Posted by Heliocentrism on June 3, 2010
May 28, 2010 (again)*
The Curse of O’Hare
This was my first time in Chicago, sort of. I’ve been to Chicago countlessly many times. I think that I have spent more time at O’Hare than at any other airport in the world. (And, I have spent the night at several airports.) Things just never work out for me there.
I’ve passed through O’Hare only once or twice without having a delay, overbooked flight, or some other disaster that kept me in this airport’s clutches longer than I had planned.
The most blog-worthy episode in the Josie Stuck at O’Hare saga happened when I was 17 years old. My mom had just gotten married and moved to Port Charlotte, Florida. I was going to Fort Myers, Florida from Columbus, with a transfer at O’Hare and Miami International to see her. My brother booked my flight with plenty of time at O’Hare to make sure that I wouldn’t miss my connecting flight.
I think I spent 3 restless hours at O’Hare waiting for my Miami flight before they called for boarding to begin. I was really tired and wanted to get on the plane so that I could sleep. Back then I was a bit shy about sleeping in public and would not sleep in the seats in the terminal.
Since I was a minor and travelling by myself, I was allowed to board first, but I don’t remember if I did or not. This was not my first time flying alone, but it was the first time flying alone on a domestic flight. I do remember buckling in and falling asleep only to be woken up by a flight attendant 45 minutes later telling me that we needed to deplane.
Once off the plane they made an announcement that they just needed to fix something and that once it was fixed we would all get back on the plane and be on our merry way. Since I had another connection in Miami I needed to see if I would still make that flight. But it turned out that I had another really long layover in Miami too, so as long as this flight made it out of Chicago in the next 3 hours I would be alright.
Two hours later they announce that our plane was ready to fly. We re-boarded. Then about 45 minutes we all re-de-planed. Something was still wrong with the plane, and they had just given up trying to fix it that day.
All the passengers had to go to the American Airlines desk and find new flights to Miami. This one was flat-out canceled. I was 17 years old. I started the day with about $30 cash that my brother gave me for lunch money; most of it I had already spent. I had no credit cards. I didn’t even know my mother’s new phone number.
I walked up to the counter and was told that there were no seats left on any of the flights out today to Miami. They wanted me to come back the following day. “But I have no money. Where would I stay?”
clerk – “The airline will put you up in a hotel.”
me – “But I still have no money for food. I only have $10 left in my pocket.”
clerk – “The airline will give you restaurant coupons.”
I felt as if I was going to cry. The thought of spending the night alone in a hotel in a city I’d never been to before would excite me now, but back then it was not very appealing. “I’m only 17 years old. I haven’t seen my mother in a long time. I just want to go home.”
clerk – “Well, let me check again… I am sorry, it seems that the only seat have left is in first class. Is that okay?”
I was about to let the tears flow… Wait, did she say first class? “If that’s all you have…”
I took my new ticket with a new connection in Miami and went to the gate. I waited 2 more hours for the next flight. I boarded before everyone else, but this time it was because I was a first class passenger, not because I was a minor.
I buckled in and was given a snack and some juice. I was so hypnotized by the first class seat that I didn’t even notice an hour had gone by without the plane moving an inch. Then there was another announcement. Damn it! For the first time in my life I was in first class and now we have to get off the plane.
In the terminal once again, I went back to the American Airlines desk. I talked with the same lady as before. I was really worried this time. Not only was I in jeopardy of losing my first class ticket, but now there were 2 planes full of people trying to get to Miami, the first canceled flight and this one.
She reassured me that everything was okay. She already had a new ticket for me that she put together when she heard about the second canceled flight. With this 3rd delay I would miss my connection to Fort Myers for sure. But, the nice lady at the American Airlines counter made some calls and assured me that the last Fort Myers flight that evening would wait an extra 15 minutes just for me. I would still be flying first class and I didn’t have to worry about the connection.
The 4th time actually worked. I spent more than 15 hours at O’Hare that day, but I left in first class! Someone from the airline contacted my mom and told her when I would get into Fort Myers. Even though I wasn’t responsible enough to remember my mom’s new number, apparently it was on my emergency contact list.
This time the flight delay was in Narita. We landed in Chicago 2 hours late. Mark and I planned to check our luggage through to Flint then wonder around downtown Chicago. We would spend the night either at the airport or at a diner somewhere eating pancakes.
But, we could not check our luggage through. Our Flint flight wasn’t until noon the next day and it wasn’t allowed. Because of 9-11, all lockers and left luggage offices in the airport were taken out or closed. We were stuck with our stuff.
We had to get a hotel. In the arrival area there are kiosks with tourist information and free phones to call taxis, car rental companies, and hotels. We called several hotels and found the cheapest one, then took their shuttle.
By the time we got checked in and headed off to see downtown Chicago, everything was closed. We walked down the Magnificent Mile and saw all the wonderful things we could have seen if we had just gotten there just a bit earlier. Damn you
*Crossing the international date line put us in Chicago at 17:30 on May 28, 2010 even though we left Japan at 19:30 on May 28, 2010. So we had 2 Fridays.
How to get there:
You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.
I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.
- Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
- Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)
- Crash Course:
- CGP Grey:
- Mental Floss:
- American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot
- Area 51
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X
- Dandelion Wine
- Girl in Translation
- The Hemingses of Monticello
- The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
- The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America
- Notes from a Big Country
- One Summer: America, 1927
- Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America’s Hoboes
- Stealing Buddha’s Dinner
- That’s Not In My American History Book
- A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
- The Water Is Wide
- Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland
- It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.
- 41°54’03.7″N 87°37’21.9″W
From the O’Hare airport –
- Get on the subway until you reach Jackson station.
- Transfer to the red line. Then go to Chicago station.
- Don’t get off at Chicago station on the blue line.
- There are many Chicago stations, but only one on the red line.
- From the red line Chicago station just go towards Michigan street.
The Greater North Michigan Avenue Association
625 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 401
Chicago, IL 60611
- 1-(312) 409-5560
- It’s best to go between 9:00 and 20:00 when most of the shops are open.
- The Magnificent Mile is on North Michigan Avenue from the Chicago River to Oat Street.