Friday, May 28, 2010

Flying from Chicago

It's all my fault. We got home from Chicago a day late and several dollars short and it's because of me.

It started Sunday evening when Gizmo and I flew to Chicago. He went for a business conference and I tagged along for the fun of it. It figures that I would be trouble from the very start. Gizmo, having flown countless times over the years, sailed through security. I, on the other hand, having been on a total of six flights in my life before Sunday, somehow got especially chosen by a TSA lady to have my palms swiped by some strips of paper while Gizmo patiently waited. I don't know why she picked me. Maybe there's something suspicious about short, fat, middle-aged ladies who resemble caramel apples. Heck, with this kind of luck, maybe I should start buying lottery tickets.

Gizmo had also picked this time to try out a new rental car company: Avis. We'll never do that again. We waited at least half an hour for the Avis shuttle to get us. Considering this is a system that works so that you're supposed to be able to step right onto the shuttle as soon as you get there, a five-minute wait is unheard of, let alone half an hour. All the while, we stood helplessly as three, four, five shuttles for each of the other car rental companies passed us by. When the Avis shuttle finally did come, Gizmo had to stand in a very long line to get the car.

Anyway, the rest of our trip went fine. The hotel was gorgeous, I got to visit a college friend, I bought some of my very favorite scents of Yankee Candles, and we enjoyed an end-of-seminar banquet at Maggiano's Little Italy. It came with a twist; they'd turned the banquet into a Murder Mystery dinner. We had a great time. Then Wednesday came and it was time to go home. Time for my airport curse to reassert itself.

The same luck I'd had with the TSA agents stood me in good stead again. But this time, instead of simply swabbing my palms and sending me on my way, they unpacked my suitcase so they could get to the ever-dangerous Yankee Candles. The now-familiar strips of paper were swiped over every square inch of the outsides of the candles and those parts of the insides that were reachable. Whatever they found made them want to take my candles and my suitcase away. So I waited. And Gizmo waited, just like he'd been doing ever since he sailed effortlessly through security about a year before. The TSA agent finally brought my contraband back to me and we went on our way.

We'd only been sitting in our seats at the gate for about an hour when we saw that our 4:00 flight was delayed until 4:45, then again until 6:40. Apparently they felt some musical chairs was in order as well, because somewhere in there, our gate got changed, and we had to move down the hall. It wasn't too long after we were ensconced in our new seats that we found out the flight was entirely canceled.

This was the curse at its worst. In all his years of flying, Gizmo had never had a flight canceled on him. Delayed, yes, sometimes for hours. But in the end, he always eventually made it home on the flight he was supposed to. The only difference was that now I was with him, and this was the time the flight was completely canceled. Coincidence?

There were some silver linings. We had a great cab ride from O'Hare to a hotel near Midway, whence our newly scheduled flight would depart early the next morning. On our way out of O'Hare, we passed a guy who had climbed a small tree just outside the airport fence and wouldn't come down. Cops, ambulances, and fire trucks were everywhere. Our cab driver, who was from Nigeria, categorically stated, "In Africa, we would not put up with that. We would bring the tree down and him with it and that would be the end of it. He might hit his head, but he would not die. It would be all right. He would not die, and is that not what matters?" Indeed.

The front desk guy at the Extended Stay America where we stayed was awesome. William printed out our boarding passes, handed us menus for some local restaurants that would deliver to our room, and made arrangements for a cab to take us to the airport the next morning. He even called our room later to make sure everything was all right. We've stayed at expensive hotels that hire fancy concierges to do the same kinds of things, but no concierge was ever so helpful to us as William, the front desk guy.

We also had some fabulous pizza. Giordano's delivered to our room some of the best pizza I've ever had. They have what they call a stuffed pizza, and it was indeed stuffed - with cheese and more cheese! It was one of the rare times when the pizza we had actually matched the picture in the advertisement. Yum! I was sorry we couldn't eat it all and had to leave the leftovers behind.

When our alarm went off at 4:30 in the morning, I awoke wondering what new troubles my airport curse would bring down upon us. As I munched my vending machine Pop Tarts for breakfast, I considered that I really did not want to become the new Monster of the Midway. Fortunately, I sailed through security like a pro (even with my suspicious candles) and our flight was not even delayed. In fact, we got back to Detroit so early that our gate was still occupied and we had to wait for the plane that was still there to leave before we could taxi up to it.

What could have been a major inconvenience turned out to be a rather fun adventure. I suppose I wouldn't blame Gizmo if he were reluctant to take me along on the next business trip, but he should take me. We might hit our heads, but we would not die. And is that not what matters?