: "And keep 'em coming."

There was a choice of two meals, one being chicken with Lima beans (which I hate) and rice as the vegetables with it. I chose the alternative Mushroom Tortellini instead, which was most delicious:

First Class dinner tray: mushroom tortellini, salad, strawberry cheesecake, and roll

As you can see, it came with a roll, a salad, and some most delicious strawberry cheesecake.

After dinner, and three cocktails, I thought of all the things in my life that have contributed to my being in this place, at this time, on a flight in first class, on the way to Chicago. I was officially under the influence at this point and getting all existential.

I'm not going to say I cleaned out their supply of Canadian Club, but when I ordered my fourth one, the flight attendant said, "We're all out of Canadian Club, would:

Diet Coke and a Jack Daniels pocket rocket

Jack Daniels be okay?"



I only slightly staggered off the plane and made my way to the O'Hare subway station for my $2.25 trip to the downtown Hyatt, and looking at the map of the train on the wall immediately after getting on, alongside someone else who was doing the same thing, a nice lady sitting nearby said to both of us, "Where are you going?"

Helpful Chicagoan on the Train
Helpful lady on the train reading some trashy Hollywood rag


When I told her the downtown Hyatt, she said, "You just stay on this train and get off at the Clark/Lake stop. It's three stops after mine. When you see me get off, wait three stops, and that'll be your stop. Clark/Lake." She was to be the first of very nice, friendly, and helpful people I'd interact with in Chicago.

Finally being in Chicago almost 12 hours after I would have been had my original direct morning flight not been canceled, I thought my traveling woes were over when at one stop the train remained stopped just a little longer than it had at the others, and then this announcement came over the loudspeaker: "THIS TRAIN IS EXPERIENCING EQUIPMENT PROBLEMS. YOUR OPERATOR IS OFF THE TRAIN FOR JUST A MOMENT TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM. WE HOPE TO BE ON OUR WAY SHORTLY."

Thankfully, it was just a couple of minutes, and the train started back up. I exited at the Clark/Lake stop, and walked about four blocks to the hotel.



I had planned to run up to Boystown tonight to line-dance and two-step at Charlie's, and even though the dancing went from 9:00 until 1:00, it was already 10:00 when I arrived, and I figured by the time I'd've gotten there it would have been after 11:00, and since I'd been up since 6:00 in the morning, I was kind of beat.

I ended up staying in the hotel lobby, watching all of the incredible eye candy, and after I purchased one bourbon and Diet Coke—which was in a plastic cup the same size I get at Flex for $3.75—and the bartender said, "That'll be $9.99," that was the first and last one I ever ordered there.

When I finished that drink, I took the elevator up to our 34th (and top) floor, and opened a Jack Daniels pocket rocket I'd taken off the plane with me and had that "on the rocks," while I returned downstairs to the lobby/bar area and ogled and listened to the DJed "circuit party" type music.

I went up to bed at 1:00, and Kevin still hadn't come "home" yet. I found out the next morning that he'd come in at about 1:30, but I didn't hear a peep out of him, which really doesn't surprise me, as I'm usually asleep within five minutes of hitting the pillow—even when I'm not exhausted—and I'm a very sound sleeper.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
dailyafirmation
Jun. 1st, 2011 03:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you, my friend!
Hey, do you remember the name of the company/booth that Joey was working at? I looked down the vendor list for the vendors from Chicago, but none of them stood out as his to me.

Hope you're having a gay Disney day. :-)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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