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May 27th, 2005

The Windy City, day 1...

I worked a half day this morning, which included a conference call from 10-11 with my teammates here, and our colleagues in Irvine. I was hoping it wouldn't take the full hour, but it did, mostly due to an issue I raised (what was I thinking?)!

I did not have time to get down to State to "withdraw," and from the sound of Jenny's comment on yesterday's entry, it's probably for the best. Sounds like it would taken way longer than I would have had time for.

Robert should be here shortly, and then Steve. Robert's taking us to the airport for our 3:25 flight to Chicago via Cleveland. We arrive there around 6:30 tonight. We return via Atlanta on Monday. Using Delta vouchers, so for $135 R/T tickets, we can't complain.

I've never been to Chicago, so am looking forward to the weekend, especially seeing "Boystown," and dancing at Charlie's, and eating at Berghoff's.

I plan to update my journal offline, and upload the daily entries when I return, or upload them from there if I have Internet access, but I'm not counting on that.



Our Delta flight left RDU about an hour behind schedule. As we neared Cincinnati, we asked if they were on central time or eastern time. The answer was not eastern, which wasn't good. This meant we had about 10 minutes until our connecting flight was leaving for Chicago. Not looking good for a connection.

We deplaned, I grabbed my carry-on, what had to be checked plane-side, as we were on one of those Commair Delta Connection planes, whose overhead bins can't accommodate anything bigger than a laptop or purse. Our connecting flight was out of gate C28, and I was relieved to see gate 29 right across from the one we were coming in on. "Oh good," I thought it's close. I went down to the next gate, and it was 27. WTF!?! I looked directly across from 27 to see if 28 was opposite it, and it wasn't. I looked up the hallway some back toward gate 29, and lo and behold, gate 28 was the gate we'd just come in on!

Turns out we were taking the same plane to Chicago. How ridiculous 1) that we had to even get off the plane, and 2) I had to retrieve my carry-on bag, only to hand it right back to them as we went back out at the same gate after about 20 minutes or so.

When we arrived at O'Hare, which the flight attendant insisted on calling "O'Hair-ah" each time she said it, they did not hand us our carry-on bags on the tarmac like the usually do, right when you de-plane. So, we followed the directions, and went directly inside, expecting our bags to be inside, or at worse, up at the gate when we walked into the terminal. Everyone was looking at the agents there, and saying, "Our carry-ons?"

"We're sorry, you have to pick them up at baggage claim. On carousel number one. Now you know the people who hadn't checked any luggage at all were livid. Hello! That's the whole point of carrying-on, so you don't have to go to baggage claim. I did not go into "Mary mode," since I had a checked bag anyway. Leave it to Delta. Is it any wonder they are going bankrupt? There was a lady on her cell phone waiting for her carry-on, and I heard her say, "I am never flying Delta again."

We took a cab into town to the Doubletree. It was $42.00 with a four or five dollar tip. I called Robert, but got voice mail, and Steve talked to his mama, and then Shawn while we were en route.

Checking in, we got a "family member," which I suspected due to the AIDS ribbon he was wearing on his lapel. Not being thrilled with our $209-a-night rate, I asked, "Do you have an IBM rate?"

"Let me check," he said. "I have to act like I'm booking another room to see if we do, and what the rate is." He did.

"Yes, we do have an IBM rate, but I can't say it out loud." I thought that was odd, but who's to argue, especially since I didn't have any proof with me that I worked for IBM, other than the black t-shirt I had on that has a big eye on it, followed by a (bumble) bee, followed by a big blue M made with the same blue horizontal stripes used for the IBM logo. Evidently that was enough for him.

I said to him, "Well, is it a better rate than the one we currently have?'

"Oh yes," he said. "I'm going to give it to you."

He printed our registration sheet, and handed it to me to sign. I saw the rate: $179-a-night. Yippee! That'll be almost a $100 savings over the three days.

Then the agent said, "Are you guys here for The Bear Weekend or the IML weekend?"

"Well, we didn't plan it that way, but since we're here, we're going to take advantage of it."

Then he said, pulling out a voucher, "Well since you're 'family,' I'm going to give you a voucher for a free full breakfast for two for one morning while you're here." Sweet!

We got up to the room, unpacked, and went out to get a bite to eat. We ended up at a place called "Jake's," which turned out to be quite good. I had an Asian Chicken Salad, which was out of this world, and Steve had a fish (cod) sandwich, which came with American Cheese on it, and a side Caesar salad.

We got back to the room, Steve showered, and we took a cab out to Boystown, and ended up at the Cell Block, which the concierge (who was the same guy who'd checked us in earlier), had recommended for "the leather crowd," especially with IML going on here.

The place did not disappoint. We were shocked and please to get bourbons and diet cokes for $3.75, which is only $.50 more than Flex, and the glasses were much bigger.

The lights came on in the bar at 3, I believe it was. We left, and ate at the IHOP just up the street from the bar. I had a Ham and Three-Cheese omelet, and Steve and an Appetizer Platter, consisting of chicken strips, mozzarella sticks, and maybe onion rings, I'm.

There was a pathetic, pathetic man sitting at a table across from us, who was so drunk that he kept falling of his hand, which he had holding up his head the whole time. He had food all over the table, mostly in a circle around his place, and we both kept praying that he wouldn't throw up in his plate.

We took a cab back to the hotel, and got into the unbelievably comfortable beds. They have the highest count thread sheets, four overstuffed pillows, and a down comforter on them. We cranked up the air, and I was out like a light in an instant. Life is good.

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